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Create a Better Nesting Box for your Chickens

Create a better nesting box for your chickens by providing a clean, quiet spot for them to lay their eggs and hatch chicks.

It's important to provide a nice clean, quiet, safe place for your chickens to lay their eggs. 

The nesting boxes should be a sanctuary where your hens feel secure and calm in order to encourage egg production and if you're trying to hatch chicks, a place where the mother hen feels they will be safe and protected. 

There are a couple of simple things you can easily and inexpensively do to create a better nesting box for your chickens.

Create a Better Nesting Box for your Chickens

Box Size

Nesting boxes should be about 12-14" square. 

That's large enough to fit one hen comfortably, but not large enough that two should try and squeeze in (which can lead to broken eggs), although I wouldn't put it past your chickens to try! 

You can purchase boxes commercially, build them out of wood, or even upcycle plastic pails or crates, half wine barrels, kitty litter tubs or other similarly-sized containers.

Rule of thumb dictates one box for every 3-4 hens, but realistically they'll all want to use the same one - at the same time! I have six boxes and even with more than a dozen laying hens, they have only ever wanted to use two of the boxes.

Nest Bedding

Clean boxes mean clean eggs, and since it's best not to wash your fresh eggs until just before using them, and manure or mud on the eggs can cause bacteria to seep into the eggs through the pores in the eggshell, keeping the eggs clean is important. 

Preventing eggs from breaking is also important. Broken eggs can lead to "unauthorized" egg eating, which can be a hard habit to break. 

Blocking the boxes in late afternoon can help if you have some who like to sleep in the boxes. But usually, positioning your roosting bars higher than your boxes will alleviate the sleeping in the boxes problem.

Over the years, I've experimented in my nesting boxes with pine shavings, straw, chopped straw, and even dried leaves. 

I found both shavings and chopped straw to be incredibly dusty and also to not hold their shape, frequently resulting in eggs on the wooden box bottom. 

Regular straw is better, but my chickens don't seem to love it in their boxes (however, they do seem to enjoy it on the coop floor). 

The clear winner, at least for me, in the nesting boxes is aspen nesting pads. I switched to them a few years ago and so far, they've been great.

They hold their shape so the chickens don't make deep craters in them, nor do my chickens pull the bedding out of the boxes, so that leads to fewer broken eggs. 

It's easy to flip them over or fluff them up to refresh them, so I've been using the same ones for several months.  

Nesting Box Herbs 

Especially when you have a broody hen sitting on eggs, you want to keep the nests bug-free, and of course don't want to use any harsh chemicals in the boxes, so doing what you can to discourage pests of any kind in the boxes (including mice and snakes!) is also important. 

Adding some aromatic herbs not only can help discourage bugs from making a home in the nests, but also smells nice (to us!) and looks pretty. 

You can grow and dry your own herbs (things like calendula, lavender, mint, rosemary, and thyme are great choices!) or buy dried herbs in bulk and mix your own.

Diatomaceous Earth

Sprinkling some food-grade diatomaceous earth in the bottom of the boxes before putting down your bedding is also a great way to help repel insects. Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic natural pulverized fossil that pierces the hard shells of insects causing them to dehydrate and die, but is perfectly safe for mammals, chickens, humans, earthworms, etc. 

Diatomaceous earth is what I use in my nesting boxes and also on the floor of my chicken coop to neutralize any ammonia smells as well as discourage bugs from moving taking up residence. 

Since it is a fine powder and can cause respiratory issues if it's inhaled in large amounts, I make sure the chickens are outside when I sprinkle it and then I replace the nesting material on top of it.

Coop Recuperate is a new product I love that combines aromatic eucalyptus and lemon grass essential oils with Diatomaceous earth for the best-smelled nests on the block! I sprinkle Coop Recuperate in the nesting boxes periodically as well as when I clean them out.

Fake Eggs

Putting some fake eggs in the nesting boxes can help to show new layers where they are supposed to lay their eggs. You can buy fake ceramic or wood eggs, or just use golf balls or even smooth, round rocks.

If you have older chickens, they'll teach your new layers where to lay their eggs, but the fake eggs can be a good substitute if you're on your first batch of hens.

Nesting Box Curtains

Lastly, adding some curtains to your boxes can help encourage your laying hens to use the boxes. 

Making the nesting boxes more private and secluded can entice nervous layers, and also help to prevent issues with egg eating since the curtains block the eggs from the view of others. 

The curtains don't have to be can staple a feed bag up, or just nail some pretty linen tea towels up in front of the boxes. 

If you're a bit more ambitious, then by all means go ahead and install an inexpensive curtain rod and turn some fabric scraps into curtains as I've done!

When the curtains get dirty, I either take them down and launder them, or just throw them away and make new ones.

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Buying Sources:
Metal Nesting BoxesAspen Nesting Pads |
Coop Recuperate |  Ceramic Eggs | Buffalo Check Fabric

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