Whether you’ve had chickens for awhile or are just getting them, one of the essential things your coop needs is chicken nesting boxes.
They don’t have to be fancy but they will make collecting your eggs much easier! So in this article I’ll go over everything that you need to know about your nesting boxes.
I’ve had chickens forever and I’ve had them free range, cooped up, in horse trailers, pretty much all the places you can imagine.
And I can tell you from experience that if your hens have specific chicken nesting boxes to lay their eggs in it’ll make life so much easier.
The nice part is that the nesting boxes don’t need to be fancy and there are lots of options.
The important thing is that they are safe, quiet, and preferably darkened.
All About Chicken Nesting Boxes
Having specific places for your hens to lay will make collecting eggs much easier for you.
If you leave it up to the girls to decide where they want to lay their eggs it’s usually pretty hidden.
Hens like to lay eggs in clean, dark, and safe places which is why you’ll often find free range hens laying eggs in hidden places such as underneath bushes and in between hay stacks.
So when you’re creating your nesting boxes try to keep them as dark, private, and comfortable as possible.
How Many Nesting Boxes Per Chicken
You should plan on one box per 4-6 hens. But if you only have a few hens you should still provide them with a few boxes.
They may not use all of them but it gives them more than just one option for laying in.
Although don’t be surprised if all of your hens use the same box. It’s likely going to be the case.
Sometimes you’ll even see two hens in the same box at once. Even when there may be five empty boxes, chickens will end up sharing the boxes at the same time.
I don’t know why and I really am not sure how to break them of it, but I guess sharing is caring right, haha!
How to Build Chicken Nesting Boxes
When it comes time to getting your boxes you can either build them, buy already assembled boxes, or use items such as such as milk crates, plastic tubs, or 5-gallon buckets turned sideways.
My boxes are made out of wood. They were really easy to assemble and we just used plywood and some 2×4’s.
They work really well and are permanent which is just what I wanted when I built my new coop.
An important feature is that the tops are slanted which prevents the chickens from being able to roost on top of the boxes.
This keeps them much cleaner because they won’t pile up with chicken poop.
If your coop is not permanent or you just need something to use quickly I’d recommend something quick and easy such as milk crates or some of the pre-made nesting boxes.
Some popular ones to choose from are:
How Big They Should Be
Nesting boxes should be a minimum size of 12x12x12 inches.
If you have small sized hens such as bantams and white leghorns, a smaller box will work but it’s nice to have a box that can fit any size.
I have a mixture of small hens to pretty large hens and so the 12x12x12 boxes or even a couple inches bigger are perfect and can fit them all.
How High Off the Ground They Should Be
The height is important both for easy access for the hens to get in and so that rodents can’t get in.
They should be at least a foot off of the ground so if critters such as mice get inside your coop, they are less likely to get in the boxes.
But keep them no higher than 3 feet off the ground because higher than that can make it difficult for some chickens to hop in.
I have a perch in front of my boxes that hens can easily hop onto before going inside and it makes entering and exiting much easier on them.
Where to Place the Nesting Boxes in the Chicken Coop
In my coop I mounted the boxes on the wall to have the opening facing the south wall so that the sun never shines directly in the boxes when it is rising or setting.
Some people will even hang curtains in the front of the nesting boxes to provide a bit of extra privacy for their hens.
Chicken Nesting Material to Use
It doesn’t really matter what you use inside of your boxes but a good nesting material helps keep your eggs clean and it prevents the eggs from breaking.
Good options are materials such as hay, straw, wood shavings, shredded paper, or nesting pads.
Over the years I have used just about everything and my favorite chicken nesting material is aspen shaving nesting box liners.
They have kraft paper on the bottom, which holds all of the shaving material together so even when chickens scratch at it, it holds up.
How to Stop Chickens from Pooping in Nest Boxes
It’s really a pain when your chickens start pooping in their boxes because it quickly makes a mess of your nesting material and your eggs won’t be as easy to clean.
But luckily there are a few ways to prevent your hens from pooping in the box.
They really only poop at night when they are sleeping so if you don’t let your hens sleep in their boxes you will rarely find a mess.
The few things you should do that will prevent your hens from sleeping in their boxes are:
1.) Make your boxes lower than the roosts. Chickens want to roost in the highest area, so if your boxes are higher, that’s where they will choose.
2.) Have the right kind of roosts. Wood is preferable because it is easy for chickens to grasp onto and it doesn’t get too hot or cold.
The roosts can be made out of many materials such a 2×4 boards, old shovel handles, stepladders, tree branches, etc. But should be something that is at least 2-4 inches wide that the chickens can easily roost on.
I have my chicken roosts in each corner like stair steps starting at about 1 foot off the ground up to about 5 feet, then one long roost the runs the entire length of the coop.
3.) Keep your chicken coop clean. If your coop gets infested with mite your hens may try to get away and sleep in the boxes.
So regularly cleaning your coop is another way that will prevent your chickens from sleeping in their boxes.
How to Teach Your Hens to Lay in the Boxes
If you have older hens that are already using the boxes, younger hens starting to lay will usually just follow their lead.
But if you notice they are not laying in their boxes there are a few ways you can teach them to do so.
You can put golf balls in the nest, fake eggs, or even real eggs that are somehow marked so you know not to collect them.
Once the hens notice, it will encourage them to begin laying their eggs in the same spot.
Happy Hens and Happy Chicken Keepers
I hope you’ve learned all you need about chicken nesting boxes.
They’re a pretty simple thing but they make such a huge difference when it comes to the day to day tasks of keeping chickens.
You’ll never know how happy you can be simply from having clean, unbroken eggs all in one spot!
For more information about everything you need to know about raising chickens, check out the ebook I wrote: The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens
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