Chicken Nesting Boxes Guide {Everything You Need to Know}

As your chickens reach laying age (but not too soon before that time) you need
to provide them with chicken egg laying boxes, aka nesting boxes, somewhere
inside their coop. Fortunately, this is not a complicated venture, nor is it an
expensive one – unless you want it to be expensive and complicated, of course.

(For you, there are many beautiful custom and fussy options too.)

But more practically speaking, many DIY nesting box setups are cheap or free. This article will explore the many options you have while delving into the importance of these nesting boxes and how to fix any problems that may arise.

red hen stands next to three egss inside nesting box


What is a Nesting Box?

A nesting box is an important thing to have in your coop because it is a space for your chickens to lay their eggs.

It typically consists of a raised platform with a small opening in the front that allows your hens to enter and exit easily, while also providing some privacy from the other chickens.

You can make a chicken nesting box out of wood, metal, plastic, or any other sturdy material.

And, although you can buy nesting boxes, you can also probably make one out of materials you already have, or can easily acquire.

How Big Do Nesting Boxes Need To Be?

There are different designs and sizes of nesting boxes. The size will depend on the sizes of the breeds you have.

If you have large English Orpingtons as I do, or Australorps or Brahmas — you need larger nesting boxes.

Generally speaking, a good nesting box should be at least 8-12 inches wide and 8-
12 inches high to accommodate most breeds of chickens comfortably.

See Also: 21 Best Egg Laying Chickens {With Pictures}

two nesting boxes side by side, one has a red hen laying, the other has two brown eggs

How Many Do You Need?

The rule of thumb is one nesting box per four to five chickens.

So, if you have a flock of 20 chickens, you should have at least four or five nesting boxes.

What is more likely is that all of your birds will decide one nest is the BEST nest and they will pile in there daily to lay their eggs. Mine do.

Why We Wait Until Chickens Are Ready-To-Lay

There are a few reasons why you should wait to put in nesting boxes until the
your chickens start laying eggs, or are about to start laying.

Egg laying is a sensitive and vulnerable process for hens, and providing them with comfortable and safe nests during this time can help ensure that they have the best possible chance of producing the maximum amount of eggs.

The primary reason is to avoid the chickens sleeping in the nesting boxes as young chicks and pullets.

By waiting until they are ready to lay, your chickens are much more likely to associate the nesting boxes with their intended purpose — the business of laying eggs.

If they start to sleep in there, it may be hard to break the habit.

You’re looking at messy nesting boxes that now have to be cleaned way more frequently of chicken droppings.

a black and white hen laying eggs in a nesting box

What Do You Line Nesting Boxes With?

You can line your chicken nest box with a variety of materials, including straw, chopped straw, old hay, wood shavings, or even sand.

The key is to choose something soft and absorbent, so it will be comfortable for your chickens and help keep their eggs clean.

I use a mixture of chopped straw, regular straw, and old hay.

One product I’m really considering using are these washable, reusable pads that some chicken people in my groups SWEAR by.

Check this out:

Roosty’s® Chicken Nesting Pads

I may have to buy these to test out. If I do I will update this section with an honest review.

Cleanliness & Maintenance

I clean out the nesting boxes only when they need it.

Chickens don’t generally make a mess of their nesting boxes, or at least mine don’t.

As I use the deep litter system to effortlessly maintain my coop, I check the nests routinely and change the litter as required, but otherwise, they only get completely cleaned out and washed down/sanitized twice annually.

Clean out nesting boxes regularly to prevent the spread of disease and to keep your
chickens healthy.

The best way to clean a nesting box is to remove the bedding material completely
and replace it with fresh bedding.

Check for mites periodically too, they can be easy to miss.

Adding Fragrant Herbs

Chicken keepers will sometimes add fragrant herbs into their nesting boxes to entice chickens to lay their eggs.

Herbs can also be very successful in deterring mites, lice, and other pests from your chickens and eggs.

You can add whatever is growing in your garden, or you can buy a specially formulated natural herbal mixture like this one.

a speckled black and white hen stands next to a nesting box with three brown eggs inside

10 Easy Free or Cheap Nesting Box Ideas

Garage sales and Facebook Marketplace are your friends.

Get creative and spend virtually no money if you don’t want to. You can repurpose any of these common items into chicken nesting boxes.

Just keep in mind the size of your chickens and ensure you have enough for the whole flock.

Possible repurposed chicken nesting boxes:

  1. Rubber/Plastic Bin
  2. Cat Litter Box
  3. Milk Crate
  4. Wooden Crate
  5. Buckets
  6. Old Bookshelves
  7. Other cube or box-shaped furniture
  8. Pet Carriers
  9. Shallow Trash Cans
  10. Barrels
inside of a coop showing simple wooden nesting boxes and two black and white hens

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Not a lot of problems can crop up, but these are some of the most common ones alongside the potential solutions.

Chickens Sleeping Inside Nests

Did you build your nesting boxes too early?

And now your hens are sleeping inside the nests instead of on their roosts?

If you find that your hen is sleeping inside the nesting box, it is likely because
she feels safe and secure in there.

First of all, does she have enough room on the roosts? Or are your chickens being overcrowded?

Make sure the roosting area is plentiful inside of your coop for all of your chickens.

Is your roosting area too high?

Are the roosts themselves uncomfortable and poorly designed?

Provide several levels to make everyone comfortable and asses the shape of your roosts too.

Bad roosting bars can contribute to conditions like bumblefoot too.

Is your hen being bullied?

Maybe a more dominant hen is bullying her off the roosts at dusk and forcing her into the nesting boxes as an alternative.

Or maybe she’s gone broody and wants to hatch out some eggs.

Potential causes of this issue may include overcrowding, predators, or poor
roost design, so it is important to carefully assess your flock and the environment in which they are sleeping to determine the root cause of this problem.

a broody orange and black hen sits on her nest of eggs

Chickens Laying Outside Boxes

There are several reasons why your chickens may be laying their eggs outside of the
nesting box.

One possibility is that they do not feel safe in the nesting spot, so they are choosing
to lay eggs in a more open area.

Another possibility is that the nesting box is too small or cramped, which is causing them to feel uncomfortable laying their eggs inside. In some cases, poor nesting box design or a lack of proper ventilation can also contribute to this issue.

To address the issue, it’s best to reassess the space to ensure your chicken is comfortable.

Chickens Pooping Inside Boxes

Hey, sh** happens.

Especially with numerous chickens that are certainly not toilet trained and can be, let’s face it, kinda dumb.

If your chickens are pooping in their nesting box, it may be a sign that they are sleeping inside the boxes or doing other things that they should not be.

Determine first if this is what’s happening and take the steps required to fix it.

Or they may just be young and inexperienced and the behavior will stop soon.

In the meantime, clean out the nesting boxes more frequently.

Inspiring & Beautiful Design Examples

Here are some examples I’ve found showing some creative nesting boxes other people use for their chickens.

Buy Ready-Made Nesting Boxes

Sometimes you just want a ready-made solution.

As someone currently renovating a historic house with a baby and another on the way (as of this writing I’m overdue with my second) I get it, not everything has to be built from scratch with your own hands when there are a million other projects on the homestead that need urgent tending.

You can look for handmade solutions from local makers online in your Facebook local chicken groups, or just buy one of these:

Precision Pet Triple Nesting Box

German-Made Galvanized Steel | 6 Nesting Boxes

Miller 6-Pack of Large Wall-Mount Egg Nesting Boxes with Perch

Little Giant Galvanized (Triple) Nesting Box 

a flock of chickens on green pasture.

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