How many nesting boxes?

Judy

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
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South Georgia
Usually we figure 4 hens per nest. However, they tend to use only a few favorite ones. They also tend to make their own in a tempting corner or two. I woud probably build 6, at most.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,082
19,498
857
Southeast Louisiana
What size nesting boxes are you building? A normal recommendation on this forum is a minimum of 12” x 12”. That normally comes with the recommendation that Judy mentioned, 4 hens per nest. Even with the 12”x12” boxes, since you have more than the average sized flock on here and they tend to lay in just a few anyway, I’ll agree with Judy. Six should be enough for you.

I personally prefer larger nests though. I made mine 16” x 16”, mainly because that hit my stud framing really well which made them easier to build. I’m glad I did. It’s not that unusual for me to find three hens crowded into one nest even though there are other nests empty. That’s with just 7 or 8 hens and three nests total. A larger nest allows them to share a nest without one hen literally sitting on top of another. There are photos of that on this forum since it is so cute but my preference is that they can all sit in the bottom of the nest, especially in summer when it can be really hot.

There is another reason I like the larger nests. I once had a broody hen hatch chicks in a cat litter bucket. Not a cat litter pan but the bucket the litter comes in. That’s fairly small, somewhere around 8” x 11”. They will lay in something that small. But the first chicks that hatch like to climb on top of the hen and sit on her back while waiting on the later ones to hatch. In that small nest the broody was so close to the edge that the chicks sometimes missed the nest and fell to the floor. I put a chick back in with Mama three times that hatch and then retired that nest. Most 12” x 12” nests will be big enough for a broody to hatch but that depends a bit on how you build them. I just prefer they have plenty of room.

You could build what is called a community nest box. You can do a search on those if you wish. They can be different sizes but the idea is to build a large dark box, maybe 24” x 48”, with openings on the ends. The top is hinged so you retrieve the eggs by lifting the top. It’s not that good for a broody hen to hatch eggs in but a community nest like that can supposedly handle more than 20 hens by itself. There are all kinds of ways to build nests. The larger they are the more hens they can handle.

This depends on how you build them, open on top or closed on top, but consider the opening for them to get in before you start cutting wood. I like a lip around the bottom of a minimum 4” to help hold the bedding and eggs in. Many hens like to scratch around before they lay, getting the bedding just right. If the lip is too low they can scratch out bedding and eggs. I normally make my openings about 8” wide and 8” high when I close in the front. That means the nest needs to be 12” high. But consider how you frame it. If you have a framing member going across the front, especially up top, you may need to go even taller to keep the lip and opening. My nests are typically 16” high to account for all this. I find it really beneficial to draw all this out, with dimensions, before I start cutting wood.

One last thing. People use about anything to make nests. They don’t have to be made out of wood. Some popular items are large buckets you can probably get for free at a local deli or bakery and cat litter pans. Some people just set a cardboard box on the floor filled with bedding. Some people make them out of old furniture like a bookcase or chest of drawers. I even saw a photo on here where someone used an old kitchen sink. You are only limited by your imagination as to how you make the nests or even what you use. These threads are fairly old and are missing some photos but you might scroll through these to see some things that people have used to give you ideas.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/41108/show-us-your-nest-boxes-ingenous-design-post-it-here/220

https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...-your-creative-nesting-boxes/80#post_12395882

Opa’s Rollaway Nest Box
https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=287684

The big problem with nests is not that they have to be built a specific way. The problem is that you have so many options on how you can do it that it is sometimes hard to make up your mind how to do it. I probably haven’t helped you much in that aspect. Good luck!
 

chrism

Songster
11 Years
Jan 17, 2009
114
5
128
Zone 7A Central Va.
Thank you Judy.

Ridgerunner...!!! THANK YOU.
You answered my next several questions without me even asking.

I've seen some reference to closing up the boxes at night so that they don't simply nest in them, making a mess.
Does this mean that they typically lay eggs in the day time?

I'm very interested in the roll-out style of nesting box.
I would love to just click accept and have a 6 box unit show up on my door step but I'm DIY by necessity.
So your general advice on design ideas is much appreciated.
Since this will be a farmers market/egg delivery sideline for my young son (we're too rural for a character building paper rout), we are concentrating on production. Once we feel that we have our current inventory under control, we plan on doubling to 60 then expanding as demand grows.

This raises some questions though.
I seem to understand that nesting boxes are typically lined with hay, straw or pine shavings.
Wouldn't this mass prevent the eggs from rolling out?

Would the effort of building this style prevent a significant amount of damage and egg washing that would otherwise occur in a standard style nest box as advertised?
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,082
19,498
857
Southeast Louisiana
We all do things differently. There is no one right way to do things where every other way is wrong. It’s just finding which of the many ways work for you.

I never close up nest boxes. The potential problem is that chickens might sleep in them and they poop a lot at night. Why might a chicken sleep in a nest instead of on the roost? Different reasons actually.

