how high to make roosts in pen?How high nest boxes? Will space suffice


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 30, 2009
pymatuning lake area
I keep reading different sources and many of the posts about space requirements and nest box sizing. Haven't noticed any about how far off the floor to put roosts. The girls are Rhode Islands(12) and Golden Buff Cross(13). Just young'uns, but what is suggested for roost height and nest boxes. The pen is 7' x 12' in the old dairy barn. Used the 3 sq.ft. formula. Plan to make a run at least 25' x 25'. Also, will chickens go out when snow is on ground? They're living in NW PA .
Nest should be about 20 inches off floor IMO and roosts always above the nest boxes. That way they won't roost on the nests. The like to go to the highest roost. We put one right above the nest so they could jump to it and another higher up even. Every one squeezes up on the top roost
Oh and about the snow...mine REFUSE to step on snow. They stayed in their coop almost all winter. I do know some peoples chickens are just fine with going out in the snow. Maybe because it was my chickens first year?? Either way, they did NOT like snow LOL as it started melting and there were patches of no snow they would fly over the snow to get to the other side where there was grass
My nest boxes are about 15" - 18" up and I have 2 roosts another 18" - 20" up from there. My girls are mostly 5 weeks and have been out in the coop the last week. The last 2 days they have been easily accessing the highest roosts.
I read somewhere that the roosts shouldn't be any higher than 18" because of something called "bumblefoot" from them jumping down. Don't you have a problem of messes on the nest boxes if your roosts are over them?
For a snowy climate, I'd go with the 4 sq ft per bird formula, because, as others said, they're not much on snow and tend to stay indoors, so they need plenty of space in the winter to prevent pecking problems. You should still have enough room, but may find yourself doing things like hiding treats in litter and hanging a cabbage from the ceiling to keep them from getting bored in the winter.

You might also consider some sort of partial cover/wall for the run to block some snow, so they can get out at least a little in winter. A tarp zip tied to a west fence adjoining the coop might give them some bare ground to peck and scratch in, for example. You've got lots of time to come up with something, and probably some materials laying around to do it with.
My roosts are chest high with step up areas. The one I want to build in my new coop will be three levels. I want to make it retractable so that I can clean under it without head bumping. All the hens and roo's seem to like that height. With the exception the the bantams...seems if you put anything they could roost on 6 inches from the highest point they would choose to be there, the younger the higher at this house. I have a mixed bunch from giants to bantams. I have long roosts in two separate areas and some like hanging with he masses some like to be at the far ends. My main concern is heat in this area in the summer. The higher the hotter. Make sure you have hop-ups so they do not have to try to fly up too high at once. Heavier breeds so they have a good step down when needed, better on the legs especially when molting since they can tend to have less flight abilities. Just my two cents..
Roosts over nests works fine if you use a poop board. This can be anything handy, a board, lids from plastic bins, etc. I have read that about half the daily poop falls from the roosts. If you have something simple like a board to scrape or dump it off of, then you have reduced the poop load in the coop a great deal. Some people install a piece of something like chicken wire a few inches above the poop board so they don't walk on it. Look at the second photo here:

Bubmlefoot is a staph infection that usually starts with a puncture wound on the bottom of the foot. They can injure themselves jumping down, it is true. Probably the big heavy breeds like Jersey Giants are most prone to this. I have a Black Australorp hen who does fine with a roost about 30" off the coop floor, but there is a soft bed of hay for her to land on. I don't know what she weighs, probably about 8 pounds. I think most people with walk-in coops put roosts around 30"- 36" off the floor. My leghorns like to roost on a lumber rack that is about 7' or 8' above floor level. Some chickens roost on barn rafters.
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As far as snow have you ever thought some posts with a sun shade screen to keep the snow off an area of ground in the winter. As it melts it will drip through the material, unlike a tarp. I don't have the snow problem like you do but it may be a cheap way to keep a little bit of ground clear and add extra roaming space for snow shy chickens. I know the big chain Lowe's has it in the fence section by the yard for not a lot of $ in the summer, and a few pound in fence posts are cheap enough to wire it up to. I use tarps and shade material on knee high posts (height after pounding into the ground) for shade areas against fenced areas, they love it, I see no reason it can not work for keeping snow off the ground either.
If I am wrong correct me but I have always understood that bumble foot was most common from walking on wire mesh. Mainly small caged animals like rabbits, (ratties which I raised for years). Bumble foot in chickens IMO would come more from having no roosts and walking on hard flat surfaces. Other foot injuries would be from heavy breeds that are less flight prone bruising the bottom of there feet from jumping down too far, to prolonged contact with went muddy ground.
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