While I was young, my family had some chickens for a short time. We lived in the middle of the City, so chickens in our backyard was a bit of an anomaly. I don’t really remember how our nesting boxes were set up, I just remember that they didn’t work. Why didn’t they work? The chickens didn’t lay eggs in the nesting box. We would find eggs hidden around our yard. Since we often wouldn’t find the eggs for weeks we didn’t know how old they were, we didn’t trust ourselves to eat them and they were wasted. After seeing many successful chicken coops and nesting boxes, I know it can be done right!
Purpose of a Nesting Box
The purpose of the nesting box is to provide a cozy secluded place for your chickens to feel secure and lay their eggs in. It isn’t a place for them to sleep in, or poop in, or anything else. The idea is to have the chicken go into the box, lay an egg, then get out. That’s the idea anyway. I’ve discovered that chickens don’t always follow what they are suppose to do. However, with a good design, the chances of success are increased.
How to Design a Nesting Box
Here are some standards and considerations to follow when designing your nesting boxes.
- Have a slanted roof top to avoid chickens hanging out on top of the box and pooping. If there is a ledge, be sure there will be poop beneath.
- The inside dimensions should be about 1 cubic foot (12″ wide x 12″ long x 12″High). It should be pretty snug for the chickens.
- Plan to have one box for every 2 to 6 chickens. You’ll find that one box may be a favorite among multiple chickens.
- Consider the material that you build the box out of. Plastic or aluminum can be pretty easy to clean up. Wood may not be easy to clean, but it is pretty easy to built the box with. A cardboard box would work, but may not last very long.
- Consider using re-purposed boxes such as 5 gallon plastic buckets, cat litter boxes, or milk crates.
- Consider using already built boxes. There are several places that you can purchase already built boxes. If you have a large number of chickens, this may be a convenient way to go.
- The box should have wood shavings, straw, or grass as bedding material. Don’t use paper since it will stick to the eggs.
- The box should have a lip in the front so that the bedding material and eggs don’t fall out. If you are collecting eggs from the back, there should also bee a lip or raised edge here as well.
- Add a perch bar or step in front of the box. This gives the hen a place to jump to before entering the nest box.
- The boxes should be about 0.5 to 3 feet off the ground. They should however be lower than the roost.
- Consider using curtains in the front of the boxes. This helps the boxes be a little more secluded and discourages hens hanging out and pecking at eggs.
- Consider having an opening at the back of the box for you to get the eggs out of. Hey, any chance not to get poop on your boots might be worth it right?
- If your chicks are having trouble figuring out what the boxes are for, put in a fake egg (golf ball). This should get them started.
Here is a sketch of the design for my chicken nesting boxes. I decided to go with a design where I could access the eggs without going into the coop. The chicken coop (see my design here) is fairly small, so this will hopefully make it a little easier for me to get to the eggs and keep out of the way of the chickens. This is a 3-hole nesting box. With only 3 chickens, I just may need to get some more chickens to fill up the coop and the nesting boxes!
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