I was pretty focused on getting my chicken coop finished, and the hens were young enough that I knew they weren’t ready to start laying, so I wasn't worried about having a nesting box ready. Well, the much-anticipated eggs should start arriving soon, as three of my ladies could start laying as early as next week.
I’ve learned there are quite a few misconceptions around nesting boxes. For example, it’s easy to assume that each hen needs her own nesting box; it almost seems obvious that each hen needs her own space to lay eggs. Well, turns out, that’s not true at all, and there really is no exact answer. If you asked ten different people, you may very well get ten different answers as to how many nesting boxes you should have. One thing is for certain though, each lady does not need her own nesting box. I did quite a bit of research, and the general consensus seems to be about one box per four hens is appropriate.
Another misconception I’ve found is that more nesting boxes equals more eggs. That is completely false. The only way you can increase egg production is with more chickens, which will then likely require another nesting box. Adding nesting boxes in no way, shape, or form changes a hen’s egg production. I wish it were that easy.
You also don’t want your hens sleeping in their nesting box. The nesting boxes are strictly for laying eggs. Your ladies should be sleeping on their roosting bar, and laying eggs in their nesting box. Hens sleeping in their nesting box will yield a giant mess and eggs covered in feces, which isn’t exactly preferred. If your hens aren’t of laying age, you really should have their nesting box off-limits. I just finished adding my nesting box over July 4th weekend, but I have it closed off because they won’t be of laying age until July 19th. I will probably open it up and add a clean, white golf ball around July 17th, unless I see signs that someone is ready to start laying early. At this point, though, I have not seen any signs that anyone is ready to start laying.
My nesting box is very simple. I have five ladies, so I only have one, and it is just a wooden box added to the outside of the coop with an old plastic cat litter container inside. The cat litter container sits on its side, and I cut off the top. This way, I can open the wooden box and reach inside to grab eggs. I opted to attach my nesting box to the side of the coop on the inside of the run. That isn’t exactly the most convenient place; it would be nice not to have to go inside the run to check for eggs. But, I felt it was necessary for two reasons:
1. It gives another layer of defense against predators.
2. That area is under the roof panels, so it won’t get too much rain or snow on top of it.
Since adding the nesting box, I have found one con to this location. The nesting box is just to the right of the entrance of their coop, and a few of the ladies have jumped from there to the top of the nesting box. Which, isn’t that big of a deal, they can’t go anywhere from there, but it’s going to make the top of the nesting box dirty (as they will inevitably defecate all over it) and it might be a little noisy if a lady is in there trying to lay eggs and another is hanging out on top of the nesting box.
This is look at the front of the coop where the nesting box is situated.
The below photo is looking down into the box with the top open. I have some pine shavings left over from when they were chicks, so I will put that in the bottom along with some herb blend. The herb blend is something else everyone has their own opinion on. We have plenty of mint, lavender and roses growing; so I will probably just use some combination of those.
And, of course, for a blog post to be complete, I have to include a picture of my daughter ... Once I had the box put together, PKB decided to help paint it. Ya know, you have to start kids early with chores! She did a pretty good job. As you can see in the photo, she insisted on wearing her red cowgirl boots.