Do chickens HAVE to roost for health reasons? Mine are pile sleepers!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Forest Cantina, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. Forest Cantina

    Forest Cantina In the Brooder

    Oct 24, 2013
    Hi everyone

    We have a flock of a mix of breeds and we have a walk in coop for them inside very high fences. They have a roost area that has 2x1 with rounded edges (we heard that that was the best size and most comfortable shape for their feet) but none of them like to roost on there. They prefer to sleep in a pile on the floor together. And they have done for over a year now. It's summer here, so they can't be huddled together because it's cold. We have even upgraded coops to a different well researched roost design a few months ago and they STILL don't like to roost! My husband and i were just discussing that if they HAVE to roost, we will rip out the current roost and try ANOTHER design?!?

    I've read on here that they like to sleep up high instinctively, but do they have to sleep on a roost because of health reasons? Because roosting is good for their feet??? ie: should i ''train'' them to sleep on the roost or just let them be? They are a mix of ages, we brought as either hens or pullets. Actually, the Plymouth Rock USED to roost but now she has joined the pile

    We tried training them once, but not all the chickens like to be picked up so its really hard to place all of them on the roost. So we gave up.

    Any advice?
  2. Sjisty

    Sjisty Scribe of Brahmalot

    May 18, 2009
    They don't have to roost. I have some that roost and some that "pile up" on the floor of the coop. They all seem to do just fine.

    It could be your roost is too high. If you have big birds, it's hard on them to jump down. Maybe if you put the perch closer to the floor of the coop, some of them might try it out, but they are creatures of habit, so if they have been sleeping on the floor for a year, I don't think they are going to change.

    The only down side to the floor sleepers is sometimes I have to clean poop off their backs from the upstairs guys!
  3. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Songster

    May 18, 2012
    Northern Virginia
    My Coop
    I'm thinking there's some reason that they're not wanting to roost. Is it too high or does it need a gangplank for them to reach the roost? Is there an opening or window near the roost? I have a lot of windows in my coop and my girls initially didn't like roosting near a window. Guess they felt unprotected. I put a piece of fabric - a sort of curtain - over the window at night and that solved the problem.

    I initially trained mine to go to the roost at night by laying little piles of corn on it right at dusk. They'd get on the roost to get the corn and would stay there.

    The only reason I don't like them to sleep in a pile or somewhere other than the roost is that they get their butts messy with their constant night-time pooping if they don't.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    What are your temperatures? How much light gets into area they are supposed to be roosting in when it is time to go to roost? Breeds? Please show a picture of roost site to show height from ground and proximity to obstructions.

    I like mine to roost up for a range of reasons. First, keeps them free and clear of their own feces. Second, provides a measuring of protection from nonclimbing predators that eventually get into poultry area. Thirdly, enables rapid inspection of birds at night for head count and sometimes health.
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    I have some that roost 5' high, some that roost on rungs lower down (lower in the pecking order) some that roost on the bar in front of the nest boxes, and pullets that roost on the floor (because of being low in the pecking order, I suppose). We have six house-sized windows around the perches and that doesn't seem to be a problem. Sometimes there are lights on at night when they go to roost, like in the winter; sometimes there are not. I don't see any differences other than chicken preference.

    I would like them all to roost for the reasons centrarchid stated, but it's not worth trying to force it, IMO. However, if there is something keeping them off the roosts (an older hen changing her preference is an indication of this) then it's worth looking into. Please do post the photo and we'll take a look. Here's mine, btw:
  6. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Not wanting them to sleep in their night time poop is my biggest reason for wanting mine to roost. However, there are always a few who want to sleep on the floor under the perch or in the nest boxes.

    The objective is to figure out the reason why they don't want to roost and try to remedy the situation. It's not always easy.

    One of the reasons why some of mine haven't wanted to roost has been the perch was too high and they are too heavy. So I built several low perches. I had to keep lowering the one my young cockerel uses because he became so big and heavy so quickly, he never developed the confidence to try to hop up. Finally, a perch about eight inches off the floor did the trick. I was accommodating to him because his daddy broke his leg dismounting his perch, and when this cockerel was but six weeks old, I had to put his daddy down. Very sad.

    A couple of my heavy breed hens try to sleep on the floor under the perch even though they have low perches that require them simply to step up. In these cases, I try to discourage the habit by placing them on the perch at head-count time. It's a matter of a battle of the wills. Most of the time, they will go back to sleeping on the perch after battling me for a few weeks.

    Who ever said keeping chickens was simple?
  7. foreverlearning

    foreverlearning Songster

    Aug 4, 2013
    Some breeds have a hard time roosting. If they are too heavy it may be hard to get on and off the roost. Also, breeds like silkies seem to have a problem. If they can't fly then the roost needs to be closer together and lower to the ground than for normal birds. Also, as someone else mentioned ramps up to the higher roost helps. If they sleep on the floor they are sleeping in there own mess as well as having a higher chance of parasites to the whole flock. Wild birds bring louse and it only takes one to get it to spread quickly to the entire flock by sleeping in a pile. I think it may be too late to change their minds on sleeping arrangements but you can try. If you can't then keep a closer eye on them and check often for lice. I treat once a month on my 3 floor sleepers just to make sure. Everyone else in my flock likes the roost.
  8. dhining

    dhining In the Brooder

    Oct 27, 2013
    I just got a 2.5 month old Easter Egger cockedrel and three girls and a 2 month old Marans roo and pullet. The coop is built from old pallets, and The EEs are roosting up in the windows and in the pallet, smashed right up against the wall. They are completely ignoring my carefully prepared roosting poles complete with a ramp going up to them.

    I got my Marans from a different breeder, and they were raised in a pen, under a light, with no roost. Now that I have them, are sleeping together on the floor, underneath the light I put in there. It is warm this week and I am trying to wean them away from the light. But tonight I checked, and they are still on the floor. I've had the EEs for 4 days and the Marans for 3 days. They all get along pretty well, although the EEs, being a little older/larger, have definitely established dominance. Should I try putting the Marans on the roosting pole while they are still young/ new to the coop, or will they eventually figure out they are supposed to sleep there? Should I move the light to over the pole when it gets cold again?

    Your help is much appreciated! This is my first flock.
  9. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Almost everyone assumes chickens will naturally know to roost. I haven't found this to be the case at all. Most of my youngsters, upon moving from the brooder to the coop, have no idea what the roosting perch is for until I place them up there.

    To make it super easy on everyone, I usually place them on the perch just as it's gotten too dark for them to see. And if you place them very close together so they're touching, they are far less likely to want to leave the security of their mates and jump off. You may need to do this for a second night, but they should catch on by the third night and hop up on their own.

    And turn off the light. They don't need the heat at this age.
    1 person likes this.
  10. FrozenWings

    FrozenWings In the Brooder

    Nov 20, 2013
    I was annoyed that my birds would not user their roosts as well. So I started putting them there as the above suggests. What I found was they all wanted to roost after the second night, however some couldn't find their way to the roosts. After a few days of messing with the configuration of ramps, they all manage to get their roosting spots every night now. They are creatures of habit so once they get it, they will do it again and again.

    I use a deep litter method so I really don't want the birds nesting or sleeping on the coop floor.

    -Frozen Wing

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by