The sleeping times of chickens and humans are similar. However, birds go “to bed” earlier and get up earlier. In addition, the animals need their familiar group to fall asleep. Chickens sleep sitting up. They tuck their heads under their wings with their eyes closed. A sleeping place appropriate to the species ensures a pleasant sleep.
You can learn more about the sleeping behavior of chickens in our guide.
Where do chickens sleep?
Chickens prefer to spend the night in the chicken coop on so-called perches, because the birds need a raised place to sleep.
Why do chickens sleep on the perch?
On perches, chickens are safer from predators than on the ground. This behavior goes back to wild chickens that fly up trees to nap. On perches, chickens sit close together.
In the case of chickens that are able to fly when kept, it happens that they prefer a tree to a coop as a place to spend the night. While this is in accordance with their instinct, it should be avoided in chicken keeping. As a chicken keeper, you need to make sure that your chickens are protected from predators like foxes. Animals that spend the night outside are easy prey for predators.
The exception is hens that are incubating or have chicks. They don’t spend the night on the perch, but in protected corners on the ground so they don’t have to leave their offspring.
How high do you place the perches for the chickens?
In order for chickens to be able to nap in a species-appropriate manner, the roosts for them in the chicken coop must also be easily accessible. The height at which the perch is placed plays a decisive role here. This is because the birds jump onto the perch and when they leave it, they jump down. To avoid injuries, you should not mount the perches too high. If you place the perches at a height of 40 to 60 centimeters, the chickens can usually reach them by jumping up without any problems.
If the perches are placed at the same height, there will usually be no scuffles as a result of the hierarchy in which the animals live. Only if the hens prefer a certain part of the perch, the best seats belong to the rooster and the highest-ranking hens.
Lower-ranking hens try to get a good roosting place by going to the coop earlier and occupying an attractive place. However, if the higher-ranking hens arrive, lower-ranking birds may chase them away.
To save your birds stress, place all perches at the same height.
If you mount the chicken perches higher and the birds have difficulty reaching them, place chicken ladders.
A chicken ladder for access to the perch should meet the following requirements:
20 to 30 inches wide
Thin slats as rungs
Not too steep (danger of slipping!)
In general, however, you should not mount the perches higher than one meter so that the animals do not injure their legs or hips when they jump to the ground.
What should a perch be like?
In terms of shape, a distinction is made between round perches and perches that are oblong rectangles with rounded corners in cross-section. The latter are to be preferred, because here the animals can distribute their weight over a wider area. With the round perches, there is a center of stress when the chickens nap, which increases the risk of sternum injuries.
The edge length or perch diameter should be 4.5 to 5 inches.
To keep your chickens’ foot pads healthy, you need to clean the perches in the chicken coop regularly. Metal and plastic perches are especially easy to clean.
A chicken perch should not have any cracks, so that the animals do not injure themselves.
For an approach, the perch should be grippy, so that the birds do not fall off when landing.
How much space does a chicken need on the perch?
The Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare (TVT) recommends perches for the night’s rest with a length of about one meter for four animals and about 5 centimeters in diameter .
Are chickens allowed to sleep on the floor?
Chickens should not spend the night on the floor or in a nest, if only for hygienic reasons. Since the birds defecate even while sleeping, the bird soils itself on the ground.
If, despite perches, the birds seek out a corner of the coop to spend the night on the floor, you should investigate the cause, such as drafts.
Brooding hens and mothers leading chicks may spend the night on the floor of the chicken coop so they can watch over their offspring.
When and how long do chickens sleep?
Chickens sleep at night. In the evening, they go to the coop for the night’s rest. This is because there they feel safe from predators that begin to hunt with the dawn. In the chicken coop, the animals come to rest when it is completely dark and quiet.
The chickens wake up as soon as it gets light again. This is because the onset of day is a sign to the animals that the nighttime danger of being hunted by predators is over. When the new day dawns is told to the chickens by their internal clock, which is controlled by light changes, the position of the sun and metabolism. If a rooster is part of the group, he will indicate when it is time to get up by calling.
Do chickens sleep during the day?
During the day, chickens may retreat to elevated places or the perch in the chicken coop so that they are not disturbed by other animals while resting. However, during the day they mainly occupy themselves with:
Foraging for food and water (scratching and pecking).
“Cultivating” social contacts
sand and sun bathing
Check out our guide, “What You Need to Keep in Mind When Keeping Chickens in Your Backyard!” to learn what you need to think about to keep your birds comfortable around the clock.
Why don’t chickens fall off the roost when they sleep?
Chickens have a tendon mechanism that prevents them from falling off the perch. The flexor tendons in their toes help them stay perched on branches or poles without having to exert themselves. The tendons extend over the posterior (caudal) surface of the hock. When the bird ducks while resting and for the night’s rest, the hock flexes, passively tensing the tendons. Now the toes cling around the branch or pole without the need for muscle strength. The chicken cannot fall down and does not fatigue due to the mechanism described. When the chicken straightens up again, the tendons relax. The chicken can open its claws again and leave the perch.
Do chickens dream?
Chickens are said to be able to dream and, like us humans, have what is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. If they are in REM sleep, their eyes move during sleep.
How do chicks sleep?
Chicken chicks snooze close together on the floor. If you keep a lot of birds, individual chicks may be smothered. Therefore, you should accustom the chicks to a raised roost as early as possible. If they grow up with the hen, she will go to her elevated place for the night’s rest as soon as the offspring can follow her there.
Heat lamps for chicks and heat plates for chicks provide sufficient warmth for the young animals in the chicken house.
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