Make a nesting box for chickens

Make a nesting box for chickens

Biologically, hens are designed to lay eggs. So to avoid the backyard hens laying eggs all over the place, it is essential to make them a nesting box. Here are some great ideas for How to Make a Nesting box for chickens.

Chickens do not need anything to lay an egg. They can manage that on their own once they reach the right age and maturity. But if you have backyard chickens, it is vital to provide them with a coop which offers them protection from the weather as well as safety at night. The coop is also a great place to keep the eggs all in one basket so to speak.

What is a nesting box?

A nesting box is a place purposefully built so hens can lay their eggs in one spot. It makes it easy to collect the eggs. Hens are less likely to lay in unsuitable, hard-to-find places if they have a comfortable nesting box available.

A nesting box is usually:

  • A box
  • Constructed of timber
  • About 8 - 10cm off the ground
  • Not in a draft
  • Comfortable and inviting 
  • Not cramped - it should be about two to three times the size of your hens
  • Has a 'roof' or top, so it is warm and cozy once the hen goes inside
  • Lined with clean straw or another dry mulch, making it a comfy place to lay

Without a nesting box chickens will lay their eggs under plants, under the coop if height allows, in tall grass or anywhere that takes their fancy. This can attract predators and makes the eggs hard to find, leading to rotten eggs or unwanted chicks. Because of thier natural instinct, it takes a little time for chickens to learn to use a nesting box in the coop.

How many nesting boxes?

Four to six laying hens will happily use one nesting box. Hens like to use a nest that others have also used, so they will often in lay in the same box even when others are available.

The benefit of having one nest for multiple hens is that it discourages them from sleeping in it. If you have too many boxes, the hens are more likely to sleep and poop in them which will put them off laying eggs in the box.

Where to locate a nesting box

Hens are most productive at laying eggs where they feel safe. Therefore you should put a nesting box in a quiet, dark corner of the chicken coop. Somewhere they can have a little privacy to get on with the job. If you find the hens have located a different area in the coop to lay, use some scattered timber or rocks on the area to give them the incentive to look for somewhere else to lay the eggs.

Great DIY nesting box ideas

Some great DIY nesting box options include:

  • Old wooden fruit crates
  • Milk crates (if you line them properly so they are not open to the air)
  • Old grass catchers from push mowers (these are easy to clean too, because you can lift them out the coop)
  • Cardboard boxes (if you replace them every time you clean the coop)
  • 20 L drums with the top cut off or large buckets
  • Old bar fridges, turned on their side with the door removed and a divider added

Regularly collect the eggs

It is crucial to clear the nest of eggs so the chicken will lay. A couple of eggs in the nest won't put a hen off laying, but if it is full, they may find somewhere else. Once they get the hang of the nesting box, if it is empty they will happily fill it up again. We recommend collecting eggs two times daily.

Make separate roosting spots

Having separate roosting (sleeping) areas for the chickens is a must. By having roosts, it helps keep the nesting boxes for nesting, meaning less cleaning. Also, having a clean nesting box means cleaner eggs for collection. If you have allocated roosting spots, then the chickens will use them for sleeping and the nests for laying.

Teach them where to lay

Buy a nest egg from your supply store and place it in the nesting box. It helps the chickens begin to understand what the box is all about.

Important tips

  • If a chicken is spotted laying outside the nesting box, pick it up and move it to a nesting box
  • Some chickens will automatically find their nesting box so comfy they will try to sleep in it. If this is the case, move them to a roost.
  • Egg laying is reduced or may even stop during winter in colder climates. Chickens need sunlight to stimulate their egg producing hormones. If you find this happening, try installing artificial lights in the coop. The combination of natural daylight, as well as artificial lights, will help them keep laying
  • Some websites recommend locking the chickens in the coop until mid-morning to make them lay in the nesting box. However, the egg production cycle takes 25 hours, so chickens can lay at any time of day, not just in the morning. Locking them in the pen will not lead to more eggs or even stop them laying outside. So if you love your chickens, let them be chickens and let them out. If the coop is attached or inside a pen which is safe from predators, let them come and go as they please. 

For other helpful chicken and hen ideas visit the Dine A Chook Blog.

Also read: How to prevent disease in the chicken coop