Why Outside Roosts

The other day, a small drama played itself out in the Little Barn’s pen. Veronica, the Marans hen, has gone broody. Midday, she took her bad-tempered and ruffled-feather self out of the nest to eat, drink, poop, dust bathe and preen. Broody hens look different – their feathers not only stick straight up, making them look larger and of a different shape, but they’ve often pulled some feathers out of their breast (the better to incubate those eggs that they deludedly believe that they have.) Different is not welcome in a flock. The other hens pecked at her head and chased her off.

In a free-range situation, Veronica could have put distance between herself and the flock and all would have calmed down. But my girls are in a fenced pen, safe from predators (and my garden safe from them.) If it was a bare enclosure, Veronica might have been cornered and harmed, so to prevent carnage, I provide several escape routes. The one that Veronica chose was the old ladder roost.

outside roost


It’s under the shade tarp, which makes it bearable on a very hot day. Even better, for a bad-tempered broody, it’s in full view of everyone, but safe from them. In between preening, Veronica yattered away. But, up on the ladder, no one took notice of her. Not even the goats.



*Notice Veronica’s bare bottom. It’s nothing that I worry about. The skin color is normal, there’s no sign of damage from pecking. It’s not due to external parasites. My best layers often have bald spots. After last winter’s cold, snowy confinement, my flock is looking especially ragged. The girls won’t replace the worn out patches until after the molt late summer. They’re not up to beauty pageant standards, but that’s okay with all of us.


  1. What a great use for that old ladder! I recently had broodiness in epic proportions, and when I finally helped my five get through it(broody coop), I noticed some interesting behavior. Two of the hens were acting like mama and chick! One would find some tasty treat in the grass and call the other over to eat. If you remember, I have Beryl raising four chicks for me in an adjacent pen, and I wondered if they were imitating her behavior or if this was natural for recent broody hens. Have you ever observed this?

  2. I have several day roosts in my enclosure and at different heights. I also use a couple of old ladders as well.

    In the latest edition of the “Chicken” magazine they describe all the benefits of day roosts.

  3. I saw either Nancy Drew or Beluah pecking at a zucchini, which makes me wonder is their anything chickens can not eat? Anything that yours show favoritism toword or ignore? I know that they like melon and pumpkin…;)

    • This year I have a bounty of zucchinis – you’ll likely see the big ones tossed in for the hens. Chickens are widely omnivorous. The one lethal item is the avocado. I go into more detail in my feeding FAQ.

      • Mine won’t touch coleslaw. Wanna know how I know?
        I had my annual 4th of July party at my house. Someone brought a big tub of homemade coleslaw.
        There was quite a bit of it leftover (always way too much food).
        A couple days after the party I dumped it in the run. They pecked at, scratched through it but barely touched it.
        I had to rake it up.

  4. Time for me to install one. My Ameracauna is broody more often that not, and there are quite a few little squabbles out there. My little Golden Sexlink is at the bottom of the pecking order, and she always takes the opportunity to try and work her way up a step whenever the others are broody.

  5. Veronica looks like a “hot mess” but I’m glad that you provide escape roosts. I am looking forward to Sound Cam to hear Veronica yattering.

  6. Got a couple of broodys in my flock again: the same two who were broody 3 weeks ago and broke out of it for exactly two days before going right back into it. It’s almost as if they challenge one another over who can remain broody longer in a hot coop, so I’ve installed a fan to ensure they and the actual egg layers can still do what they do.

  7. Speaking of not eating the cole slaw: I persuaded the produce manager at the local grocery store to save all the expired veggies for me, for my chickens, goats, cows, etc. Well, one day she had a whole box of those pre made bagged salads. Woo hoo! I took my bounty home and dumped them out for everyone, and….

    NO ONE would touch those bagged salads. Not the goats, chickens, ducks, guineas, cows, mule, horses. Now what does that tell you? You know, it was so freaky that I stopped buying them. All that darned preservative that must be sprayed on them. Something to think about…

    • Smart critters. Those cut veggies are washed in chemicals – which is considered processing and so it’s not on the label – but there are residues.

  8. My Girls are very lucky they have a large old acer tree in their area which has nice horizontal branches just right for day time napping in the shade and they have plenty of room to get away from each other if need be. Glad to hear your garden is productive this year.
    Sorry to ask of blog but, i don’t do Facebook. How is Lily doing and any update on new camera for Gems??…:)

    • Lily is resigned to limping. I’m still waiting on the DNA test results. Full report when I get it! Steve is working, working, working on the new cams. It is VERY complicated and requires not only the hardware but software – that he has to program. We’re hoping at least one new cam will be up this week.

  9. I had noticed that Veronica was looking a bit frumpy the last week or so, but thought that maybe she was going through an early moult. I hadn’t thought of her going broody – that makes more sense. You mentioned that some of your better layers have bald spots: Does this mean that Veronica is one of your better layers?

  10. Clever and creative way of re-purposing the ladder! I love the idea of varying levels of perching so that the birds can easily share the same structure while being able to change their height to avoid being pecked at by bossier birds. Some of the feisty ladies in my coop don’t always like to share the day roosts while they’re using them, haha!