Are nest boxes too small?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by brandywine, Dec 27, 2008.

  1. brandywine

    brandywine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2008
    Western PA
    Two (I think) of my 15 pullets started laying on the solstice. Woo Hoo! I'm sure the others will fall in line soon. There have been one or two eggs a day since.

    But all the eggs that I've found are on the coop floor -- some just lying out under the roost, in the open, and some tucked behind the concrete lawn groom that is propped in one corner. (He was living in that stall before the chickens moved in, and before we moved in, so he stayed.)

    There's a bank of eight metal nest boxes on the wall, also hand-me-downs from a previous owner of this place. There are perches. I've got hay in each and a golf ball in each.

    Okay, I get that it can take them some time to start laying in nests. But I'm wondering if the the nests are even big enough. They are just under 12" x 12" and the round doors are 8", which is by the book, but I can't seem to stuff a chicken in there. I've got bigger breeds -- Orps, Wyandottes, New Hamps, Delawares, EE's.

    Do they need bigger nest boxes?

    How long should I wait for them to figure out the nest box concept before offering them some other kind of nest box?
  2. Chick_a_dee

    Chick_a_dee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2008
    Peterborough, ON
    They should be big enough, but every chicken is an individual. Plus, since they've only just started laying you need to give them some time. Try putting golf balls in your nests to get them thinking that another chicken is laying there, therefore they should lay there too. It's all about following the crowd in a chickens world.

    Mine had 12x12 boxes, and I had a few laying in the boxes but they preferred bigger areas so I made them 16x16 boxes instead to replace the smaller ones. I still get some eggs in the corners of my coop. but those are the chickens who havent figured out where to lay yet.

    Oops just noticed you said you have golf balls in there.

    Chickens can squeeze up pretty tiny, maybe give it a bit longer and see what happens. After that perhaps up the size to 14x14, I found that mine liked to move around a lot and fluff right up in their boxes, and the 12x12 was a tight squeeze.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  3. Brown Egg Project

    Brown Egg Project Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 22, 2008
    Central Kentucky
    I am having the same issue with some of my hens however about half are laying in the boxes and the other half on the floor in various places. I seeded my nest also and finally a few are using the top row of nests. Also I did not mention I took my nest off the wall and put on the floor. I read that somewhere and it took some time for a few to venture inside the nest. I have Buff Orps and they are a larger breed and when they where not using the nest at first I thought that maybe my nest were to small also. Hang in there it seems every day or two more are using my nest rather than the floor and finally they started using the top row of nests. Hopefully sometime in the near future I can raise the boxes off the floor so I do not have to get down to get eggs and change wood shavings. [​IMG]
  4. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    My nest boxes are 15"x15"x15" with perches on the front. They're 1' off the coop floor. We made them a bit larger than yours so that when we stuff them with hay there is lots of room. Are your perches easily reachable on the front of the boxes? Your hens might appreciate a bale of hay, a bench or inverted box so they can check out the boxes first. They think there might be monsters inside, you see! [​IMG]

    Then they use the perch to gingerly step in and wiggle down to nest and lay...


    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  5. Opa

    Opa Opa-wan Chickenobi

    May 11, 2008
    Howell Michigan
    Mine are 12x14 and I have large birds. They use them with no problem.
  6. chickensandmore

    chickensandmore Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 24, 2008
    Spiro Ok
    I have a few old rabbit nest boxes that the girls used last year with out a problem, Then I did some remodel of the coop so that they could have more roost area ( I added about 20 more hens) now they don't want the boxes at all and lay just where ever.
    In my other coops I use a 55 gal drum with a 12 inch hole in the side with a fake bottom half way up, I then install a grass looking welcome mat (so that I can wash it off) in it, they seem to like it as I am finding more eggs in it everyday..
    Chickens are really pretty smart.. when I used golf ball they kicked them out... so I changed
    to white fake eggs, they wouldn't lay in that box because they are brown layers so again I changed to fake brown eggs and everything is fine now.. Is it just me or does everyone think the chickens out smarted me..

    Don [​IMG]
  7. jvls1942

    jvls1942 Chicken Obsessed

    Oct 16, 2008
    Quote:I have similar nest boxes and I have mainly Buff Orpingtons .no problems with that.. In fact, my hen turkey who is at least 15 pounds lays her egg in that nest daily.. the reason your chickens look so big as you are stuffing them into the nest is because they probably have their wings and legs all spread out..??
  8. RockyToggRanch

    RockyToggRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2008
    Upstate NY
    I took the divider out from between 2 of my boxes just in case someone prefers a larger space. I have 6 stuffed with hay, 6 with sawdust, 4 with pine shavings and 2 empty. I had two golf balls in one with hay. I placed 2 eggs (from the ground) into one box with shavings.I had to pick up my orp girl and show her the eggs. She looked close at them as if to say "cool idea!" and she settled right in on top of them. My brahma girl was very interested and hopped into the nest next to her and checked her out. as soon as the first was finished the brahma jumped over to her nest and added her egg. It was kinda funny. They always lay in that same box.
  9. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    (Opa, it was Walter Brennan and now who is that - Sam Elliott? Can we have Richard Farnsworth next? Or, are you moving more towards the romantic leading men? [​IMG])

    Brandywine, I like a nest big enuf for 2 hens at once, if need be. I've got 17" by 22". Once there were 3 hens in there to celebrate a 1st egg [​IMG].

  10. brandywine

    brandywine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2008
    Western PA
    Thanks all! Today one of my Delawares laid what I'm sure was a first egg, with much fanfare and conversation, and in a nest box! There was a call-and-response going on with my roo, and my white EE pullet was on the perch peeking in on her the whole time; I think she was talking her through the Lamaze exercises.

    Since my Delawares are the heaviest of all my chooks, I'm sure the other girls can also fit. She really did cram herself in there, though.

    With any luck, the other two (whichever they are) will follow her example. There were two large brown eggs on the floor again this morning, before the Delaware's production number.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2008

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