Chickens won't use nest boxes - suggestions welcome

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by BlueShadow, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. BlueShadow

    BlueShadow Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2015
    Our old flock of chickens simply would not use these nest boxes, and I am not entirely certain why. They almost all laid their eggs in a communal nest on the floor (Every once in awhile we would get an egg or two in the boxes, but quite rarely), and egg eating became a huge problem. I would love any ideas on things I can do to improve the nest boxes for our new flock of chickens, so hopefully we can avoid this problem in the future.
    Or (sigh) if we just need new nest boxes.

    The Chickens
    Old flock-
    14 hens, decreasing down to 10 hens, laying for about 2.5 years. Mostly various Orpingtons, also a few Barnevelders
    New flock- Probably 14 or 15 hens (still waiting to see for sure how many are roosters). 9 or 10 are Barnevelders, 5 are Buckeye
    The coop is approximately 13 feet x 19 feet with an outdoor run they are allowed to weather permitting - so the chickens aren't crowded in there, but when they spend a lot of time indoors they get cranky (who doesn't?)

    The Nest Boxes

    These are a rollout design (which is not at all important to me, just happens to be the nest boxes that were in the back of the shed). I tried to keep straw in them, thinking the wire bottoms might be uncomfortable to the chickens, but it was hard because the straw falls through the wire and it didn't really seem to help anyways. Some of the nest boxes have canvas flaps, some don't, because I didn't know if the birds would like those or not. Usually the eggs (when they were laid in the boxes, which was rare) were in a box with a flap.

    Interior dimensions: 10.75 in wide x 13 in deep x 9 in tall
    Entrance dimensions: 10.5 in wide x 6 in tall
    Dimensions seem a little small, but not so small to have so few birds using them. One of our biggest Orpingtons would squish herself in there to lay, as well as one of the smaller Orpingtons would go in to check them out (but not actually lay an egg in there)
    I think there are 10 boxes total, so 1 box per bird or 1.5 birds... definitely plenty of choices!
    They are mounted fairly close to the floor
    We tried putting golf balls in as fake eggs, those only ever fooled us and never the birds.

    Some ideas to improve nest box usage that I have are to take off the flaps because that rod the flaps are suspended from really decreases the space to get into the box
    Also, putting nest pads, or maybe just tar paper + straw, so there is a solid bottom

    Any other advice is welcome. Think we can fix these up so the new hens like them? Or do we need something new and more roomy?
  2. BleuSaphir

    BleuSaphir Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 24, 2012
    Maybe put some turf padding on the wire bottoms?
  3. MeepBeep

    MeepBeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    I agree line the wire bottoms with something, if you like most of us have an abundance of feed bags they make great liners, then toss on some little wood shavings or straw to make it more comfy...

    You could also try tossing in some golf balls or fake eggs in there to show them where to lay...
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2015
  4. allpeepedout

    allpeepedout Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 2, 2011
    Southern Indiana
    Can they jump up onto the step-up roost without bumping their face into the canvas? I would not want to jump up onto something and hit my face, even if it was on a soft material. It's hard to tell from your photo. I'd experiment with some bricks and a wide board to give them an easier way in, like a wide platform in front of the lower boxes, to see if that was it, and fold up the canvas for now. Agree with other posters to offer soft nest material.
  5. BlueShadow

    BlueShadow Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2015
    Okay, we will definitely change up the base of the nests based on your suggestions. We probably will put down some kind of paper and fill them with straw or hay, as we have those in abundance, unless something else is far preferable?

    No, the chickens cannot perch on the board without hitting their beaks on the canvas flaps. However, only half of the nest boxes have canvas flaps, I took the flaps off of the other nest boxes because I did not know if the chickens would like them or not. Maybe I will just take all of them off.

    How about the dimensions? Do you think the dimensions are so off that the chickens won't like the boxes, no matter what we do?
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    They are a little on the small side, but bedding and some fake eggs should tell the tale.
  7. BlueShadow

    BlueShadow Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2015
    Bummer... Guess I was hoping for some magical answers. We did try bedding last time (but it always fell through the wire mesh, this time we will put something solid in the bottom to prevent that) and we tried golf balls last time (are they not close enough to fake eggs?)

    On to the adventure with the next round of birds! Guess we can always try new nest boxes after they have started laying, if we have failure again with these nest boxes. The chickens certainly moved their communal next around the coop last time with little fuss.

    Is there a preferred height for how high the lowest nest box should be off the ground?
  8. MeepBeep

    MeepBeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Golf balls are plenty close, chickens (and most poultry) are not too sharp when it comes to eggs appearance, size or color...
  9. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2013
    Atlanta, Georgia
    I'm thinking with Orpingtons those boxes are way too small. Our old nest boxes were approx 12x12x10 (slightly less on height as it sloped down) - looked like they were stuffed in there when they were laying and couldn't move around very well.

    Our new boxes are 20"deep, 16" wide, and 18" deep...MUCH better for them. The kitty litter boxes (blue in the pic) are 18" x 15" x15" and have worked out REALLY well. If the nest gets fouled I can pull the tray out, empty/clean it, and put it back mess at all, quick and easy.

    Back side (people side of the coop)

    Chicken side of the coop.

    Had to put the green plastic mesh on top at an angle to keep Ms. Penny off the top of it :)

    On the golf ball question - that should work. We went to Cracker Barrel and got some of their ceramic eggs...we have brown egg layers so we got white ceramic eggs. I think they also have brown ceramix and greenish ceramic as well. You can see on the of the green ceramic in the bottom left of the top picture.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015

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