Nesting Boxes

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chicnewbie6, Dec 2, 2014.

  1. chicnewbie6

    chicnewbie6 New Egg

    9
    0
    7
    Dec 1, 2014
    Stafford, Virginia
    I'm new to owning chickens, I have 6 RIR's about 20 weeks old. My husband build some really nice nesting boxes. When I recused the girls they were living in very CLOSE quaters. Last night was thier 2nd night in thier new coop. When I went to check on them they were all sleeping in one box all on top of each other. I guess that is something they are use to.

    My question is this: 1. Will they ever start to sleep seperatly in thier own box?
    2. Is there anything I can do to help them go that?

    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,323
    456
    221
    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    Boxes aren't for sleeping. Adult chickens will roost at night. Do you have enough roosting space (about 1 foot each bird), height off the ground? They might still be a little young to be roosting. Mine typically start at about this age. Block off the nest boxes for now at night. They only need access to them during the day and when they sleep in them they just soil the bedding and it will get all over the eggs when they do start laying.
     
  3. Monguire

    Monguire Chillin' With My Peeps

    160
    49
    84
    May 18, 2014
    Manassas, VA
    Nesting boxes are only for laying eggs. Young chickens will often resort to piling into nest boxes or corners for warmth/security. As they get older, they will eventually migrate (sometimes with extensive help from us) to the roosts to sleep.

    Chickens need a minimum of 10 linear inches of roost (can be 2x4 with either narrow or wide side up depending on the size of your chickens) space per bird and those roosts should be ABOVE the nest boxes to encourage them to use the roosts. Chickens like to sleep as high as they can safely get in the coop.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2014
  4. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    8,697
    230
    316
    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    Hello!

    Generally, you don't want the chickens sleeping in the nesting boxes, because then they poo in them too. (And who wants poopy eggs! lol)

    What I do is block off the nesting boxes until they're laying age. I personally would block those nesting boxes at bedtime, and then open them in the morning. After they get used to their new coop, then they'll explore and pretty soon, they'll start sleeping on their roost. They might still clump up together until they feel more at home.
     
  5. chicnewbie6

    chicnewbie6 New Egg

    9
    0
    7
    Dec 1, 2014
    Stafford, Virginia
    OK Now I feel silly! Thanks for the information. We do have a roost in the coop also. I will block off the nesting boxes then. Currently my roost is on one side of my coop and the nesting boxes on the other, both about 2.5-3 ft off the floor. Will this work ok?
     
  6. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,323
    456
    221
    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    3ft off the ground might be a little high at this point. My "training" roost is a 2x2 nailed to blocks of wood and is only about 10 inches off the ground. They practice hopping up and down off of that until they are strong enough to get up to the big bird roost.

    The nesting box is giving them security and warmth at this point.
     
  7. Monguire

    Monguire Chillin' With My Peeps

    160
    49
    84
    May 18, 2014
    Manassas, VA
    No need to feel silly. We all started at the beginning at some point. This site is a wonderful tool to quickly bring folks up to speed on all things chicken. I also found these sites very helpful as well back when I was still unsure of which end of the chicken the egg came out of:

    Fresh Eggs Daily - Chicken Care Guide

    The Chicken Chick - Resources Directory

    The internet is a wonderful thing and the Search button opens up answers to just about anything you wanted to know. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help or clarification if Search doesn't get you what you're looking for.

    To answer your question, if not possible to make your roost higher than your nesting boxes, it might just take some night-visits for a few nights to transplant stubborn chooks from box to roost. If you can block off the boxes, that should go a long way to getting them onto the roost eventually.

