The Truth About Chicken Nest Boxes

The following is my recent post for Backyard Poultry Magazine:

With cold weather on our doorsteps, it’s the time of year that most chicken keepers take a hard look at their coop to make sure everything’s in order for winter. As I was looking at our coop, the nest boxes struck me as funny. I remember setting up our coop and diligently poring over books that gave advice on exactly what size and how many nest boxes a coop should have.

Now, I’m not advocating deviation from those standards. But, over the years, it has become increasingly obvious that my chickens had nothing to do with writing those standards. And, for the novice chicken keeper, it’s important to understand that chickens have a mind of their own when it comes to egg laying.

We’ve currently got 14 laying hens which have six equally sized clean boxes to use. And, for the most part, this works out fine. But there are exceptions to the rule.

For instance, there’s always one box that every chicken covets and wants to use at the exact same time. There are days I’ll go in the coop and find chickens doubled up in the coveted box with a line of traffic taxiing the runway waiting for their turn for takeoff.

Then, there are those chickens that are free spirits and some days they just have to strike out on their own. Take Big Muff our ameracauna hen; over the hot summer she chose to sneak out and lay a clutch of eggs just off our concrete parking area by our front door; an even hotter locale than the coop. Or take Hope one of our red sex link hens; she’s obsessed with sneaking out and laying eggs right by our mudroom door. She’s singlehandedly destroyed a planter and made it her own nest box.

There’s also, Henrie, another of our red sex links, she really likes the area right under our nest boxes and actively works to maintain that territory.

Or, there are our brown leghorn hens who like to share a nest box for no other reason than it’s great to have company when you’re laying an egg.

To be fair, on most days, our nest boxes are just fine for everyone, but when the exceptions occur, it makes me laugh and I’m sure you won’t find that written in any chicken keeping guide.

Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.
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