Chickens normally like at sleep on the highest point available. That’s a survival instinct. A whole lot of the chickens sleeping in the nest problems can be avoided by making your roosts higher than the nests. This doesn’t always solve or prevent the problem but it can really help. I find about 12” higher is usually enough.

The dominant chickens like to sleep in the best places on the roosts, often but not always close to a window. They can be pretty brutal in enforcing their pecking order rights to the best places. That’s when I see the most brutality in my flock, when they are settling down for the night. In addition, some chickens are just plain brutal to chickens lower in the pecking order, especially less mature members of the flock. I’ve seen hens go out of their way to be brutal on the roosts, as if jealous of their place in the pecking order and determined to keep it from weaker members. This does not always happen, especially if the chickens are the same stage of maturity and the pecking order has been established, but I have seen chickens leave the roosts and seek safer places to sleep, like the nests. Adequate roost space is important, but I saw this behavior so much when integrating younger chickens that I put in a separate roost, lower than the main roosts but still higher than the nests and horizontally separated to give the weaker chickens a safe place to go that was not my nests.

If you make your roosts higher than the nests and with room for them to get away from the bullies, most of these problems are avoided. But you can still have problems. Occasionally when transitioning form sleeping on the floor to sleeping on the roosts, chicks will use the nests for a night or two as a part-way stop. Occasionally chicks will get stuck there instead of moving on to the roosts. When this happens, I physically place them on a safe roost after it is dark. They normally get the message pretty quickly.

In a roll-out nest box they normally use outdoor carpet for the chickens to lay on instead of regular bedding. The angle you put that carpet on may have to be tweaked to get the egg to roll without rolling too fast depending on the specific carpet you use. If the egg rolls too fast it can crack when it hits other eggs. But eggs with decent shells are fairly tough. Once you get the angle right cracked eggs from rolling into each other is pretty rare. If the shells are fairly thin you can still have that problem in a regular nest.

If you are going to sell eggs at a Farmer’s Market you need to find out what the specific Farmer’s Market rules about eggs are. Some are a lot more controlling than others. Also your state probably has laws about selling eggs. These typically involve washing and refrigeration but each state is different. A good time to find out about your specific rules and regulation is before you get started. Your local health department is probably a good place to start on the state, city, or county regulations, and talking to the person running the specific Farmer’s Market is very important. You will want to know the fees or space rental too.
 

chrism

Songster
11 Years
Jan 17, 2009
114
5
128
Zone 7A Central Va.
Thank you so much for your time and patients!
Are you aware of any significant advantage to the roll-out style vs. traditional? Other than convenience and cool factor?
The touted advantage seems to be less dirt and damage to the eggs.
Does this hold up?

What is the linear ft recommendation for roosting space?
I have built a ladder with 1x4's and square dowel rods.
I have a couple that prefer the low hanging branches in the yard and the outside top of the hoop house coop.
I don't mind the branches but I need to figure out a way to keep them off of my hoop house.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
94,117
123,279
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Thank you so much for your time and patients!
Are you aware of any significant advantage to the roll-out style vs. traditional? Other than convenience and cool factor?
The touted advantage seems to be less dirt and damage to the eggs.
Does this hold up?

What is the linear ft recommendation for roosting space?
I have built a ladder with 1x4's and square dowel rods.
I have a couple that prefer the low hanging branches in the yard and the outside top of the hoop house coop.
I don't mind the branches but I need to figure out a way to keep them off of my hoop house.
Usually roll out nests are adopted by back yard chicken keepers due to an egg eating problem.
Could definitely be a convenience if you have a large number of birds and,
would probably keep the eggs cleaner on rainy days as each egg wouldn't get stepped on by multiple mucky feet.

8-12" linear inches of roost per bird is a pretty good 'rule of thumb', tho they don't need that much room to sleep,
they often use all that room to get settled...and they may spread out more if it's hot at night.

I only have 11' for 16 birds but I have roost boards and that helps with the roost time pecking party and some roost right on the boards or the edge of them......
.....and I just had to put up another 4' of roost with no board for three 14 week old pullets who are not allowed to roost on the main roost by the older birds.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
94,117
123,279
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Thank you.
Roost boards?
Is that different than what I'm talking about?
Roost, or poop, boards.... go under roosts to collect night poops, and need to be cleaned regularly, so floor bedding lasts much longer and odors are much reduced in coop.

Pic is of broody breaker crate but you can see the roosts and boards above.
 
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CherryAdventure

Chirping
5 Years
Dec 8, 2014
83
13
53
I have 24 chickens, and made 20 nesting boxes out of lawn mower catchers, and put them on newspaper stands and shelves for them to sleep in as well. I only get eggs out of 3 boxes, and always the same boxes. They like to sleep on top of the boxes we took all day making, or on the roof, or in the mulberry tree. Chickens need to have something to grip, so some posts across the walls.
 

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