Nesting Boxes ABCs

| 2/13/2018 1:16:00 PM

 hen in box with chicks

It’s mid-February, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, this means that days are lengthening, and though it might still seem like the dead of winter, the biological clock of your chickens unmistakably indicates the approach of spring and the season of egg abundance.

A behavior pattern I have observed in my flock at this season are hens checking out the nesting boxes, and sitting inside them for a few minutes, without actually laying an egg. It’s like they are thinking, “Hmm, I’m going to start laying soon. Check out this neat and comfy spot! Which one is better?”

Chickens like to lay their eggs in safe, snug and quiet corners, and such your nesting boxes should be. To avoid crowding, it is recommended you have one box per 3-4 hens, though chickens, like humans, often have a tendency to believe that something used by someone else is inherently better, and will all try to lay in the same box anyway.

Build a Better Box

With some basic carpentry skills, you can easily build your own nesting boxes out of wood scraps, but even if you don’t know which way to hold a hammer, there are plenty of simple and cheap DIY solutions. Among them are 5-gallon buckets (resting on their side, obviously), old cat litter boxes, large plastic containers with the top cut off, and old re-purposed drawers and crates. The nesting boxes should be stable, so that they aren’t prone to falling even if the hens tend to shove each other, sheltered, and with a rim to prevent the eggs from falling.

Our favorite nesting box solution is the kind of light metal containers we often find near stores that sell spices, nuts, etc. They are rectangular and have a round opening that is the perfect size for the average chicken (see picture). They do rust, but there’s always a supply of new containers free for the taking when we want them.

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