What information can you provide about keeping chickens on the roof?

Asked May 10, 2013, 11:34 AM EDT

I plan on running a chicken coop with two or three chickens on my roof. As most people do not keep chickens there, I haven't been able to find a lot of information about how to do so. Many sites, however, note that in theory, it is possible to keep chickens on a roof.

My main concerns are:

  • How can I give them an area with dirt and grass for them to forage and to take dust baths?
  • Will painting the roof in that area white be a way to lower the temperature in any significant way?
In addition, please tell me whether there are ideal breeds that have done well in this situation. I am also hoping you can tell me ways to add a mister to the coop and run that will work without electricity.

Kings County New York poultry small flocks backyard poultry

2 Responses

  • How can I give them an area with dirt and grass for them to forage and to take dust baths?
I am not sure how you can provide them with dirt other than by creating a raised bed for the run, adding dirt, and then planting grasses. I would check first that your roof can handle the added weight of the dirt, water, and coop before building anything. Some people simply provide deep shavings over the regular roof after considering whether the roofing material beneath the run will harm the birds. Chickens will scratch just as happily through shavings as they would grass or dirt. It will be easier to clean if you just use shavings and a covered run (wet shavings are heavy). It is more likely than not that the chickens would very quickly denude any grass you planted unless you were able to give them several dozen square feet per bird. I usually recommend rotating pasture if you insist on them having access to grass. In your case, it may be worthwhile to plant flat trays from the nursery with grass seed, and then periodically place it in the coop for an afternoon as a treat. This way you can change things up by planting different grasses, clovers, or legumes each time and presenting them to the birds.
  • Will painting the roof in that area white lower the temperature in any significant way?
Painting the roof white will definitely help cool things down and is a good choice. Also, keeping the coop a light color, as well as the cover over the chicken run, will help keep temperatures down for the birds in the summer. You can also add insulation to the inside of the coop (roof and sides) to help keep the interior cool in summer and warm in winter. You can insulate the roof over the run to help prevent heat from radiating down on the run.
  • Please tell me whether there are ideal breeds that have done well in this situation.
There has been no research on this topic. Dual-purpose breeds are a good choice. These would be breeds in the American class of the American Poultry Association. They will not handle summer's heat and humidity as well as Mediterranean breeds, but they will do well in winter. American breeds can tolerate our summers somewhat well.
  • Are there ways to add a mister to the coop and run that will work without electricity?
Misting systems usually run on water pressure, so if you have a water spigot on the roof, then you can turn on the mister during the warmest parts of the day. Leaving a mister on will likely add water weight to your shavings or grass and dirt, so be sure to check the roof and clean the coop area often. Again, be sure your roof can handle the weight.

Thanks so much, Brigid! This was so helpful!