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Nesting boxes for chickens

A hen house has to be furnished with nesting boxes. They're essential for a proper egg-laying environment. You can buy nest boxes or make your own.

Radio interview source: David Frame, Extension Poultry Specialist, Utah State University

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

Making wooden nesting boxes for hens to lay eggs in seems to make chickens happy. Line your boses with straw and their happy clucking will tell you they're satisified with their digs.
 
David Frame is an extension poultry specialist at Utah State University. He says chickens aren't picky about nesting boxes, but it is important that they're available. Otherwise, the hen will find a secluded corner somewhere to lay her eggs. A nest box makes it easier for you to find the eggs, and keep them clean. 
 
You can be creative with nest box design and material, but Frame says it has to be big enough.
 
"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. And then just have something over the front to keep the shavings in it, so they don't fall out, and a perch where the chickens can hop up there and get into the nest box."
 
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. 
 
Also be sure there are enough nesting boxes. Frame says one box for every three-to-five is typical. 
 
"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. Then you have to figure out okay, what's the reason. Is it cooler there, is it more secluded, or whatever, and sometimes in order to train them to use other nest boxes you might even have to close that one off to force them into these others."

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