    PS - Welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    PPS - Howdy neighbor! I'm right up the road from ya!
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,474
    3,862
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    They are 20 weeks old so they could start laying at any time. Personally I’d leave the nests open so that first controlled egg can be laid in a nest. When pullets start to lay, some just drop an egg wherever they happen to be, the roosts, the coop floor, or out in the run. Most have control over this right from the start but many don’t. So don’t be too surprised to find eggs about anywhere. When a pullet does lay that first controlled egg, she looks for a good place for a nest. And once she lays that first controlled egg where she thinks is a good place she instinctively wants to go back to that spot for all her following eggs. Her instinct is to build a clutch of eggs even if she never goes broody. This can be a hard habit to break.

    Pullets and even older hens also tend to want to lay where another hen is laying. They seem to think that makes it a good place to lay if another hen is laying there. That’s where putting fake eggs in the nest can really help. I use golf balls but there are plenty of alternatives.

    Another reason I want the nests open before they start to lay is that if there is a problem I want to know about it before they start to lay so I can fix the problem. Often about a week before she starts to lay a pullet will start investigating possible nest spots. Sometimes a rooster will help her in her search. They will often scratch around to see how good a nest can be made. If the bedding or fake eggs are scratched out of the nest, you have a sign that something is wrong. Usually that means the lip is not high enough to keep things in, so raise the lip a few inches.

    Also, you some may sleep in the nests. I want to know that so I can fix the problem before I start getting poopy eggs. You’ve got that problem identified in time to fix it.

    One probably cause from your post is that the roosts need to be noticeably higher than the nests or anything else you don’t want the chickens to sleep on or in. Normally 12” higher is noticeable, even if it is across the coop. So the first thing you need to do is to raise the roosts or lower the nests so there is a noticeable difference.

    Do you have Silkies or some other kind of chicken that can’t fly? Those can be special cases, but the vast majority of chickens will have absolutely no trouble getting up on a roost 4 to 5 feet off the ground at 20 weeks. I’ve seen two week old chicks fly up 3 feet to roost when the broody hen tells them “Children, come on up here. NOW!”. Since yours are getting to the nests they don’t seem to be having any problems getting up there but if you are concerned about that, put in an intermediate perch about half way up. They might use it, either to go up or come down, though mine normally ignore any perches on the way down and just fly to the ground.

    There is one warning I need to give. Chickens spread their wings, both to go up and to come down. They need enough clear space in the coop to spread those wings. Nests, feeders, or waterers in the way can create problems. Normally the higher the roosts the more clear space they need to come down especially. I recommend you keep the roosts as low as you reasonably can while making sure they are noticeably higher than the nests.

    Since chickens are creatures of habit, yours are probably already in the habit of sleeping in the nests. Just making sure there is a noticeable difference in height will probably not be enough to break that habit. I know of two ways to do that. One is to go out after they are asleep and the coop is dark and physically take them from the nest and set them on the roosts. The coop needs to be dark so they have trouble getting back to the nest if they want to. Use as little light as you can. They should get the message fairly quickly, though some can be more stubborn than others.

    Another method that is a little harder is to block the nests off after the time for laying is over for the day so they can’t roost in the nests. You may need to still put them on the roosts to show them where a safe place to roost is. Then you need to be out there before it is time for them to lay to open the nests back up so they can lay that first egg in the nests. So you need three trips to the coop; 1) to block the nests before they go to bed, 2) to make sure they are on the roosts instead of somewhere else you don’t want them, and 3) early the next morning to unblock the nests.

    Or you can block the nests all the time, possibly teaching them to lay somewhere else, then start a new thread on here on how to retrain them to lay in the nests instead of somewhere else. Another reasonable approach since they are not laying yet is to block the nests until they get in the habit of sleeping on the roosts and then opening the nests back up. Maybe you can do that before they start to lay.

    As you can probably tell we often have different opinions on how to do things. I know I’m being a little snarky in the last paragraph, but there are usually a lot of different ways to go about these things. Usually it is not a case of just one right way to do these things and every other way is wrong, but more of a case where there are many different things that work. You just need to pick one that seems to fit your situation. But get out there and make sure there is a difference in the height of the roosts and the nests. That is important.

    Good luck!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by