Let’s talk about roosts and how to ensure your hens have the best nights sleep!
How wide? Square, rectangular or circular? How far off the ground? How much space do they need? How to keep them clean? Let’s get the answers:
Hens don’t grip perches when they sleep, like wild birds do. They like to sleep flat footed. Ideally your roosts will be rectangular, minimum 5 cm wide, ideally 10 cm wide. The 2″ x 4″ timber is ideal (with the 4″ side face up), well sanded so no sharp splinters and no nails sticking out that could injure their feet.
Circular may be fine if it has a wide enough diameter but remember they don’t like to grip when they sleep! Please don’t use metal as it can be too slippery and too cold at night for their tootsies!
Hens like sleeping off the ground, out of reach of predators and even if your coop is super safe, they will still want to sleep off the ground. Have your perches at least 30 cm off the ground (some bought put together coops have raised nesting boxes and perch area, with perches just a few cm off the tray – this is also fine, as the hens are still up off the ground). If you have perches higher than 30cm, then make sure you have an easy way for them to get down as hens can get bumblefoot from jumping down from too high a roost.
Hens poop while they are asleep. If you have multi layered perches, alternate them so a hen on top perch can’t poop on the hen below and think about an easy way to keep the floor clean beneath. Hens do like a clean home just like we do.
Allow 20 cm of perch per hen. In colder months they will want to snuggle in together but allowing enough space so they can organise their pecking order is important. Yes, even when going to bed, they have their pecking order so giving enough room for some hens to get away from the bossy ones is best.
Last thing is cleanliness. Keep a sturdy scrub brush nearby and keep the roosts clean of poo build up with a quick daily scrub. Then, once a month, give the roosts a thorough scrub with hot water and vinegar. When they are dry, sprinkle all over with diatamaceous earth (DE) so no lice or mites can survive in the timber.
And there you have it! A great night sleep for your hen girls!