When keeping chickens, you’ll want to be aware of their sleeping tendencies and preferences. Not only will this help you with your own daily schedule and routine, but it will also ensure you align with the needs of your birds – keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. But what time do chickens start to settle down? How do they prepare to sleep and what do they need to do so? I spent some time researching to find out!
So, what time do chickens go to bed? Chickens generally take themselves to bed when it gets dark, which will differ by the season. Once in the coop, these birds will perch on the roost and cluck away for a little while before they settle down to sleep. They’ll rise again at dawn when the sun comes up.
Chickens are at their most active during daylight hours.
These poultry birds wake at dawn, and that’s when the fun begins!
Many chickens alternate between eating breakfast and laying eggs; it’s a busy time of the day for many chicken keepers.
The happiest chickens are those left to wander freely on pasture; there, they forage for food that includes slugs, bugs, worms, and anything else they can find.
These birds are certainly not fussy; as any keeper with bushes or vegetation knows all too well!
After a busy day of eating, laying eggs (during the first 6 hours after sunrise), grazing, roaming, and socializing, it’s bedtime.
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Let us now take a closer look at the sleeping arrangements of chickens, and all of those interesting quirks, traits, and aspects involved!
Do Chickens Go To Sleep Early?
Some flocks of chickens will sleep early, but much depends on the season. Many chickens will retire to the coop as the sun goes down after a busy day.
Interestingly, however, some birds (of the same flock) will not live on the same schedule. For instance, older hens generally prefer to settle down earlier than their younger counterparts.
But either way, chickens instinctively know when to go to bed, and there is little that the keeper needs to do!
In fact, once your flock knows where home is, they’ll begin to retire to the coop on their own accord come dusk.
Thankfully, chickens know that they need to go inside before it gets dark; to keep themselves concealed and safe.
They are aware of their own limitations.
The dark renders chickens blind and powerless against many different and potentially dangerous predators.
This is precisely why having a secure coop is so essential. Even the smallest gaps, wholes, and weaknesses can present an opportunity to a hungry fox, rodent, or badger.
But there is also another motif – to get to their favorite spot on the roost.
And that specific spot is of utmost importance.
Every flock has its pecking order, so if any bird were to make a move on a place that was not formally there’s, then they will soon be put in their place!
The chicken right at the top of the pecking order usually sleeps in the middle, with both eyes closed.
On the other hand, the chickens on the edges keep one eye open to look out for trouble.
In fact, chickens have an amazing ability to be asleep and awake simultaneously!
The left eye connects to their brains’ right side, while the left side of their brains controls the right eye. This enables them to sleep with one eye closed and be alert with one eye open.
Incredible, and highly protective!
These birds have all kinds of vocalizations as they settle down, and you may even you’re your birds snoring.
These are perhaps some of the most obvious cues that your birds are preparing to sleep.
And when they do so, they do deeply.
Some researchers even believe that they dream in their sleep. This is because they undergo rapid eye movement, otherwise known as REM sleep (which has been associated with dreaming).
Like most living animals, sleeping is incredibly important for these birds!
Why Do Chickens Go In At Night?
Chickens instinctively know that they should go into the coop at night – it helps keep them safe, secure, and comfortable.
But there are several different reasons why they want to be inside specifically during the darkness of night.
First and foremost, these birds need to get to their roost before it is too dark for them to see. While chickens do not have a bad vision; they are essentially blind during the night.
Equally, different coop designs can come with different complications and can be hard for a bird to navigate in the dark.
For instance, some coops have ramps beneath raised floors. As the hens enter the coop, they can get stuck, and in the dark, are completely unable to see where they need to go.
Secondly, a well-designed coop keeps chickens safe from predators. A chicken wandering around in the dark, unable to see, is easy prey for many wild animals.
Lastly, chickens have a circadian rhythm and body clock that they live by. They know that during the night they should rest. So, as it begins to get dark, they know it’s time to go home.
Once their mind is made up to return to the coop, they will do it each day like clockwork – that habit will be virtually impossible to break.
Do Chickens Go To Bed By Themselves?
Chickens typically go to bed on their own and in their own time, regardless if whether you are in a rush to put them down to bed early.
These birds go by their own internal clocks, which rely on light.
Many chickens will return to the coop by themselves at dusk, and they will not typically wander too far from it during the day.
The coop is usually kept at a visible distance, regardless of how much land you have for your chickens to roam.
As keepers, we can encourage our birds to return home. It will be much easier to do so if the coop is comfortable and has everything they need; such as roosts at the right heights.
An automated door opener and closer can make life a lot easier for the chicken keeper. Flocks can literally enter the coop every night on their own accord.
It comes as no surprise to see so many positive reviews of them on Amazon. Especially as they are so easy to install and even come with a timer and light sensor.
If you do have some stragglers, you will need to find out what is preventing them from going inside the coop. They could be injured for example and physically incapable of reaching the roost.
Perhaps they don’t get along with the other birds or may even be bullied.
As a keeper, it is your responsibility to ensure harmony among your flock.
Some birds will require some extra care and attention and you will need to take the appropriate steps to help them in any way you can.
You will notice that it requires less coaxing in the winter to get them to go inside the coop, not only because of the bad weather but because it gets darker earlier.
If you need to coax them, a couple of ways to get them inside include flapping your arms to herd them, without being too extreme which could frighten them.
