Why are my hens eating their nests?


6 Years
Apr 28, 2013
Sandy Valley, NV
Most of my girls are 16 weeks old, with a few 17-18 week olds mixed in. I just put in next boxes 2 days ago and filled them with hay.
They keep eating all of the nesting material! I've refilled them at least 4 times already! They have PLENTY to eat -- homemade fermented feed, kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden, slightly mushy fruit/veggies, etc. They have SO much food, I don't know why they keep eating all the hay.

Should I try to give them extra greens, or even another pile of hay in the run to eat? Will a second pile of hay confuse them whenever they start laying?
The hay, if very long, can coil up inside the crop and cause impacted crop if they are eating tons of it.

Lots of folks use hay in the nest boxes and have hay all over the place where they keep chickens with no problem. I don't know why your girls are eating it so voraciously

Personally, I would either cut the hay into shorter lengths to prevent impacted crop (I use 2-3 inches in length for grass clippings max myself) which is very labor-intensive, or switch to sand in the nest boxes for awhile (assuming you have easily removable boxes like me- I use covered kitty litter pans) and you can scoop out (with a kitty litter scoop) any messes.

You can also use shredded paper and of course pine shavings. Chickens just adore alfalfa hay leaves...if you are using alfalfa hay that would explain it.
I hear sand is a godsend for chicken nest boxes - read this in Chickens for Dumbies! Haha but maybe get the construction grade sand not the sandbox sand as too fine? This is what I am going to try.
Pine straw may work but this thread mentions chiggers...I don't know if they are a problem where you are or not.

You can try it and see!

Yes I use sand in the covered kitty litter pan by itself when I have young pullets in the coop who like to sleep in the nest boxes sometimes. I go in there in the morning and scoop out the poo with a ktty litter scoop, and so the box is fresh for egglaying. It is only a temporary thing for me, then back to shavings. One person mentioned fleas can hide in sand...I say it is best to experiment and see what works for you.
It is indeed alfalfa!
Can sand be used by itself in the boxes?

The alfalfa hay is VERY good for them, but I'd chop it up for them or shake the leaves out on the floor of the coop for them to ingest. Some people just spread the hay around but look:

graphic pic of impacted crop contents from browneggblueegg.com (silkie breeder)

If I remember correctly alfalfa is 18% protein and highly nutritious. They sell it in cubes that can be soaked for poultry if they are desperate for greens. My chickens didn't eat the alfalfa meal I bought them once...I don't know if the cubes are well liked by poultry or not.
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