Many people raise their own chickens in order to have a steady supply of eggs. But you might not realize that if you don’t have a good nesting box, this could reduce the number of eggs your chickens get. After all, if they don’t feel secure, they won’t want to lay. Here are five important factors to consider before you build a chicken nesting box.
Make your box too big, and your chooks won’t feel secure. Too small, and they will be overcrowded. A good size is just large enough for a hen to walk into, then sit without a lot of room on either side.
Of course, this will depend on the size of your laying hens, but don’t stress about it too much. If you end up using found materials (like furniture drawers or buckets,) you might not have that much control over size. When in doubt, opt for more smaller boxes than fewer larger boxes.
You want there to be sides on the nesting box, so the chickens feel secure. They enjoy being enclosed when they lay. Ours often lay in the corners of the compost pile, where the two walls make them feel sheltered.
Even if you have a hole on one side, or leave one side open, it’s a good idea to keep a short ledge on the side of the box. This will keep the eggs inside the box and reduce the chance that they will get kicked out and possibly smashed.
If you laying hens cannot get into their nesting boxes easily, they will be less likely to use them, or they will avoid them altogether. They need to be at a height easy to step into. Some people like to elevate them slightly.
The nesting box or boxes will get dirty. The chickens will defecate in there, so it will need to be cleaned. Most people add some sort of material on the floor, such as pine, straw, shredded paper, or wood chips. This makes it easier to keep clean, and it provides a cushion for the eggs.
You will need to be able to collect the eggs laid in the boxes on a regular basis, preferably daily. So having one in a far corner of the coop may make it lovely for the chooks, but you will quickly tire of the hassle of getting to it. So plan ahead for how you will collect the eggs.
Of course, these aren’t the only things to keep in mind, but these five important factors to consider before you build a chicken nesting box can mean the difference between more or less eggs from your laying hens. You might as well get educated before you begin, so you don’t have to learn the hard way.