How Do Chickens Sleep? (Rules, meaning and tips for owners)


Those who own backyard chickens are well aware of what their chickens do on a regular basis whenever these birds are active. But not many people have actually seen chickens in a state of inactivity or whenever they are asleep, or even know how chickens sleep. After all, it is important to know how chickens sleep so that you can provide them with the best kind of environment for sleeping. So, how do chickens actually sleep?

Chickens sleep in many different positions. The most common sleeping position is perched, just like most other birds. Chickens can also sleep in their nesting box, hurdled up on the floor, and even curled up in a ball. These different sleeping positions have different meanings.

In many ways, chickens are quite similar to other animals. That’s because these birds actually have different sleeping positions depending on what is comfortable to them or on what gives them the best rest. As such, as a chicken owner, it is up to you to know why your chickens prefer certain sleeping positions and what such sleeping positions actually mean.

Do chickens sleep at night?

Overall, chickens sleep the night and are usually most active throughout the day. They are diurnal animals that prefer to sleep at night, but may also nap during the day from time to time.

However, chickens are most likely at their most active during the day and would begin to become inactive the moment the sun goes down.

The usual sleeping pattern that chickens follow is that they are inactive from dusk till dawn. That means that, when the sun goes down, they are already most likely going to sleep, but some chickens might prefer to stay active a bit more for a few hours after sundown.

However, most chickens follow this common sleeping pattern and would begin to start becoming more active during sunrise, and that is why you will often hear roosters crowing during the break of dawn.

Of course, when something disturbs them or whenever they can’t sleep well during the night, chickens will wake up in the middle of the night and even before sunrise. Still, there are those that are actually heavy sleepers that can sleep in the middle of a noise barrage or a pretty strong storm full of thunder and lighting.

Again, chickens will also nap during the day whenever they feel the need to do so. However, they will most likely sleep lightly during the day because of how they are naturally wired to avoid deep sleep when the sun is up so that they can stay wary of predators. That’s why during the day, chickens are more likely to be startled while they are sleeping, but that isn’t always the case at night.

How do chickens sleep in a coop?

Now that you know that chickens sleep during the night, you might be wondering how these birds actually sleep. Not everyone has seen a chicken sleeping or are actually aware of how a chicken sleeps. And this is important for backyard chicken owners because you want to provide your chicken with the kind of environment that is conducive enough for sleep.

So, how do chickens sleep when they are in their coop? Here are some of the more common sleeping ways and positions that chickens use, and each of these has underlying meanings that you might need to know:

Perched

The best and most common way for chickens to sleep is perched up on a roost, and this is usually the most natural way for chickens and most birds to sleep. That means that you need to provide a roost in the coop for your chickens to perch on so that they can sleep in the most natural way for them.

You can use any tree branch or an artificial roost that you can buy in almost all chicken specialty stores. The fact of the matter is that perching on a roost is the best way for the chickens to sleep, and that means that you should always provide any kind of roost for them as long as it is high enough up the ground for your chickens.

Firstly, chickens can pass waste during the night while they are sleeping because they don’t always care about their bowel movements. They will just naturally defecate whenever nature calls. So, by sleeping high off the ground, passing waste while asleep means that their fecal matter won’t stick to them. And this minimizes the risk of your chickens suffering from health issues related to their waste.

Second, chickens are naturally wired to sleep high off the ground similar to any other birds due to how this aids them in their survival. It is the very instinct of most birds just like chickens to find a safe spot high off the ground so that they can avoid predators on the ground. As such, they are going to be able to sleep less stressed when they are perched on a roost because they are confident enough that predators won’t be able to get to them.

In the nesting box

Most coops usually have separate areas for roosting and for nesting. So, if that is the case for you, you might notice your chickens preferring to sleep in their nesting box from time to time instead of actually perching on their roost.

So, the one thing that you should know is that you shouldn’t be worried when your chickens actually prefer to sleep on their nesting box instead of perching on their roost. But the problem arises due to sanitary reasons because, again, chickens tend to pass waste when sleeping. This means that they may end up developing health problems if they defecate on their nesting boxes while asleep. 

