How Many Nesting Boxes Per Chicken?

It’s important when keeping laying hens that you know how many nesting boxes per chicken is ideal. Here’s what you need to know.

What are nest boxes?

Nest boxes are containers, boxes, or some other specific place you want your chicken to lay eggs. Laying hens like a cozy, dark, soft, secluded place to lay their eggs. If you want to collect clean eggs and know easily where to find them, providing the right amout of nest boxes is an essential part of your chicken house.

How big should a nest box be?

In general, a nesting box size should be about one foot square. This should provide enough space for most breeds to comfortably lay their eggs. If you specialize in larger breeds such as a Jersey Giant, then you will need a slightly larger box. Adding another two inches all around is a good rule of thumb.

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How many chicken nesting boxes do I need?

The number of chickens you have will determine how many nest boxes you will need for peak egg production and easy collection. In her book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Gail Damerow recommends having one nest for every four hens in your coop.

​You may find the chickens develop a favorite nesting box and lay all their eggs in there. That’s fine. Chickens often like to lay eggs where one is already sitting. 

What can you make nest boxes out of?

You can simply buy nesting boxes online if you don’t want to make one. If you have a small flock of backyard chickens you might like this simple nest box. In our coop we have this big boy for all our hens. 

If you’d like to make your own nesting box, here are a few other box ideas…

  • ​Old Milk Crates
  • ​Plastic Cat Litter Containers
  • Small Garbage Cans
  • Old Beehive Parts
  • Plastic Totes

I would not advise using things like cardboard boxes or anything that will break down fairly quickly. I also would avoid things that are too open, like a wire storage container.

Remember, a chicken’s preferred nesting box will be a private place with enough room to feel safe and cozy.

What should go in nest boxes?

There are many different options you can use in your nest boxes to create a soft and inviting atmosphere. My personal favorite is to first add a layer of hay.

It only takes a flake or two to fill all my boxes. This smells nice and creates a good soft base layer in the boxes. It also is easy to clean out when it comes time to refresh the nest material.

On top of that I add a layer of wood shavings. Wood shavings are by far the preferred nest material of most chicken keepers.

The hay is nice to layer below it as it makes a sort of natural mat after a while. Then when you want to clean out the nest box you can easily grab the whole mat and pull it out. One step to a cleaned out box!

Other good ideas for nest box fillers

  • Straw
  • Grass
  • Leaves
fresh eggs

Nest Box Fillers to Avoid

I would not use anything that is reusable. Normally I say it’s a good thing to have stuff you wash and reuse. Like cloth diapers! When it comes to nest box materials however, it’s a good idea to use natural materials you can toss in the compost pile.

Please do not use old shirts or rags. This is not hygienic and would be a nightmare to clean.

I also would not use those little turf grass inserts. Yes I’m sure they work great, but you have to wash them. I imagine they are easy enough to hose off, but why add in an extra step?

How Tall Should Nest Boxes Be?

Nest boxes should sit about two feet off the ground. This should be high enough to keep the birds from scratching around inside them, but not so high they are tempted to roost in them at night. We made that mistake and hung ours too high. I’m always shooing birds off there at night. 

Cleaning out Nest Boxes

Inevitably an egg breaks or chickens poop inside the nest box and you need to clean it out. No matter what your bedding material is, you want to scoop it out until you reach the bottom of the box. Ideally, do this in the afternoon after all the chickens are done laying eggs.

If you’d like to be very thorough, you can spray and wipe down the inside of the boxes with a diluted bleach or vinegar solution. Allow it to air dry completely before adding in fresh bedding.

​Before the bedding goes in you can also sprinkle a light layer of Diotomaceous Earth (DE) as a lice and pest deterrent. 

Other Important Nest Box Features

While there are various types of nest boxes, one thing they should ideally include is a perch in front. This allows the chickens to hop up on the perch and then scoot on into the box. 

Chicken nest boxes should also have a sloped roof on top. This prevents the chickens from perching on top and pooping in the boxes. 

Lastly, if you are able to configure your boxes so you can slide the floors out, thus dropping all the dirty nest box material to the coop floor for easy cleaning, that is ideal. 

More Chickens Please!

I’ve had laying hens and meat birds for well over a decade so I have a lot of great chicken resources ready for you.

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