Why Are Chickens Sleeping In Nesting Box Instead Of On The Roost?

From a commenter here on the blog: “Chicken question, my two Rhode Island reds prefer to sleep in their nesting box and mess it up instead of sleeping on their roost bar in their coop. Any ideas how to get them to sleep up their vs laying eggs in their mess?”

Great question, and I wanted to capture it for a stand-alone post under the “CHICKEN” category. Here are the responses:

How many total do you have?

Is there enough room on the roost for all of them?

It is their natural instinct to roost. Make sure roost is the highest point.

There is a pecking order, however not natural to sleep down in nesting box.

What’s the roost made of? Make sure it’s wide enough for their feet. I use a 2×4 (3.5 inches wide). They like to roost flat. They curl their toes over the edge. (At least mine do that)

Maybe you could put something in front of the nesting boxes at night to restrict them from going in there. Problem though would be getting up EARLY to open it up for egg laying!

Maybe others have additional thoughts…

~ Ken J.

Thanks! The bar is 3ft across and only 2 hens in the coop. They don’t lay till about mid morning. I can try blocking off the boxes at night and remove the barrier when I open up the coop to the run at 5:30am. The roost is about 1.5in. I’ll try running a 2×4 across instead.

After installing the wider roosting board, go into their roosting area about a half hour after they have settled into their nest for the night. Move them to their new roost. If it’s dark, they won’t attempt to go back to the nest. Do that for a few days and they will accept their new roosting area.

~ AZoffgrid

Now that’s interesting. I strung a 2in x 2in across from one wall to the other. All the birds jump up there and roost at night, except for a Silkie that is brooding, but I put her up on the roost before I shut out the lights at night. Never knew about them roosting flat footed. Maybe because this was all they’ve ever known I might leave it as is.

Saving up for the final piece to my “Cluckingham Place” as another poster called it. (Sorry, forgot who), a Wifi enabled, programmable timer, automatic coop door opener. Sometimes they like to stay out a bit later than dark, so I can look at the coop cam, get a headcount, and open the door if they are late. Yeah, it’s a weird cross, engineering and Chicken farming :-)

~ DoubleTap

Broody hens will sleep in nest boxes. Chickens with foot or keel injuries will too.

If your chickens suffer from leg mites, the mites tend to hide in cracks in roosts and come out at night to feed on the chickens. Might check for that and treat the wood if found. That will also cause them to sleep elsewhere.

Nest boxes aren’t under the roost are they?

~ Anony Mee

Nesting boxes are a few feet away from the roost at a lower point in the coop, I’ll take a look at their feet when I get home. Thanks!

Do what Ken suggests with a 2×4. Chickens roost flat footed and need the 3-1/2″ roost bar to keep them stable when roosting for the night. Just MHO…

~ Northern Sarge


  1. I’ve never experienced the problem posed. One question I would have for the one asking is, when the hens were first introduced to their home, was the roost already in place, or just the nesting boxes with the roost added later?

    The reason for this question is, chickens, in my experience, normally will roost on the highest accessible perch. Also my experience, they are creatures of habit, returning to the same perch until something precludes their doing so.

    I would make sure that the perch I want them to use is first, easily accessible from the floor of their house, and two, I would close off the nesting boxes every evening before the go to roost, at least for 3-4 days, then opening up the nests each morning. Once they become accustomed to the new roost, they will return to it.

    I did have a problem with a group of pullets I raised from chicks with a group of baby Guineas. When they became old enough to turn out to free range during the day, the Guineas immediately took to a tree outside to roost at night….and the young hens followed the practice. Never able to break them….took about a year for owls to pick them off one at a time.

    1. I also had two hens that preferred the tree branches to going in the coop at night. Took me many weeks and some major branch trimming to get them to abandon the tree. It was kind of funny to go out each night and watch them circle the tree, looking for a low branch to jump up on.

      hahahaha I win.

  2. Hi, Everyone, yes we have a couple maybe 2 of 12 chickens who if given the opportunity would rather sleep in their nesting box instead of perching. That only happens if we forget to put the wooden flap down over their boxes at night. That is part of the design of our chicken cabin. The nesting boxes are on a slight slant so eggs roll down under another part so chickens cannot eat their own eggs. (Every other year or so, we have one who does and gets the others into it.) So when it is daylight the flap goes up and is secured by a little wooden dial latch that keeps it up, after each day’s egg laying I put it down so no sleep over parties in the nest box.

    P.S. in honor of moving toward “tiny home”, I got 4 sweet bantam chicks yesterday! :)
    They are straight run (how daring says DH) and “assorted” so we will have fun seeing what surprising colors and breeds they shall be. They are healthy and calm and doing great. My daughter and I named them Twinkie, Keebler and Fudge Stripe (they look like twins), and Truffle.
    I wish you all the best in this year’s chicken raising. I am enjoy a hard boiled egg salad at the moment. Thank you chickens! Be well all! God bless u!

  3. I use 1.5 inch branches for roosts. Hens like round poles to grip
    .replace every month and burn to kill mites.

  4. Update-I blocked off the nesting boxes with empty cardboard boxes and installed a 2×4. Checked on them last night to close up the coop for the night and the dummies we’re huddled up in the straw under the roost bar. 🙄 I might trying placing them on the bar when I put them up for the night or just remove the clean out tray underneath so they have no choice! Thank you all for your insight.

  5. I have been keeping chickens for almost 40 years. They are definitely habitual when they do things. They will be cautious of anything new to the coop hence the reason for not using your new roost. Place them on it at night several times and they will be fine. If you are in a cold climate a flat 2×4 is best because they can keep their feet flat and place their body down on them to keep them warm. The only other reason they may be avoiding the roost is the location could be drafty. The biggest threat to winter chickens is humidity that causes frost bite. Many people build in too much ventilation or can’t adjust it down if needed.

    1. Our chickens like their 2×4 roosts with the wide side to perch on. On cold nights its easier for them to hunker down and stay warm using the wide side of the 2×4. They are productive and seem very happy so it must be working!

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