How Do Chickens Sleep?
It may surprise you, but chickens, and all birds for that matter, don't sleep in their nest. A bird's nest is solely used to lay eggs and raise offspring. So how do chickens sleep? What type of roosting perches should you provide? And when and how long do they sleep?
Let's find out.
How Do Chickens Sleep At Night?
Chickens don't sleep in a nest but on a roosting branch. In the wild, chickens sleep on tree branches, away from predators. Backyard chickens sleep on a roosting perch inside the coop. Chickens roost next to each other, with the outside birds on the lookout for dangers and sleeping with one eye open.
Roosting for birds is settling down for sleep after a day of flying around. The place where they roost is called the roosting place or, in short: the roost. The actual branch or rod on where they sleep is called a roosting perch or roosting branch.
Chickens don't necessarily always have the instinct to sleep on the perches. Some pullets prefer to sleep on the ground and are resistant to learning how to roost. But there are many advantages to learning your young birds how to roost.
- Less messy
- Not sitting in their own poop
- Fewer chances of parasites
If chickens never learned how to roost, they can sleep curled up in a ball or stretched out on the coop floor.
The Roosting Bar
The roosting bar, perch, or branch is the actual rod they rest their feet on while sleeping.
For the roosting bar, you can go for a branch, a round wooden dowel, or a wooden beam, but it has to be wide enough for them to rest their feet. In general, if you can see their toes, the roost isn't wide enough.
For a branch or wooden dowel (poles), look for a thickness of 1.5 – 2.5 inches. For dowels longer than 6 ft, foresee at minimum 2 inches and extra support.
Smaller breeds don't necessarily need smaller roosting perches; they'll happily join the rest of the flock on the wider perch.
The roosting perches should be at least 1,5 to 3 feet above the ground. Chickens usually prefer to roost as high as possible.
For more in-depth information about roosting perches, check out our 'Roosts, Sleep, Perches dimensions' guide.
How do Chickens roost?
Chickens roost quite close to each other to protect against predators and keep warm during the winter.
They are the most vulnerable when sleeping; chickens can't see in the dark, so they must constantly look for dangers. That's why some chickens in the flock literally keep one eye open when they sleep. They have the remarkable ability to sleep with one half of their brain, so the other part can stay alert (this is called unihemispheric sleep).
Chickens tend to sit close to each other while sleeping, but provide at least 8-10 inches per chicken so they can sit comfortably.
Unlike parrots, chickens don't grip the roosting perch with their toes while roosting. They'll softly rest their feet flat but solidly on the perch, balancing on their sticky legs. Chickens naturally curl their toes around the roosting bar.
Can Chickens sleep outside?
Preferably no. Chickens sleeping outside in the wild choose the highest branch they can reach to be as safe as possible for predators. But when sleeping outside, a 100% predator-safe place doesn't exist.
How long do chickens sleep?
Chickens always go to bed at dusk and wake up at dawn. They never oversleep! So, their sleep duration depends on the season and how long the sun is up. They generally go to bed around 15-30 minutes before dusk and wake up when the sun is up.
Before alarm clocks were invented, we had to rely on a rooster's crow to wake us up. Studies have shown that roosters start crowing at dawn, even in a pitch-dark chicken coop. They don't need external light to know when morning has come; their internal clock informs them of the right time. Both hens and roosters have an internal clock telling them when it's time to wake up or go to sleep.
Do Chickens sleep during the day?
In normal circumstances, chickens only sleep at night; however, an occasional short nap when sunbathing or dustbathing isn't unusual. But if your chicken commonly sleeps during the day, or when she stays inside the coop, there may be something going on.
Common problems why your chicken sleeps during the daytime:
- Stress or boredom
- Not enough nighttime sleep
- Mites or lice
- Intestinal parasites
- Other diseases
Chickens usually sleep on roosting perches. However, it's not always in their instinct to do so. Chickens in the wild seek a tree branch to sleep in to keep them safe from predators. Backyard chickens need to be learned to sleep on a roosting perch; it keeps them safe from mites and prevents them from sleeping in their own poop.
Chickens sleep during nighttime, from dusk until dawn. They can't see in the dark and are most vulnerable during nighttime. So letting them sleep outside the secured coop is not a good idea as it isn't predator-proof.
Credits Featured Image: @gandalf.and.co (IG)