You should know that it is also much more difficult to clean the bedding of a nesting box than it is to clean the area under the roost. As such, for sanitary reasons, it is better to make sure that your chickens are sleeping on their roost instead of on the nesting box.

The reason why chickens actually prefer to sleep on their nesting box from time to time is that there must be something wrong with the roost. That’s because chickens tend to prefer areas that are wide and flat enough whenever they are perched. This is quite similar to the branches that they often see in the wild. As such, if they don’t feel comfortable in the choice of roost that you got for them, they might not want to sleep there.

If your chickens prefer to sleep on their nesting box, there might be something wrong with the roost.

Another explanation why some chickens prefer their nests is due to how their roosts might be lower than their nests. Again, chickens prefer to sleep on higher ground because it allows them to feel safe from their natural predators. So, if their nests are situated higher than the roost, the chickens are likely to be naturally drawn to sleep on the nesting boxes instead because doing so makes them feel safer.

Hurdled up on the floor

Instinctively, chickens are naturally drawn to high places whenever they want to sleep. They will most likely avoid sleeping on the floor because of how it doesn’t make them feel safe while they are asleep.

This is because most chickens are sound sleepers at night and are going to end up defenseless if a predator tries to attack them while they are asleep.

But, then again, if your chicken actually sleeps on the floor, there are a lot of different underlying reasons as to why that is happening. There is no exact reason why some chickens would prefer to sleep on the floor all hurdled up and in groups, but it could be due to how they are uncomfortable sleeping anywhere else other than the floor.

Try replacing their roost to see if that works because, again, there might be instances where the chickens don’t like certain roosts. You could also try to bring them in the roost at night while they are sleeping so that they will get used to sleeping perched.

It is always better to make sure that chickens are on the roost when they are sleeping because other positions or locations can lead to health problems related to their waste. Also, you want your chickens to feel safe while sleeping, as chickens that are stressed out are unhealthy.

However, there are some chicken breeds that actually prefer to sleep on the ground due to their unique feathers. Silkies are examples of such chickens as they are incapable of flying high up enough to reach a roost. 

As such, if you have silkies, you don’t have to worry about them sleeping on the ground because of how this is natural to them. Silkies tend to sleep on the floor all hurdled up together because this gives them the best way to feel safe as being together will lower the chances of them getting attacked by a predator. And when they are all hurdled up, they will feel safe and are less likely to feel stressed out while sleeping.

Balled up

Finally, another sleeping position that chickens may sometimes take up is curling up in a ball instead of actually standing up perched. This is usually the case for chicks, as they do so while pressing their bodies up against their siblings. And such behavior is perfectly okay for chicks because they need to ball up to feel warm at night.

Related article: Do Baby Chickens Sleep A Lot? (Should you worry about it?)

However, when an adult bird is actually balled up, you shouldn’t treat it as okay because waste can become a problem for chickens that actually sleep all balled up. But there are certain instances when this can be okay.

If the hen is nesting, it needs to feel comfortable while it is on the nest, where it should be sleeping. So, in that case, it may end up curling into a ball not only to feel comfortable while sleeping but to provide enough heat for eggs to survive through the night. This will also improve the hen’s bond with her future hatchlings.

If you have a chicken breed that is bred specifically for its meat, it might be okay for it to sleep all balled up. The Cornish X is a good example of such a bird, as this chicken tends to grow really fast to the point that it ends up having developmental problems.

Meat birds such as the Cornish X grow up with underdeveloped feathers, and that may end up making the chicken feel cold at night. It also is quite big and heavy compared to other chickens, and that means that it will be limited in terms of its flight. As such, chickens that are bred specifically for their meat tend to ball up on the ground whenever they are sleeping because they need to feel warm while curling up and they also can’t fly high up to the roost at night.

Do all chickens roost?

As a general rule, chickens should actually sleep perched on a roost because this is the most natural way for them to sleep while also minimizing the chances of them suffering from health issues related to their waste.

