Nest boxes for chicks?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by mirandalola, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. mirandalola

    mirandalola Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 13, 2016
    NorthEast Texas, USA
    My husband and I are undecided about when to put the nest boxes into the coop we're building for our 5-week-old chicks. My husband says it's not good if they learn to sleep in the nest boxes, so we should put them in later; I thought they slept in the nest boxes while they were young and then naturally moved out as they grew up.

    What's a newbie to do?
  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    I'd say if they are too young to roost, I would not put the nest boxes out. You do not want them in the habit of sleeping (and pooping in them). However, if they are old enough to fly up to a roost they will likely prefer that to a nesting box at night anyway and there shouldn't be problems. Don't know if you have single level or stacked nesting boxes but make sure the highest nesting box is lower than the lowest roost pole. They like the highest place for their nighttime roost and you don't want that to be a box. Good luck to you!
  3. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member Project Manager

    Jan 10, 2013
    Since you are adding freestanding nest boxes, I would just leave them out until the chicks are older and well used to using the roosts.

    Many of us build ours in the walls and have to have them in place before they move in. Even so - I never had any sleep in those nests.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What's a newbie to do? Ask questions. Well done!

    I want the nest boxes in the coop and open to the pullets before they start to lay. I want their first eggs to be laid in the nests so they are in the habit of laying in the nests, not somewhere else. If there are problems with the nests I want to know about it before they start to lay so I can fix the problem. If you put the roosts higher than the nests you usually don’t have problems, but sometimes you still do.

    When will pullets start to lay, you might ask? Good question, I wish there was an easy answer. I’ve had pullets start to lay at 16 weeks, I’ve had them start at nine months. I target having the nests open and ready before 16 weeks.

    Where will the chicks sleep is another good question. Again, there is no easy answer. In general my brooder-raised chicks sleep in a group on the floor of the coop until they start to roost. On average my brooder-raised chicks start to roost around 10 to 12 weeks. I’ve had some start about 5 weeks, some wait quite a bit longer, but 10 to 12 weeks is a good average. This varies brood to brood. The only thing consistent about chickens is their inconsistency.

    Where do my broody-raised chicks sleep? Wherever Mommy tells them to. Usually that’s on the coop floor until she takes them to the roosts. I’ve had broody hens take their chicks to the roosts as early as 2 weeks though 4 to 5 weeks is probably a good average.

    Normally when they are on the floor the broody and chicks sleep in a corner somewhere. If you have a nest on the floor or pretty close to the floor they might sleep in it. Or they might not. I have my lower nests about a foot off the bedding, I’ve had a couple of broody hens take their chicks in them. Most just go to a corner. My brooder-raised chicks normally go to a corner. When they transition to the main roosts they might spend a night or two in the nests but usually not unless roost space is tight and there is a bully that beats them up on the roosts. That’s one of those potential problems I want to know about ahead of egg laying time so I can fix it. Do I need to work on my roosts?

    Another potential problem is that about a week before they start to lay the pullets often start looking for a place to lay eggs. Part of this searching involves scratching to rearrange bedding. If the bedding starts getting scratched out of your nests, the lip is too low and needs to be raised. It’s a simple fix once you know about it.

    Most of this stuff isn’t hard once you get into it but never be afraid to ask a question. I assure you there are other people out there wondering about the same stuff. And wouldn’t it be sad for you to have a problem because you were afraid to ask. We all have to start somewhere.
  5. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2011

    Listen to your husband. He is right... This time.
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    A broody hen will often have her chicks sleep in the nest box until around 5-7 weeks, then she teaches them to roost.

    Artificially brooded chicks don't sleep in a nest box. They just pile down wherever the heat is.

    Sleeping spots are a very, very strong habit in chickens. If they get used to sleeping in the nest boxes on their own, and have no momma to urge them to roost, they may just continue to sleep there. Doesn't sound like much of a problem, until you realize much of what a chicken poops comes out at night, when they're sleeping. So, sleeping in a nest box will make for a nasty box full of poop. Eggs laid there will get poopy, not something anyone wants.

    I'd say leave the boxes out until they're established at sleeping on the roost. When you put them in after that is a matter of personal preference. Not having a nest box won't prevent a hen from laying eggs, she'll simply chose her own likely spot.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    You can put the nests in now, which might be easier from a construction point of view, just cover them up so the chicks can't access them.

    Don't think anyone mentioned,maybe I missed it but:
    Roosts are best a foot higher than nests, as they like to roost as high as possible, so can serve as a deterrent to sleeping in the nests.
  8. mirandalola

    mirandalola Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 13, 2016
    NorthEast Texas, USA
    Wow, thanks for all the info!

    My hubby is excited to make them some roosts by lashing sticks from our yard together :D

    We're getting them acclimated to the temperatures outside by taking them out in the morning and putting them in a fenced-in pen and leaving them out there all day. When they come in at night, I leave the window near their brooder open and their heat lamp off. The coop is almost finished, we anticipate moving them in this weekend!
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Good Plan.

    Consider making a 'huddle box', put it in the brooder after turning off the heat(you might have to 'persuade' them to use it) then move it out to the coop with them.
    Cardboard box with a bottom a little bigger than what they need to cuddle next to each other without piling and tall enough for them to stand in.
    Cut an opening on one side a couple inches from bottom and big enough for 2-3 of them to go thru at once.
    Fill the bottom with some pine shavings an inch or so deep.
    This will give them a cozy place to sleep/rest, block any drafts and help hold their body heat in.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by