Dumb questions about boxes


9 Years
Jul 2, 2010
Obviously I'm new at this, but could someone explain to me why boxes are needed for laying hens? I mean, if hens are free-range, can't they lay their eggs anywhere? I wouldn't want to be the one searching several acres, but in theory, when the eggs are ready to come out, do they need a box?

Second question: I have a coop that is about 4 feet off the ground. Should I put the boxes in the coop or under the coop? The hens have no problem running up the ladder into their coop, but would they do that when they need to lay an egg or would they prefer to be closer to the ground and then go up into the coop at night. Just wondering... They are 20 weeks old today so first eggs are any time now, I think...


9 Years
Sep 11, 2010
Free range hens can and WILL lay their eggs where ever they choose. Most provide boxes so they aren't "easter egg hunting" everyday. Most hens will lay in boxes if they are trained to do so. I keep a golf ball in my boxes so the hens will continue to lay in them. They think the golf balls are real eggs and if they think it is a safe place to lay their eggs there. I have the occasional girl who decides to hide her eggs and I will come across 10-15 eggs every now and then. I would place the boxes inside the coop or wherever it is easier for you to collect the eggs. Also the boxes help to keep the eggs clean. You may have to lock your girls up for a few days once they start laying to train them to lay in the boxes. Hens like a safe and secure place to lay their eggs, so make sure they are comfortable in their coop. Hope this helps you.


Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers
10 Years
Sep 22, 2009
My slice of heaven in Somerset, CA
Nest boxes are really just for OUR convenience, not the chickens'.

But, realistically, having just one place to go to gather eggs not only means you don't have to wander the property to gather them, but the hens have a secure place to lay their eggs. Predators not only eat eggs, but eat hens who make nests in hidden places.

Put the nest boxes in the coop. Do you want to crouch and shuffle under the coop to gather eggs? Once the chickens are used to going into the coop, they won't mind going there to lay their eggs IF they start the habit there.

Four of my laying hens actually prefer to lay their eggs in the next boxes in my A-Frame coop, which requires them to maneuver a ramp from the "downstairs" pen area to the upstairs "lodging" section, through a hole in the floor. They don't sleep in there - none of the chickens do. They sleep in the other coops. Most of the rest of the hens lay in the Big Coop nest boxes, using a very short ramp, and one goes into a Little Tike's Playhouse coop occupied by four young pullets. There isn't even a ramp to IT - the chickens have to jump up 2.5 feet into it. (She just likes that nest box, I guess.)


13 Years
May 23, 2009
Hens look for a safe place to lay their eggs, and can be quite fussy and determined about the place they pick. I have one hen, Pokey, that always tries out several different spots before she settles down in one of the nestboxes I've provided. She likes to get try out all the potted plants, even some windowboxes I have up on the side of the coop. She reminds me of Goldilocks! It's so funny watching her waddle around the yard trying out different nesting spots.


9 Years
Sep 11, 2010
Also forgot to add that you only need 1 nest box for every 4 hens. You can put more than that, but they more than likely will not use them.


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jul 25, 2010
SW Mississippi
txcarl1258, I wish you would tell my girls that! I have 12 buckets for 21 hens and they only use about 4 maybe 5 of them. there are 6 or 7 that use the same box everyday!



9 Years
May 28, 2010
The only "dumb" questions are the one's you don't ask!

That said, as other posters pointed out, chickens look for "safe" places to lay their eggs. They prefer dark, close quarters. Coyotes are a real problem where I live, and not just nocturnally, so mine have a secure run attached to their coop. But I certainly wouldn't want to do the "easter egg hunt" on my 10 acres!


11 Years
May 19, 2010
I was really lazy about getting my nest boxes done until one day when I spied a few of the girls gathered around eating an egg someone had laid on the coop floor.
I got my butt in gear after that and had the nest boxes in a day or so later.
The hens LOVE the nest boxes...it is very comfortable and gives them some privacy to lay their egg and just contemplate the universe. Mine will even come back to the nest box to lay an egg when they are free ranging.
Last but not least, the eggs are perfectly clean which was a big problem before.
Oh, and by the way, I put in two nest boxes for nine hens, and they all use the same one.


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