However, there are some chickens that don’t actually roost because they are physically incapable of doing so. Examples of such include the silkies and the Cornish X breeds. These birds tend to be quite big and heavy to a point that they won’t be able to carry their weight up to a roost.

Aside from that, the general rule should apply to all chickens in the sense that they should be roosting except when they are nesting. That’s why you need to make sure that you have a pretty good roost and that your roost is situated high enough to make your chickens feel safe.

Is it OK for chickens to sleep on the ground?

As a whole, chickens should not sleep on the ground not because of how this isn’t something that is natural to them, but because it is unsanitary. As mentioned, chickens can pass waste while they are sleeping at night, and they don’t even care if they defecate while sleeping.

This means that chickens can end up having waste all over their feathers throughout the day. And this can lead to potential health problems because any kind of waste is dirty and unsanitary. You’d also have to do extra work to clean your chickens if they tend to become a bit too dirty due to their waste.

As such, it is best to make sure that your chickens do not sleep on the ground because this is completely unsanitary for them. Always see to it that they actually feel comfortable on their roost so that they won’t end up forced to sleep on the ground, where most chickens don’t feel safe.

Also, it is worthy to note that chickens don’t feel safe on the ground and are going to most likely go to sleep on high alert. This means that they may end up stressed out throughout the day due to their lack of rest.

The only exceptions to this case are chickens that are actually too big and heavy to sleep on a roost. As mentioned, the silkies and the Cornish X are chickens that are actually better off sleeping on the ground because they can’t carry themselves to a roost.

Where should chickens sleep at night?

The best place for chickens to sleep at night is on the roost located inside their coops. As such, it is always best to invest in a good roost that chickens are comfortable with so that they will always choose to sleep perched on it. 

It is also acceptable for a chicken to sleep on its nesting box from time to time but, again, there are consequences such as sanitary issues due to the waste that the chicken may end up passing at night while asleep. So, again, this is why it is important for chickens to perch on a roost during sleep.

What do chickens do at night?

In most cases, chickens will always stay perched on a roost at night and are hardly ever going to try to stay active.

That’s because chickens are naturally wired to sleep from dusk till dawn, except for certain instances when they might want to stay up a bit longer after sundown. As such, expect that your chickens should be asleep whenever the sun had already gone down.

Do chickens like to sleep together?

Normally, chickens don’t like to sleep together and would rather stay on their individual spots on a roost. That’s because some chickens do value their space and are less likely to want to stay with other birds when sleeping.

But there are exceptions to this.

The first exception is when the chickens are still too young. Chicks like to sleep all balled up and hurdled up together because they need the warmth to survive the night. This is due to how chicks still have underdeveloped feathers that won’t be enough to keep them warm.

Meanwhile, the second exception is when you are talking about chickens such as Silkies and the Cornish X. Silkies prefer to sleep together on the ground because they can’t roost. Sleeping together allows them to feel safe and secure from predators. On the other hand, the Cornish X needs to sleep together because this chicken tends to have underdeveloped feathers since it grows up quite fast and needs to hurdle together with other chickens to feel warm at night.

Will chickens fight at night?

Chickens are unlikely to fight at night because they are much more docile and inactive during the night. This is why it is best to introduce a hen to a flock at night because that is when the other hens are less likely to feel threatened by its presence.

Why are chickens docile at night?

The reason why chickens are docile at night is because they are likely too tired to want to move around at night since they naturally sleep the moment the sun goes down.

However, the most common reason why they are docile at night is due to how chickens don’t really see well in the dark. As such, it is much easier to handle a chicken at night due to how docile it is.

Receive new articles by email

Each week, you'll get a recap with new tips and some of your questions answered. Just fill the form below to not miss anything:

.

Patrick FROMAGET

I want to share everything I know about chickens to help you take better care of yours! I grew up raising chickens at home and have learned a lot over the years. I hope you'll find my articles useful and learn something from them.

Recent Posts