If you have a stubborn chicken, you know how hard it is to gather eggs. My flock used to love laying under the porch, which required a lot of crawling to fetch eggs every morning.
Nesting boxes encourage headstrong hens to lay in a place that’s both safe for them and convenient for you. Set up a cozy nesting box for your girls so you don’t have to search the yard for eggs.
But if you’ve never bought a nesting box before, it can be tough to make the right decision for your flock. Use this guide to find the right nesting box for your homestead.
Nesting box basics
A nesting box needs to be the right size and height for your hens. Most nesting boxes measure a foot by a foot, which works great for your average-sized hen.
If you have a larger breed of hen, consider a box measuring at least 12”x14” to give the girls extra elbow room. You want the hen to feel safe and snug in the box. This encourages them to use the boxes one at a time instead of nesting together.
Place the nesting box in an area of the coop that’s dark and quiet. Keep it at a height where the hens can get to it.
There’s’ no science to choosing the right number of nesting boxes for your flock. Typically, one nesting box will accommodate up to five hens. If you have a three-box setup, that means you can comfortably use it with up to 15 hens.
Of course, if you spoil your hens as I do, you can always get each hen her own nesting box!
Training your hens
Hens are funny, stubborn creatures of habit. It’s very difficult to train hens to change their habits. That’s why, if you want to use a nesting box, you need to bring it in before the hens begin to lay.
The best way to train the hens to lay in the boxes is with fake decoy eggs. This encourages the hens to lay in that location, although it isn’t a guarantee.
If the hens still aren’t using the boxes, see if something is making the boxes uncomfortable. Is the box loud or hot? Is it near an area where the hens like to socialize? Try different placements to see if finicky hens just need a little more seclusion.
Once you choose the right nesting box for your homestead, it’s time to fill it with nesting material. This is the material the hen uses to construct her nest. If you want to avoid broken eggs, give your hens all the nesting material they desire.
Straw is an affordable and common nesting material you can get anywhere. Pine shavings are also a good choice; they’re like the shavings you might put in a hamster cage. You could also try natural materials from your yard, like leaves or soft pine needles.
Nesting pads are also an option if you don’t want to rake spoiled straw every few days. Nesting pads are reusable and easy to clean. They’re textured to support the hen, protect the egg, and keep the coop clean.
Our favorite nesting boxes
Nesting boxes come in three materials: wood, plastic, and metal.
Wood is harder to clean, but many people like its affordability. It’s a good option if you’re testing nesting boxes for the first time.
Plastic is a cheap, lightweight option that’s great for beginners. Plastic is easy to clean, which is perfect for fastidious chicken keepers.
Plastic nesting boxes are typically sold in single units. This way, you can customize your nesting boxes to your hens’ precise needs. We like this polyethylene nesting box that can mount to an existing wall or shelf.
Metal is more expensive, but it’s built to last. It can also take more weight, so it’s perfect for medium-sized flocks. If you need a long-lasting nesting box that will stand up to the elements, metal is the way to go.
Metal nesting boxes are usually sold in groups of ten. We like this metal nesting box, which comes with ventilation holes and removable bottoms.
Some people prefer to DIY their own nesting boxes, and that’s fine, too. Just understand that there may be a tradeoff in quality and time if you choose to DIY.
No matter which option you choose, nesting boxes give hens a more comfortable location to lay their eggs. Keep your hens safe while they lay and stop going on a wild goose (or should we say chicken) chase for eggs.