If you have ever searched high and low for your hen’s eggs only to find them in the oddest places, you know that having a nest box in your coop can save you both time and frustration. Hens tend to lay in a spot in which they feel secure and as creatures of habit they will continue to use the same place day after day.
There are many different kinds of nesting boxes on the market. The most deluxe ones are the Roll Out nesting boxes. These keep eggs safe by gently rolling them away from the eyes of other hens. The eggs stay cleaner and they won’t be pecked at or become dirty from staying under the hen. It is movable so it is easy to clean as well. Curtains for privacy keep the area darkened which the laying hens love. It can prevent chickens from eating the eggs.
Plastic nesting boxes are very easy to clean. A sloped roof means that they won’t be able to roost on them at night. Hens prefer a circular hole to enter when choosing a spot to lay their eggs. The boxes fasten to the wall which allows you to mount them anywhere and at any height in your coop. You can even mount them outside if you free range your hens and train them to use the boxes instead of laying eggs under bushes.
Six hen metal nesting boxes have a bottom that can be removed for cleaning. There are roosting bars that make entering the boxes easier for the hen. You need about one nesting box for every 5 hens, so these are nice for flocks that are larger. Metal and plastic will always be easier to clean than wooden boxes.
Where you decide to place your nesting boxes is very important. The spot needs to be quiet and safe. Place it away from the food dishes and waterers and away from the busy pop door to the outside. You want the box to be in a darkened area that is private. Hanging curtains is an excellent way to achieve this.
Nesting boxes are typically placed 18 inches off the floor or higher. Silkies will have trouble jumping that high up, so you should lower it for them. You want them high enough to be free of drafts from the floor and away from other nosy birds that may try and steal the eggs. Do not place the boxes the same height as the roosting pole. If you do, you will encourage hens to roost on the boxes or even sleep inside of the box. If they sleep inside of the box you will find it full of chicken poo in the morning. I would not place the boxes anywhere near the roosting bar in order to discourage sleeping there.
The size of the box can vary but a 12 X 12 X 12 cube fits most birds. If you have larger breeds you should have a larger box. Bantams can have a smaller box. One box for every 5 birds is good as they all love to use the same box anyways. A broody who is monopolizing the favorite box should probably be removed to another spot.
Nesting materials should be soft and inviting. Pine shavings, straw and nesting pads are good choices. Some nesting pads are washable and can be used many times. Adding dried herbs to the boxes smells nice and can deter pests. Hens want to relax in their nesting boxes and not be bit by mites or other insects. Hens tend to prefer a box that has a thicker lining of bedding.
You may need to train your young hens to lay in their nesting boxes. Try placing ceramic or wooden eggs in the nest to help give them the idea. Pick up hens that look like they are scouting out a place to lay and place them in the nesting box. You can even lock the hens inside the coop (provided it is not too hot) until they begin the habit of laying in the nesting boxes. New hens that are with older hens will get used to the idea very quickly.
Nesting boxes should be the cleanest part of the coop. I add new bedding to the nesting areas every day. No one wants to eat dirty eggs and they are difficult to incubate as well. Nesting boxes that have poo in them are becoming dirty because birds are sleeping in them at night. Roosts need to be higher than nesting boxes and as far away from them as possible. Sloped roofs discourage roosting on top of the boxes. If you see hens sleeping in the nesting boxes remove them and place them on roosts. You may have to block boxes in the evening so that hens do not enter them to sleep. Then remember to open them again in the morning.
My birds like to lay in the run, especially young, inexperienced hens. If they are using a spot that you do not like, then block that area. It won’t take long for them to forget about that spot and choose another.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson