What should I use for Nesting Material?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Toshiko24, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Toshiko24

    Toshiko24 Chirping

    Dec 26, 2013
    Hurricane, Utah
    With Spring right around the corner I thought a topic of nesting material could be fun and helpful to new and long time chicken owners.

    I got my first batch of chicks in May 2014 and have been enjoying them since. My big stress when they were getting around 7 months old was, what should I use as a nesting material?! (My birds are LF Cochin's. It can take them up to 9ish months to start laying.) After much research I actually decided on towels. Yes. Towels. I have only ever seen one person ever suggest them since getting into chickens and I wish I could remember who it was so I could thank them for it.

    Personally I think towels are more healthy all around for your bird. But, as with anything there are pros and cons to everything. This is what I have found with my choice of nesting material.

    Pros: No mites. No lice. No extra dust. No messy clean up.
    As needed, rotate new towels into the nest box, wash the old and fold them up until next rotation.

    Cons: Strings.
    When you wash the towels they will develop strings. This issue has a very simple remedy. Grab some scissors and do a quick clip before you fold them up or stick them back in the nest. Do not use big poofy fluff towels! Use ones with short to no fluff. Mine are the cheep $1.99 towels from Walmart. I went with brown so that if they do get dirty you cant see the stains and they still look nice. (We have red dirt out here and my birds take dirt baths in it.)

    You might ask, "What about the eggs? Wont they get broken?" I keep a second thicker cloth folded under the towel's for a little cushion for the hard floor and have never had a broken egg. For anyone that doesn't own Cochin's or has never seen them, they are a VERY big, heavy bird. My red alpha rooster is half the size of my Husky. I have hatched chicks 2015 and 2016 on towels and will be hatching a few this spring on them. My broody girls have never crushed them. (Yes she has a little baby sitting on her back. [​IMG])
    Even when more are in a box then there should be... -_- (Sorry I know this one is dark, it was early in the morning.)
    Keeping in mind that each flock is different and each flocks needs are different, it is a nesting material I strongly recommend to any chicken owner. As of right now my flock count is 12 hens and 2 roosters and they have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of free ranging my yard. I do not have a problem with them going to the bathroom in their nesting boxes so towels have been fantastic for my use and my hens have no problems with them. (My chicks last spring did have a short bathroom problem in the nests but it was only because they were sleeping in the nest boxes at night but when I decided they were big enough I started locking them out of the nest boxes and after a few nights they started sleeping with the older chickens.) If your birds are more confined and/or are pooping in the nesting boxes, towels might not be for you. Also, string clipping is a MUST for towel use so if you do not want to clip strings after a wash, towels might not be for you.

    What do you prefer for your nesting box material? What have you found as pros and cons using it? Show us some pics! [​IMG]

    As always, <3 you guys here at BYC and wishing you all a fantastic and safe spring with your flock and soon to be's!
    - Toshiko24 ^_^

  2. chameleon

    chameleon Chirping

    Hi, very interesting post, I never would have though of towels. But funnilly enough, I used old towels for the floor of my brooder recently as I didn't have anything else to use. I just changed them out every day and it worked great. I only had three chicks though, it might not work if you have much more than that.

    I was just looking for nesting material yesterday for my new layers. They scratch wood shavings out of the nest so I was looking for straw, but I couldn't find any. I stumbled across some coir and thought it might work, it was also considerable cheaper that the straw I can get here. I'll have to see whether it works or not. I may just end up using towels too [​IMG]

    ETA: I just remembered I also used old receiving blankets for the brooder, that might also work for the nest boxes.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I can't imagine how often I'd have to wash towels if I used them for nesting....those dirty chicken feet tracking in, broken eggs, the stray poop left here and there. Unless you are washing those every day or even between each chicken, they can indeed spread mites and lice from one bird to another, just as with any nesting material being used by multiple birds.

    I use hay...easy to clean out the nest, cheap and renewable resource that forms into the pleasing nest bowl shape that birds love, they can rearrange the material as they sit on the nests and it stays in the nest boxes better than any other material to date. Wood shavings and straw tend to move to one side or the other as the chickens "nest", often leaving the eggs to be delivered on the hard floor of the nest box. Hay never does this...the strands are too long and they are not easily unwoven from the nest shape or kicked out of the nest box.
    1 person likes this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Ditto Dat^^^

    I like a good flake of straw for nest bedding, shoved in tight and 'bowled out' a bit.
    Provides nice cushion and gets tossed out into run when (not if) it gets soiled with poops or a broken egg to add to the litter there.

    Might be hard for some folks to obtain and/or store a bale of straw or hay...am lucky that my coop is in a large shed with room for such.
    I sewed up a 'bale bag' out of feed bags to hold the bale from spreading out in the shed after cutting the baling strings.
    One bale can last up me up to a year or more.
    I keep a bale each of straw and hay.....straw for nest bedding and hay for 'enrichment' and run litter material.
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Nope. Not gonna put dirty towels in my washer. And certainly not going to wash them by hand. Nothing wrong with using towels, if that suits your purpose, but hay or straw fulfill all of the function of a towel. And the hens can't rearrange a towel the way they can with hay or straw. And she can't tuck towels into her feathers, which they love to do with hay and straw when they are nesting... and when they come off the nest. I find it amusing to watch the hens as they toss bits of hay over their backs and tuck them into their feathers. I call it chicken camouflage.
  6. ShanandGem

    ShanandGem Songster

    Feb 16, 2016
    Mine do that too! I think using something like a towel deprives them of that instinctual nesting habit.
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    Same as when folks just put down astroturf or a piece of carpeting in the nest box....nothing there to actually nest in. I guess it's necessary to have such a thing in a roll away nest contraption, but in a regular nest I like the birds to have natural nesting materials. A person can even use leaves, weeds, dried grasses, etc. to provide good nesting materials and that doesn't cost a thing.

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