Have you decided to add chickens to your homestead or are you looking for ways to improve your current egg-laying system?
We’ve been raising chickens (both meat chickens and laying hens) for over a decade now. I’ve been sharing tips on raising chickens throughout the years, and I’ve got tons of thorough info available for you all on my website, including:
- How to Build a Chicken Run
- Ultimate Guide to Broody Hens
- Fly Control Strategies for Your Chicken Coop
- How to Keep Wild Birds Out of Your Chicken Coop
- Thoughts on Using Supplemental Lighting in the Coop
- Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
- How to Make Homemade Suet Cakes for Chickens
- How to Keep Chickens Warm in the Winter
- How to Butcher a Chicken
- Using a Chicken Tractor
Despite all of the chicken raising info I’ve shared with you over the years, I’ve never written any decent details on Chicken Nesting Boxes. And that’s gotta change…
One of the most basic essentials for keeping laying hens is providing them with a place to nest and lay their eggs.
When it comes to nesting boxes, there are many different options and opinions about what is best for keeping hens laying. Sometimes it is hard to decide what will benefit your flock, so I have created this ultimate guide to chicken nesting boxes.
Do I Need a Nesting Box?
It is natural for birds to find a secluded place to build a nest. Your chickens are no different; they will look for a secluded place to lay their eggs. This can be anywhere not necessarily a nesting box.
Nesting boxes were created so the chickens would lay their eggs in one, safe place and be easier for the chicken keepers to gather the eggs. Chickens will lay eggs without nesting boxes but they might seek other options that may lead to predators and other chickens getting their eggs. Watch my video below to see what can happen if your chickens find a different area to use as a nesting box.
Even though your chickens will lay without a nesting box, I recommend adding nesting boxes to your coop to make egg collecting easier.
How Many Chicken Nesting Boxes Do You Need?
The number of nesting boxes you add to your coop will depend on how many hens you have. Many seasoned chicken keepers recommend 1 chicken nesting box per 4-5 hens, but you should always have 2 minimum. Your hens may all wait to use one nesting box (they often seemingly randomly all choose one ultimate ‘favorite’ nesting box), but if you provide this number it will prevent them from trying to lay eggs in the nesting box at the same time.
Note: If you are just starting out with a few laying hens, it is a good idea to think about if you plan to expand your flock in the future. You will want to build your coop and the number of nesting boxes accordingly.
What Size Should Chicken Nesting Boxes Be?
Whether you are building your own chicken nesting boxes or buying them prebuilt, you will want to be sure they are the right size for your laying hens. You will want your chickens to have enough room to turn around, but not enough that the chickens can share it.
Providing the right size will make the nesting box feel secure and cozy for your chickens. For larger breed chickens like Buff Orpingtons, the recommended size is a 14” x 14” box. Smaller breed chickens such as bantams won’t need as much space, so a 12”x 12” will probably do.
Chicken Nesting Box Ideas
There are many different options when it comes to adding nesting boxes to your chicken coop. You can buy premade chicken nesting boxes, build your own, or repurpose other materials. No matter which nesting box you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind.
When Choosing your Nesting Boxes Consider:
- The Size of Your Chickens
- How Many Nesting Boxes Needed
- The Amount of Space in Your Coop
- The Roof Can Not Be Used as a Roost (prevents dirty nesting boxes)
Buying Premade Nesting Boxes
When buying nesting boxes you can find them available in singles, or in rows. They can be made out of different materials like metal, plastic, or wood. You can purchase nesting boxes that can be added from the outside of your coop or attached to the inside wall.
A newer chicken nesting box that can be purchased is the roll-out design. These are a little pricey but the idea is that when the hens lay their eggs they roll out the back of the nesting box. This prevents broody hen behavior and egg-eating habits.
Using Repurposed Materials
You can go for a more self-sustainable lifestyle option and use what you have on hand to create your own chicken nesting boxes.
Common Repurposed Items Include:
- Litter boxes
- Dresser drawers
The good thing about using what you have or using repurposed materials is that you get to be creative and are not limited to one idea or design. You can mix and match, for example, I have seen repurposed shelving with baskets or crates.
Just make sure your repurposed materials are heavy-duty enough to hold your hens, easy to gather eggs from, and are able to be cleaned regularly. The chicken nesting boxes should keep your hens safe so they feel secure enough to lay eggs there.
