It’s amazing to watch the way in which innate instincts in a young pullet reveal themselves as she adapts to her new surroundings. Earlier, I mentioned some of the things I’ve been learning as a new pullet manager; namely, that the roost or perch bars I had installed were to high for my new pullets. I adjusted the height to allow for the birds to adapt to over time, and it did not take too long before the pullets were roosting first in front of the nest box, then on the window ledge , and now on their new roost.
The textbooks say to have a roost about two feet above the ground for our domestic chickens. Modern birds love to roost, but not in treetops as was the case centuries ago. These days, chickens are a little too heavy to fly up to the top limbs of trees, but they certainly are not too heavy for comfort in my coop with its two-foot perch.
So how should you select a perch for your chicken coop? The roost or perch you choose should be round and natural in some ways–not smooth like glass or slippery like plastic. It’s best if it is a little rough for gripping and stability while sleeping or resting. I simply rounded the edges of a 2” X 2” spruce board and staggered them, installing one above and behind the other as you can see above. The first one perch is two feet from the ground, and second is one foot higher and one foot back to avoid the chickens, well, pooping on each other! I have the roost above my manure board. In my coop, my board is accessible from the outside via a drawer mechanism so it can be pulled out and cleaned at any time. Manure is great compost for your garden, so think about how you can use that great resource from your chickens!
Were I to plan perches all over again, I would start low for the first roost–maybe 12 inches from the ground–and then move that perch up six inches each week until the maximum height of two feet is reached. Better yet, as I discussed, would be to watch your birds’ behavior and let them tell you where they are comfortable. Remember not to place perches too high, as heavier birds can not fly up to reach them. A bird unable to safely reach a perch can injure their legs or bruise their feet when jumping down from a perch, or egg rupture can result when the hens mount the roost. It’s important to always be mindful of keeping the stresses your birds are exposed to at a minimum.
Personal space is important for your chickens–some birds like to snuggle more then others. When planning for how many feet of perch you need, the rule of thumb is to allow for 8 inches between birds like my brown layers. Bigger birds may need more space, as well as a roost that is closer to the ground.
So what did we learn? Let me “drop” some knowledge on you with Dr. ichicken Chicken Droppings!
1. Start your roost height low and then elevate, being mindful of your birds’ needs and behavior. Never raise perches higher than two feet.
2. Allow a clearing of one foot beneath the first perch.
3. Allow six to 10 inches of linear space for each bird, depending on their size.
4. Round the edges of the roost–think tree limb or wooden pole. I don’t recommend using a square tree limb or post.
5. Locate your roost above a manure board. Birds roost at night and will poop (see my picture above)!
Until next time,