Every chicken owner is already aware of the sundown roundup that takes place in the run or across your property.
When the sun gets low in the sky, chickens start thinking about tucking tail feathers and getting some shuteye in the coop.
But have you ever stopped to think about just how chickens actually sleep? Are they like us? Do they get up to use the bathroom, or do they get restless? Do they ever need something to drink? Just how do chickens sleep?
Chickens sleep from dusk until dawn, and prefer to sleep up off the ground preferably inside a shelter like their coop. Some chickens have preferences for spacing, position, and location, however.
Chickens are generally pretty predictable when it comes to sleep habits. That’s a good thing for us since it makes them easier to manage.
However, individual birds can show some marked preferences when it comes to their nighttime routine, and whole flocks might develop some strange sleep habits in various circumstances.
Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know about how your chickens like to sleep…
Chickens Sleep in their Coop if they Can
Chickens, like most birds, greatly prefer to be in a sheltered position when it is time to go to sleep.
For backyard chickens, that means snugged up safe, and sound inside their sturdy coop.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that you have a secure coop and run setup for your flock, and that it is always open and waiting for them when the sun gets low in the sky.
Chickens are creatures of habit, and once they have a routine, they won’t deviate from it unless forced to, usually.
This means you usually won’t need to round up your birds; they’ll know right where to go, and will head there when it is time!
Do Chickens Always Sleep on their Roost Bar?
Usually, but not always. Inside the coop there should be one or more roost bars depending on how many chickens you have, and ideally, the birds will be sleeping on these bars at night.
Chickens, again like most birds, want to be up off the ground when sleeping since the ground is where most predators live.
Roosting bars should be chosen carefully since they can be hard to change once the birds get used to them being in place.
One that is too low, the wrong shape, or the wrong texture might prompt your chickens to look elsewhere for a spot to snooze.
That brings us to the next section.
Where Else Will a Chicken Sleep?
Chickens might not sleep on the roost bar. A chicken might decide to sleep in a nest box (chickens do like a snug spot when sleeping), or even down on the ground or floor of the coop if they can’t find anywhere else more suitable.
If they are forced to sleep outside, chickens will seek shelter up in a tree, on top of your house, or anywhere else that will get them up and off the ground.
Do Chickens Sleep Alone or Together?
Most chickens will sleep in a group, but not always, and how tightly they huddle together is dependent on a few factors.
On a roost bar, your flock will establish how much space is needed between each other depending on preference, room available, and pecking order.
You might find that certain birds prefer to be separate from the crowd or have been “exiled” and take up their own sleeping space away from the rest of the flock.
It’s also common to see chickens group together tightly in a big cluster. This is especially common when sleeping on the ground or floor of the coop.
Chickens Assume Different Positions to Sleep
Yes! Chickens have a few surprising positions for sleeping. The most common is the perched squat, where chickens just hunker down on the roost bar.
They might also curl up into a ball on the ground or in a nesting box. Some chickens seem to lean over on their side with a crooked neck, though this is less common.
One of the strangest and most alarming positions is actually sleeping standing up! This can happen when chickens are really exhausted or really old.
If you see a chicken doing this during the day it might be a sign that they did not get much sleep the night prior.
When this happens you should investigate: the bird could be sick, injured, tormented by parasites, or even had a close encounter with a predator.
When Do Chickens Go to Bed?
This one is easy: chickens go to bed when it is getting dark, and they wake up when the sun comes up.
This is because chickens don’t see well at night and know they are more vulnerable when it’s dark out.
Chickens are hardwired to recognize this, so they will automatically seek shelter and go to sleep as the sun sets. At least they have a schedule, eh?
Do Chickens Always Sleep Through the Night?
Generally, yes, but not always. Chickens might be awakened for any number of reasons.
If something startles them, like a loud noise or sudden movement in the night, they could wake up and raise the alarm.
Some chickens are much more sensitive to noises than others, too. One of your birds might sleep through anything, while another could be disturbed by the softest sound! Just like people…
However, chickens don’t really wake up to poop. If they need to go, they just go wherever they happen to be sleeping.
That’s a major bummer if they are sleeping in a nesting box since you’ll need to clean it out.
Sometimes a Chicken Will Actually Sleep with One Eye Open!
Here’s another wild fact about chickens sleeping. Believe it or not, some chickens will actually sleep with one eye open. It’s true.
This is an adaptation that their wild jungle fowl ancestors have, and one that has stayed deeply ingrained in chickens.
It allows them to keep one-half of their brain on alert and partially observant for predators while still getting meaningful sleep. Turns out there was some truth in the old adage after all!
Will Chickens Always Sleep Together?
Generally yes, but sometimes an individual chicken or group of chickens will sleep separately from the rest.
This is usually a symptom of crowding or poor conditions at the typical sleeping spot.
If your coop isn’t clean or is overcrowded, expect to see at least some chickens go to take their chances elsewhere.
Chickens Usually Get More Sleep in the Winter
Chickens will usually sleep more in the winter and less in the summer. This is because the nights are longer during the winter months. Conversely, chickens will sleep less in the summer since the nights are shorter.
Don’t worry about it: chickens generally get as much sleep as they need so long as they aren’t disturbed, and their body rhythms are closely tied to the changing of the seasons.
Chickens Might Nap During the Day, but Not Always
It is not unusual to see chickens grabbing a nap during the day. When doing so, they will typically fluff up their feathers and settle down somewhere in the coop or yard, often in a shady spot or in a shallow depression.
However, chickens don’t often take naps all day long. Instead, they may just nap for a few minutes here and there to recharge, and they often sleep very lightly compared to night time.
Again, if you notice a bird habitually sleeping during the day it is time to investigate. It could be sick, injured, malnourished or stressed.
Don’t take any chances, and don’t hesitate to separate a chicken that might need some quality shuteye in a darkened coop or other enclosure.
Some Individual Chickens Will Want More Sleep
Another thing to keep in mind is that some chickens, being individuals, will just want a little more sleep. Maybe they start settling down before the rest or they aren’t up and clucking as early.
As long as your birds are eating, drinking, pooping normally, and generally seem healthy otherwise then there might not be anything wrong with them.
Old, Injured, or Sick Chickens Will Need More Sleep
Likewise, expect any chicken that is sick, injured, or just very old to need more sleep.
When you see them half-awake on their feet, keeping one eye closed, or acting irritable and walking around lethargically, it might be time to intervene. Give them a warm, quiet, and dark place to rest.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.