One important aspect that you absolutely do not want to leave out of your chicken coop designs, when you plan and build your coop, is a roost for your birds to sleep on. Chickens do not like to sleep on the floor of the coop or in the nesting boxes, but instead prefer these “roosts” – raised platforms on which they can huddle together during the night.
This is because of how chickens act in the wild for safety purposes. A chicken’s brain is hardwired to view higher ground as safer ground. It means predators cannot get to them as easily. In the wild, chickens often sleep in tree branches or other similarly raised parts of the terrain.
This behavior is just as true in a contained environment like a chicken coop. After all, your birds don’t really know why they’re doing it. Just that it makes them feel safe.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that chickens prefer to sleep in the highest place possible inside your chicken coop. Don’t build your nest boxes too high off the ground because that means your birds will sleep in them instead, which tends to make them much messier and harder to clean.
Chickens naturally defecate during their sleep, which you don’t necessarily want happening where you’re collecting eggs! Because of this, it’s also important to make sure the roosts that you do build are at an equal level.
If you build a multi-leveled roost, your chickens will sometimes fight each other to get the highest spot, and even if they don’t, the birds on the lower levels will become quite dirty with chicken droppings during the night.
A cross design, where your roosting bars intersect at right angles, can maximize space in your coop while solving the problem of fighting for the highest sleeping spot.
Another way to prevent your birds from fighting over roosting space is to make sure there’s about 9 or 10 inches of horizontal roosting space for each chicken. Less space than that is too crowded.
Regardless of how you choose to organize your roosts in your chicken coop, the construction method should be just about the same. You will want to use some sort of wood for the roosts themselves, although what exactly you use is up to you.
Dowel rods work well, although you want to make sure they are thick enough to hold up the weight of all of your chickens. 2” x 2” planks or 2” x 4” planks also work wonderfully.
If you use planks, though, you may wish to round out the edges, as this will make it easier for your birds to grip their roosting platforms while they sleep. Make sure that the wood itself is smooth, as well, or your birds will get splinters.
Something you can do to make cleaning your chicken coop easier is to put an easily cleanable surface area under your roosts. As already mentioned, chickens tend to defecate a lot during the night, so make sure you don’t put the roosts above somewhere that you want to keep extra clean, like your nesting areas.
Some people put a sort of “litter box” under their nests which they can remove from the coop and clean weekly. The chicken droppings and the bedding material that you use can make for a great mulch or compost!