One of the items of most debate in our new coop has been the roosting bar.
Are they necessary? What should they be made from? What should they look like?
Chickens prefer to sleep up off of the ground. They are very heavy sleepers and being up higher makes them feel safer. Allowing them to sleep on the floor exposes them to predators along with bacteria and parasites such as mites and lice.
There are a few things that you will want to take into consideration when designing your coop/roost area.
You can use several different materials for a roost. Anything from sturdy branches, ladders or boards. You will want your roost to be at least 2" wide with the optimum width being 4". Chickens do not wrap their feet around the perch like other bird species, they sleep flat footed and the wider the roost the better balance and the safer they will feel. A 2" x 4" board with the 4" side up is ideal. Plastic or metal pipes should not be used because they are too slippery for the chickens to hold onto. Metal will also get cold in the winter and could lead to frostbite on their feet.
When considering the location for your roosting bar, you will want to place it somewhere that will be easy to scoop or rake out the soiled litter or droppings. Remember that a sleeping chicken is a pooping chicken.
The height of the roosting bar should be at least 1' both off of the ground and away from the ceiling. If you plan to have a roosting bar higher than 2' off the ground you will need to do a few bars at staggered heights to make it easier and safer for the birds to get up and down. A lot of foot problems, for instance Bumblefoot, happen because of hard landings off of a roost.
Also, be sure to leave at least 15" between the roost bars to keep the higher chickens from pooping on those roosting on the lower bars. Make sure that your nesting boxes are lower than the roosts so that the birds use the bars instead of the nesting box.
The length of your roosts should allow for at least 10" of space per bird. In the winter, they will all huddle together for warmth but during the warmer months the extra space will be greatly appreciated.
Have you created an unusual roosting area for your flock? We'd love to see what you have done!