All You Need To Know About Chicken Coop Nesting Boxes


Nesting boxes are a pretty important part of the coop if you're planning on keeping chickens for eggs.  They allow for a safe and comfortable spot where laying hens can relax and lay and it also makes finding the eggs much easier.

Make Boxes Hens Want
The boxes should be dark, comfortable and secluded in order to make them attractive to the hens.  Positioning them under any windows helps them maintain a level of darkness.  Comfort comes from their size.  They should be big enough for chickens to turn around in but not too large or it doesn't feel cozy or secluded {and is more apt to have additional hens trying to fit in the same box = doesn't make for happy chickens}.  Typically about 12 inch square should be sufficient although a 14 inch square box gives them a bit more room without being too big.  If you have a larger breed, 14-16 inches would be the best size if your coop can accommodate it.  If the boxes are roofed make sure the chickens can stand up inside the box.  They should also be relatively the same size, same nesting material, etc. to try and avoid them all wanting the same box.

What To Construct Them Out Of?
You can make nesting boxes out of many different materials - old milk crates, covered litter boxes, old wooden crates, barrels, buckets, or you can build them out of leftover lumber.  You can also choose to make them so they open from the back, allowing you to gather eggs without entering the coop, or simply attached to an interior wall.

How Many Do I Need?
This is by far the number one question about nesting boxes.  Ideally, one box for every 2 hens is the general answer, however, you can get away with 1 for every 3 hens.  If you go to 1 box for every 4 hens it can get a bit hectic when they are all waiting for nesting boxes at the same time.  This can lead to hens laying in other places.  This isn't to say they won't all use the same box.  They certainly do from time-to-time.  Ours seem to go through phases.  The third box from the window is, by far, the most popular box at all times but sometimes other boxes are big hits as well.  The good thing is, we have enough boxes so if a hen is tired of waiting for that very special box, she has a box to go into.

Additionally, if you have hens who go broody, particularly if you want them to go broody and hatch eggs for you, err on the side of too many boxes because whatever boxes your broody hens take will no longer be available to the remaining flock.  If you're limited on space, try stacking them vertically or putting a few on one side of the coop and a few on another.  Also, they can be close to or on the ground, if you're ok getting down to retrieve the eggs.

Fill 'Em Up!
As far as nesting material goes, we personally prefer hay or straw to wood shavings.  It's just easier to keep in order, keep clean, and seems to make nesting girls very happy as they coo and rearrange the hay.  Keeping your boxes full of clean nesting material will help prevent yucky eggs.  What are yucky eggs you ask?  Eggs caked with poo, is basically what you're trying to avoid. 


If you're building or renovating a coop for a new flock, I would highly recommend erring on the side of larger than you think you'll need.  Why?  Chickens can be very addicting and although your initial intent may be to have 4 or 5 hens, within a year don't be surprised if your flock has somehow doubled.  I know ours did!!


Additional Chicken-Keeping Posts:When Will My Chickens Start Laying?
Using Diatomaceous Earth For Chicken Health
Supplementing A Chicken's Diet
Chicken Water
Chicken Coop 101:  13 Lessons We Learned Building Our Coop
The Chicken Coop at Cobble Hill Farm
All You Need To Know About Chicken Roosts

3 comments:

daisy g said...

Good to know! Pinning on my "dream life" board!

Susan said...

I am building a henhouse with a separate area for a hen to hatch her eggs when I want to replenish my flock. Should her nesting box be larger than the usual size? Will she be keeping the chicks in there with her after they are hatched? Should this nesting box be at floor level for the little ones to get out to the food and water?
I hope I'm not asking too many questions...

Thanks!

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Susan - no problem at all! I tried to email this to you but was unable to. The nesting box can be the regular size, however, if there's any possibility for you to move mama and chicks away from the others it will make raising them so much easier. The other hens will pick and peck at them and it makes the mama hen a nervous wreck. If you are unable to separate them then yes, they would need to be lower to get to food and water. Hope this helps!! Feel free to email me if you have other questions. :)