DIY Nesting Box Ideas
If you have a design in mind and are good with tools then the other option is to build what you want yourself. Remember to keep your size and amount in mind. This is also another way you can mix and match, build your shelving and use repurposed materials for the boxes. We personally made four nesting boxes out of scrap wood and it’s worked great for us over all of these years.
Where Should Nesting Boxes be Located?
Now that you have your nesting boxes, where should you put them in your coop? Nesting boxes don’t actually have to be off of the ground, but it will be easier on you if they are raised about 18 inches off the floor.
When your hens roost they look for the highest place possible, and if that is your nesting boxes, then you will end up with chicken poop in them. So make sure that your roosts are higher up than your nesting boxes (and having your roosting bars higher in your chicken coop also helps keep chickens warm in the winter).
Your hens will seek out a nice secluded spot to lay their eggs, so placing your nesting boxes in a part of the coop that doesn’t get much traffic is ideal. Some folks even put curtains up on their nesting boxes to help their hens feel more comfortable.
What Should You Put in Chicken Nesting Boxes?
Chickens like to lay their eggs in a comfy environment so adding bedding to your boxes can help with that. Simple bedding solutions include straw and wood shavings, but I have seen other store-bought nesting box liners as well. The important thing is that your chickens like laying eggs in the bedding and that way the eggs are also kept clean.
Another thing that I like to add to our nesting box bedding is herbs, because adding herbs to your nesting boxes has many awesome health benefits. They can help keep out pests and even help stimulate egg production. To find out more about adding herbs take a look at this post about Herbs for Chicken Nesting Boxes.
How to Get Your Chickens to Lay Eggs in Nesting Boxes
Your chickens may naturally seek out their new nesting boxes and lay with no problem, but there always seems to be one or two that need a little prompting. Luckily there are a few things you can try to get your reluctant hens to use the nesting boxes you have provided.
- Make Sure There is Nothing Scaring Them Off
Check the placement of your nesting boxes and make sure there is nothing around that is making them uncomfortable about your nesting boxes. Hanging a cloth or curtain over the opening can help remedy this.
- Having the Right Number of Nesting Boxes Helps
If you don’t have a good amount of nesting boxes, then a few of your chickens may seek to lay their eggs elsewhere.
- Place a Fake Egg or Golf Ball in Your Nesting Box
Some chickens need to know that there have been others laying their eggs in the nesting boxes, and by placing a nest egg (fake egg) in your nesting boxes, you are telling your chickens that it is safe for them as well. It gives them a little confidence and encouragement.
- Keep Them in the Coop Till Mid Morning
Most chickens lay their eggs in the morning so confining them to the coop can encourage them to use the nesting boxes you have provided rather than out in the run.
- Clean Your Boxes Regularly
Chickens like to feel safe and comfortable when they are laying their eggs, so cleaning your boxes regularly can encourage them to continue laying their eggs in the same place.
Cleaning Your Chicken Nesting Boxes
If your nesting boxes have been placed in the right location, then your chickens will rarely sleep in them, which means no poop. But a dirty nesting box does occasionally happen, so the best way to maintain your nesting boxes is to check them over as you gather your eggs.
If you find one that looks dirty, clean out the dirty bedding, poop or feathers then replace it with fresh clean bedding as needed. This will help keep your hens laying in that box and keep eggs clean from poop and other debris.
Chickens wander in the run or free range in the yard and it is best to clean them once a month or so to prevent any unwanted bacteria or pests from being brought into your nesting boxes. Remove bedding from boxes and clean them out with a chicken-friendly natural cleaner. (You can find different recipes in my Natural Homesteading Ebook). Let the nesting boxes sit for a while to dry and then fill them with your choice of new fresh bedding.
Cleaning and maintaining your nesting boxes keep your hens healthy and your eggs clean.
Watch me do a deep clean to my chicken coop (including the nesting boxes) in this video below.
Do You Use Chicken Nesting Boxes?
Chicken nesting boxes were created to make egg-gathering easier for those that would like to be more self-sufficient and keep laying hens. You can buy nesting boxes, build your own, use what you already have, or be creative and combine these options. Your nesting boxes should provide a safe, clean environment for your hens and the eggs that you will be bringing into your kitchen.
There is a ton of information out there about almost every aspect of chicken keeping and it can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. If you are looking for more about chicken keeping, listen to Ingenious Chicken Keeping with Harvey Ussery from the Old Fashioned on Purpose Podcast.
More About Chickens on the Homestead:
- How to Build a Chicken Run
- Tips for Training Your Dog to Be Chicken Friendly
- Beginner’s Guide to Raising Laying Hens
- Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
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