Shaking a plastic dish with cracked corn or rolled oats can work wonders in getting them to follow you, as these birds like treats.
How Can I Get My Chickens To Go To Bed?
If you are struggling to get your chickens to go to bed, you must ask yourself and get to the root of what is stopping them from returning to the coop?
For many young birds, it’s a simple matter of learning the habit. Young chicks of eight weeks old need time to adjust to the new coop before learning when to settle down.
If older birds are not returning to the coop, pests may be the problem.
Rodents or insects in the wood cracks may well put off hens from going into the coop at night.
Perhaps your flock was frightened by a predator and associated the coop with the predator.
Bullying often occurs, and individuals at the bottom of the pecking order are usually the victims.
If you notice only one or two chickens are not going in, it is increasingly likely there is some bullying going on.
But what are the solutions to these issues?
Consider the following:
Make The Coop Comfortable
Chickens are not too concerned with their coop’s aesthetics; they want a home that’s clean, comfortable, warm, and dry.
So, there must be plenty of room to roost with a sufficient bar, made of the correct and durable material, and placed at the correct height (up above).
Then there should be other items, such as nesting boxes and fresh clean bedding.
Most importantly of all, you need your chickens to feel safe from predators. So, ensure it is fully robust with no access or entry points.
When you are sure your coop meets the right criteria for your birds, you must encourage them to use it.
Use Food To Entice Your Chickens Into The Coop
Many chicken keepers recommend using food to encourage their flock into the coop. Especially the odd, tasty treats like an apple or other fruit.
It helps your flock if you are to offer treats at the same time every evening. This way you can help create a routine and they will get used to returning to the coop and eventually sleeping there.
Down the line, you should be able to stop feeding your flock once they have gotten into the habit of going in at night – this is a habit they are ever unlikely to outgrow.
Dealing With Bullies
When bullying is an issue among the flock, it’s usually down to not having enough room for each bird. This could be the roosting bar, or the coop size itself.
Remember, there should be between 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the coop.
So, it may be that you need to get a bigger coop, or perhaps even craft some form of extension (if possible).
Otherwise, another solution may involve reducing your flock size. Usually this can be by giving your chicken away, although you may even be able to sell them.
If you are in a fortunate position and are yet to buy your flock, take this into consideration and don’t get too many, to begin with.
Dealing With Pests and Predators
When an entire flock suddenly refuses to go into the coop, a visit from a predator is the likely cause, or else there is an infestation of rodents or mites.
First things first, you should give your coop a thorough and deep clean with appropriate disinfectant products. Then, you’ll want to air it out, ensure it is completely dry, and then provide fresh bedding.
This way, any parasites such as mites, can be effectively removed.
From there, you should inspect the coop and do all you can to make it as secure as possible.
It may even be a good idea to add deterrents to the rest of your property.
Fencing, action-motivated sprinklers, and action-motivated lighting can work very well.
Provide Some Light
Many chicken keepers report having success by adding a little light to the coop.
The light shouldn’t be too bright; a flashlight or 25-watt bulb should do the trick.
Turn the light on a bit before dusk, and they should come running.
You may want to install a timer so that this can then automatically turn off once your birds are inside.
Chickens live by the light of the sun. It tells them exactly when it is time to wake and when it is time to bed down for the night.
Once these birds learn the habit of returning to their coop at dusk, it’s a habit that never breaks.
It may take a little effort on your part with your birds to begin with. You need to teach them that this is home and it will keep them safe at night.
But once the association is set, your birds will actively seek it out.
It helps that chickens know their limitations; these birds are clever and know that too much later after dusk, they risk not being able to find their way back or get their place on the roost.
Equally, many are instinctively aware that they are prey to many wild animals and know that their coop provides protection.
Some free-ranging birds like to sleep in trees at night, and as much as we want to encourage natural behaviors, this is a sure way to get them taken by predators. There is generally a lot of risk with this approach.
So, it comes strongly advised that keepers incentivize and train their birds to sleep in the coop.
And if there is anything not quite right with the coop, your birds will let you know with a change of preferences or behavior.
For instance, many hens prefer to be inside at night, but a pest or a predator may make this not possible or too uncomfortable for them to return.
If there are issues, you, therefore, need to make them right.
By doing so, monitoring your birds, and staying on top of your chicken’s needs, bedtime will be something that your chickens will just, do.
Chickens will generally be asleep throughout the dark hours of the night, so this will depend on the location and the season. Generally, nighttime lasts for between 7 ½ to 12 hours. Although, chickens may periodically awaken, especially if they are alerted to potential danger. This can influence how they sleep. Either way, they will typically go to sleep when the sun goes down and awaken when the sun comes up.
Chickens are not usually active at night unless there is something that is keeping them awake, such as a predator attack. So long as they feel safe, total darkness is usually a time when chickens sleep deeply and enter a state of stupor. This is why high perches are necessary; being high off the ground makes them a lot less vulnerable while sleeping.
Want to learn more about keeping chickens and best practices in and around the coop? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can Chickens Stay In The Coop All Day?
- How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food?
- How Long Can Chickens Be Left Alone?
- Can Chickens Live Alone?
- Can Chickens Be Potty Trained
- Do Chickens Need Sunlight?
- Will Chickens Sleep With The Light On
- What Time Do Chickens Wake Up
- How Long Do Chickens Sleep?
- Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night
- Do Chickens Sleep Standing Up
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.