Our make-shift nesting box.
If you are planning on getting hens so that you can have your own fresh eggs every day, you will need to build them some “nesting” (or “laying”) boxes. Hens like their privacy when they are doing their business, and they particularly appreciate a nice box to retreat to before laying an egg.
If you don’t supply them with a nice place to lay, they will simply drop that egg anywhere in their coop. This means you will most likely have poop covered eggs, and your hens will be more prone to begin eating their eggs- a terribly difficult habit to break.
You don’t need one nesting box for each hen. Actually, you really only need one box per 4-5 laying hens. I’ve occasionally noticed my hens neatly lined up, waiting their turn to use the box. It always seems that when one egg is deposited, others are soon to follow!
The box needs to be atleast 10″ square. It can really be made of anything: wood, cardboard, an egg crate, I’ve even seen people using gutted out t.v.’s or computer monitors.
However you build it, make sure it has a roof over it. When we first built ours it was just an open box- four walls, no roof. We quickly discovered that the hens will roost (or perch) on the sides of the box and poop all in it. And inevitably, the eggs would get pooped on too. A slanted roof is recommended, as it discourages the chickens from roosting up on top and droppings accumulating up there.
You will need to fill the box with some soft material. You can use wood shavings, grass clippings, hay, straw, shredded newspaper, or leaves. Hens like to scratch around and get comfortable before laying. Besides, if you don’t fill it with something soft, the egg will sometimes get cracked when the hen drops it onto a hard surface. Yes, I know from experience.
The box needs to have three tall sides, and one opening with a small wall to help keep the straw or whatever inside. The chickens will eventually scratch it all out, but this lip will help. You can see how we’ve done this in the photo above.
Sure, you could go out and buy some fancy deluxe nesting box costing you a pretty penny, or you can build a make-shift box like we have, out of materials you already have laying around your home. Your hens won’t care either way.
Do you have a neat idea for re-purposing something into a nesting box? I’d love to hear how some of you have made your own nesting boxes!