Nest boxes-how high off the floor?


8 Years
Jul 12, 2011
Hart County, KY
We are having a time with figuring out how high off the ground to place our latest nest boxes. Our last ones were too high up and so I placed them on the ground and they were laying in them like crazy-also pooping in them like crazy with them on the floor. Suggestions please?
Mine are about 16" off the ground, the girls can get under them, I do have a few that lay under there, but for the most part they use the boxes with out a problem. My roosts are higher than the nest boxes, and I don't have anyone that sleeps in them, altho I do have a few that like to sleep on top of them
The bottom of mine are probably 16 to 18 inches off the floor of the coop. That's a single row of nestboxes but even a double row would be fine starting around at that height.
I plan to put my nest boxes about 18 inches off the floor, in case I decide to go with the Deep Litter Method, or lay dishpans underneath for Silkies to nest in. I like to keep my options flexible. ;)
Mine are 4 inches off the floor of the coop. I don't understand why they're pooping in the nest. Are they staying in there overnight?

Precisely! A hen often finds a low, dark place to hide her nest. This is her sneaky, instinctive behavior. Given that, low nest boxes are ideal for training beginning pullets. Pooping in them is another matter. This shouldn't be occurring unless birds are sleeping in the boxes. Young adolescent pre-lay pullets will do this but this habit should not be allowed. Pre-lay pullets shouldn't have access to laying boxes. They should be sleeping on the roosts.
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My boxes are at floor-level, and I kept them closed off until a couple of weeks before my hens started to lay. The openings are 12" wide, 20" high. Since I have opened them up I have had no problems with pooping. In fact, they don't go in there at all, except to lay. I've tried to make the boxes an inviting place to lay by placing a 4" strip at the bottom and a 4" strip at the top, making a litlle 'hen cave'. Roosts are at least 2 feet above the floor.
The way I look at height is to decide on where to put the nest box, then put the roosts noticeably higher than the nest boxes. The roosts also need to be low enough so breezes don't blow directly in them in winter from ventilation. To me the ventilation, the roosts, and the nests are the three things I consider when setting a height of these items. I consider them a system working together.

I can think of some reasons your nest boxes might get messy on the floor or even raised a little. It might not be that they are pooping in there. They may be scratching trash off the coop floor into the nest boxes. Mine scratch a lot, especially around a feeder to get the feed that spills. I tried a nest on the floor and it had a lot of debris scratched into it. Not so much poop, though there was a bit, but mostly bedding.

I've had broodies take chicks into a low nest to sleep at night until they take them to the roosts. So maybe a broody and her chicks were sleeping in there? When the broody transitions taking the chicks from the floor to the roosts, I've had them spend a couple of nights in a raised nest box, but that was just a very few nights. Same thing when I put brooder raised chicks in with the older ones. The brooder raised chicks may sleep on the floor until they are ready to roost and they may use the nest as a transition to the roosts. But several times, they have stayed in the nests for several days while transitioning to the nest. Usually they sleep on top of the nests when transitioning, not in the nests, but that may depend on how yours are built. But if you have a broody with chicks or young chicks sleeping in there, they may use a nest at floor level.

When I have young chickens in that have been integrated but are still young enough to be at the bottom of the pecking order, occasionally some of the adults are so brutal to them on the roosts that they look for a safer place to nest. Usually this is in top of my nests, but occasionally one tries to sleep inside. I don't always have this, but it has happened more than once.

This transition time and the possible reaction to bullies on the roosts is why I suggest the roosts be noticeably higher than the top of the nests, so they have an option off the ground but lower than the roosts but not in the nest boxes. I put a roost over the nest boxes but lower than the main roosts for this transition. The top of the nest boxes act as a droppings board. They have a clear option of something up higher than the nest boxes but lower than the roosts so the bullies don't get jealous.

I'm not sure why you considered the first ones up too high? Were they sleeping in them or not using them? If it was a case of not using them, a perch in front of them to give them a place to hop/fly to for access may be the solution.

I don't know what your coop looks like, especially how much height you have to work with but also where your roosts are. If you raise the nests off the floor, I'd get them high enough that you can access under them in case one decides to lay under there, if you have enough vertical room to do that. Mine do scratch a lot and the bedding builds up under mine. Occasionally I have to rake the bedding out from under them. If you can't raise the nests a little, maybe put a high lip across the botttom of them to try to stop them scratching debris into them.

I don't know if you will get anything out of this that helps or not, but good luck.

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