Chickens are creatures of habit. They never stay up too late or oversleep. Depending on the season, they go roosting early in the evening (or even late afternoon) or late at night. But it all depends on the time of dusk and dawn.
When you’re new to chicken keeping or introducing new hens to your flock, bedtime can be tricky. We’ll take you through everything there is to know!
What time do chickens go to bed?
In general, chickens go inside their coop around 15 to 30 minutes before sunset. It depends from chicken to chicken, but as chickens are creatures of habit, there won’t be extreme differences between the time they go roosting. Our chickens go to sleep every evening (always!) exactly half an hour before sunset; you can set your clock to it.
Chickens can’t see in the dark. Therefore, they want to be in their roosting spot before dark. They follow the position of the sun to know when it is bedtime. At twilight, when daylight decreases, they start to be a little nervous and make noises. That means your chickens are almost ready to go to bed. When the sun descends beneath the horizon at dusk, all chickens go into the coop to roost. Chickens are sociable animals, so they all go inside the coop simultaneously.
To keep your chickens safe from nighttime predators, make sure they go inside the coop each night for roosting and close the coop door.
What time do chickens wake up?
That depends on the time the sun rises. Chickens see the difference in sunlight and wake up depending on the sun’s position. Before alarm clocks were invented, we had to rely on roosters to wake us up at dawn. Both hens and roosters have an internal clock that tells them the correct time to wake up, depending on sunrise.
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.
Do chickens know where to roost?
New chickens won’t know where to go at night and will probably roost outside. Our new hens wanted to roost on their first night at several places: a plastic crate, under some bushes, and even on top of the run’s fencing. It’s essential to place them inside the coop several evenings in a row, so they’ll know this is their place to sleep. It took our hens about three nights before getting the hang of it and going inside the coop at dusk without help.
Newcomers won’t be ‘trained’ or welcomed by the older hens; every newcomer in the flock needs to be helped to find their roosting spot. As they’re low on the pecking order, placing them inside the coop after dark is less stressful, so the other hens can not see the new bird.
A mother hen will show her offspring where to sleep, but keep an eye out whether everybody is inside as chicks are extra vulnerable to predators.
How do chickens sleep?
Birds, including chickens, don’t use a nest for sleeping; they sleep on branches. Nests are solely used to lay eggs, brooding, and raise their chicks. Don’t allow your hens to sleep inside the nesting boxes, as they will get soiled, and they could easily break the eggs inside.
Chickens sleep on branches above the ground, away from predators. Provide roosting perches inside the coop that are at least 1,5 to 3 feet above the ground. The roosting bar should provide enough space for the hens to sit next to each other. Keep the perches apart from where they get their water and food to prevent contamination.
If you want to learn everything about dimensions, materials, or sorts of roosting bars, consult our ‘Roosting Perch Guide’.
Can chickens sleep outside?
Preferably no. Chickens sleep outside in the wild, but they look for 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. It makes your hens vulnerable to any predator, even in urban environments. When free-ranging your chickens, provide a safe location where they can spend the night.
How to provide your chickens a good night’s rest?
Make sure your chickens give you a five-star review for their sleep comfort! A good night’s rest depends on many external factors like weather conditions, noises or artificial light near the coop, or chicken health issues like molting. But, as a chicken keeper, there are basic rules to follow to help them sleep well:
Don’t make them roost on an empty stomach
Hungry chickens are irritated chickens. To keep them calm during the night, feed them one last time an hour before they go roosting. A chicken’s crop should be full at bedtime and empty when they wake up. This makes them less anxious at night and in the morning.
Clean and ventilate the coop
Cleaning the coop is essential, as you don’t want your chickens to sleep in their poop or suffer from bad air quality from ammonia fumes. Chickens poop a lot at night, so to ensure they don’t roost in filthy conditions, a thorough clean is necessary next to the weekly clean. If you’re using deep litter method to compost the manure, a weekly clean of the coop isn’t required, but coop an extra eye on the ventilation and smell of the coop.
Next to a clean coop, ventilation is crucial and is often overlooked. Chickens are breathing and pooping, making the air humid and increasing carbon dioxide and ammonia fumes. Ventilation goes on the top of the coop, so the ammonia fumes and carbon dioxide can be replaced by fresh air. There should be no airflow on the bottom, so your chickens won’t sit in the draft.
Provide plenty of space
Like humans, chickens need their personal space to feel happy and healthy. When it comes to chicken coops, size does matter! Make sure the chicken coop is big enough to house your chickens. When in doubt, consult our ‘Coop Size Calculator’ to determine the proper inside and outside spacing for your amount of chickens.
Provide roosting bars that meet the standards of your chickens. Every chicken will have its favorite place on the roosting perch, but some basic rules apply to all chickens when installing the correct roosting perches. Find out in our ‘Roosting Perches Guide’.
To sum up
All chickens have an internal clock telling them when to sleep, which is at dusk. New chickens won’t roost by themselves; they’ll need some assistance the first couple of days. Make sure all chickens go inside the coop at night, making them less vulnerable to predators. You can do some basic things to help them sleep well: Feed them before they go to bed, clean the coop regularly, and make sure the coop is well ventilated. And by providing the proper amount of space inside the coop so it won’t feel overcrowded.