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All about Roosting Bars in your Chicken Coop

Here's what you need to know about the roosting bars in your chicken coop where your chickens will go to sleep.

Roosting bars are where your chickens should perch to sleep at night inside their coop.

I get questions all the time from people building their own coops wondering exactly how the roosts should be built: how high, out of what material, how far here's all you need to know about roosting bars.

All about Roosting Bars in your Chicken Coop

Why Do I Need Roosts in my Chicken Coop

Chickens instinctively seek high ground when they sleep to keep them safer from ground predators.

As you likely know, they take their pecking order very seriously and those highest in the pecking order will grab the highest perches, leaving the lower (and therefore more vulnerable) spots to those lower in the flock.

Sleeping on the ground also leaves chickens more susceptible to pathogens and bacteria in the litter on the floor of the coop.

It also makes them more apt to have issues with external parasites such as mites and lice who like the dark, warm, damp area between the chickens' bodies and the straw or shavings you use on the floor of your coop, so you want your hens to perch on their roosts at night.

What Material Should I Use for the Roosting Bars

Wood is the best material for chicken coop roosting bars. You can use sturdy wooden boards for your roosts - or even a wooden stepladder or branches cut from trees. Check for splinters, or sharp edges and sand them if necessary.

You can round off the upper front edge of the board as well, if you wish, with a sander, although a regular 2x4 board will work just fine. 

Plastic pipes should be avoided since they are too slippery for the chickens to get a good grip. 

Metal pipes will get cold in the winter and could cause frostbitten feet, so metal isn't a good option either.

Can I Paint the Roosting Bars?

Wooden roosts can absolutely be painted, and in fact that can help prevent splinters. 

It's fine to paint the roosting bars, but since that's where the chickens come in direct contact with the paint, I recommend using non-toxic paint like milk paint or chalk paint. 

I used chalk paint on my roosting bars in my coop. I generally repaint them once or twice a year as needed and scrub them with white vinegar in between. 

How Wide Should the Roosting Bars Be?

Roosts in your chicken coop should be at least 2 inches wide and preferably 4 inches wide.  A 2×4 board with the 4″ side facing up makes a wonderful roost. 

Chickens don’t wrap their feet around a perch like wild birds do. They actually prefer to sleep primarily flat-footed, although they will curl their toes around the front edge of their perch sometimes.  

If you look at the underside of the roosting bar when a hen is roosting, you'll notice that the board and her body completely cover her legs and feet. 

By positioning the wider side face up, your chickens' feet are protected from frostbite in the winter since their feet will be completely covered by their bodies and warm feathers from above and the wood from below.

Using a wider board also protects their feet from mice or rats who sometimes like to nibble on chicken toes while they are sleeping.  Honestly. I've actually read that! 

How Long Should the Roosting Bars Be

Allow for at least 8 inches of roosting bar per hen. Of course more is better, but you will find that, especially in the winter, all your chickens will snuggle together for warmth.

They also use each other for balance, so you will rarely see them roosting any way but side by side in a row, although in the heat of the summer they will appreciate having room to spread out if they want to.

How High Should the Roosting Bars Be

Roosts can be as low as a foot off the ground or as high as a foot or so from the ceiling. 

However, if you are going to make the roost much higher than two feet, staggering several roosts like stairs at varying heights will make it easier for the chickens to get up and down from the roost without injuring themselves.

Bumblefoot (a staph infection of the foot and leg) and sprains are often caused by hard landings off a roost, so you want to avoid that.

How Do I Clean the Roosting Bars?

Since chickens do most of their pooping while they sleep, the roosts can get pretty nasty. I use a metal paint scraper to scrape the poop off into a bucket each morning after I let the chickens out.

Periodically I use a stiff brush to scrub the roosts with a white vinegar/ water mixture or my orange peel vinegar cleaner and let the dry.

I also put vinyl shelf liner on the coop walls behind the roosting bars. It's so easy to just wipe clean with a damp sponge or cloth.

Using these few simple tips, you should be able to create a wonderful roosting area for your hens to sleep comfortably at night…and that means you’ll sleep better too. 

More About Chicken Coop Roosting Bars

  • Interestingly, chickens actually put most of their sleeping weight on their keel bone,  not their feet. 
  • Leave about 15″ between each roost to prevent those on the higher roosts from pooping on those roosting below them.
  • Feeders and waterers (if you leave them in the coop overnight) should not be placed under the roosts, nor should the nesting boxes. 
  • The roosts should be positioned higher than the nesting boxes, or your chickens might be tempted to sleep in the nesting boxes instead, which leads to poop-covered eggs in the morning.

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