9 nesting box necessities | Living the Country Life
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9 nesting box necessities

Here are some great ideas for getting your hens to lay eggs in their nest boxes, where you can easily collect the eggs.
  • Comfort is key

    Nesting boxes are crucial to the egg laying and collection process. You can spend a lot of money on custom boxes, but hens usually aren't picky. As long as they have a comfortable spot with some good straw or wood shavings for nesting material, they'll likely lay eggs in their nest box, making it easy for you to find and collect them. This nesting box, made from an old drawer, is a prime example that expensive isn't always better!

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Keep eggs off the floor

    David Frame is an extension poultry specialist at Utah State University. He says without nest boxes, hens will find a secluded corner to lay eggs, or will just lay them on the floor. When eggs are layed outside of nest boxes, there's a much better chance they will be crushed or pick up bacteria. Crushed eggs may be eaten by the chickens, and once they get a taste for eggs, they'll start cruising nest boxes for more treats. This is a difficult habit to break, and chickens that eat eggs should be culled from the flock before their behavior spreads.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • How many nest boxes?

    Be sure there are enough nesting boxes. A good rule of thumb is to have one nesting box for every three to five laying hens. Keep in mind that different hens have different preferences. Some like a dark area, while others prefer well-lit nests. Until you get to know what your hens like, give them several choices. "Certain hens are going to start going to certain nest boxes," says Frame. "Sometimes you can have just a nice array of nest boxes there, and for some reason, the hens may all want to gravitate towards one or two next boxes." Try to figure out the reason, like whether the favorite nests are more secluded, cooler, or darker, and duplicate that with other nest boxes.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Size it right

    You can be creative with nest box design and material, but Frame says the main thing is to get the size right. "A good dimension for a nest box is about 12"x12x12," he says. "If you have large hens, then it's probably good to make it 15" wide, and about 12" deep." Basically, make sure there's enough space for the hens to stand up and turn around. Here, a wooden box in children's author Jan Brett's coop sits on a shelf, making a cozy nest box that can be easily removed for cleaning. See more of her chickens: 

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Getting in and out

    Nest boxes should be at least 18-inches off the ground, but not so high the hens can't get in. If they have trouble getting into the nests, there is a risk of eggs breaking within their reproductive tract. A ramp may be used if your hens don't like to use perches, or if you have a heavier breed.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Keep everything in place

    If your nest box doesn't have a raised area in the front, make sure to place something there to keep the shavings and eggs in the nest box. Here, bricks are placed across the front of open-front, cubby-style nest boxes. The owner has sprinkled a little chicken feed on top, as a treat for the hens and incentive to get them into the nesting boxes.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Start training early

    Include several perches in your coop so pullets will learn to use them while they're young. By the time they're ready to lay eggs, they won't have any trouble getting into a raised nest box. It's also a good idea to let pullets explore nesting areas for a few weeks before they reach egg-laying age. They'll get a feel for the nests and will get a good idea of what goes on there, so with any luck, they'll go right to the nest when they're ready to lay eggs.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Thanks for the nest box, but no thanks

    You can provide your hens with the most beautiful, comfortable coop and nest boxes imaginable, but that doesn't mean they'll lay their eggs there. If your birds are allowed to go outside, they may very well find their own places to roost and nest. Trees are perfect for roosting, and they may make their nest and lay eggs under a thorny bush or inside a hollow tree. In many cases, there's just nothing you can do to change their minds. If your hens refuse to lay in their nest boxes, try putting a plastic Easter egg in the nest. Sometimes this gives them the right idea.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Outside access is a plus

    Flip-down doors that allow outside access to nesting boxes mounted on the other side of the wall are a very popular feature, and with good reason. Here, the top photo shows the nesting boxes from the inside of the coop, with the doors closed and latched. The bottom photo, taken from outside the coop, shows how easy it is to access the boxes without entering the coop. This makes it easy to collect eggs and clean the nest boxes without walking into the coop and disturbing the chickens.

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • FREE Chicken Reference Guide

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Download this FREE Keeping Chickens Guide PDF courtesy of Living the Country Life. Whatever reason you raise chickens for, one thing's for sure: living in the country is simply better with chickens in it.

     

    Date Published: March 1, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013

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