How Many Nesting Boxes Per Chicken
While there is no set formula for how many nesting boxes you need, it will depend on the size and breed of your chickens. With that said, the average consensus for large birds is that the best number of nesting boxes you need is one box for every 3 to 4 chickens. If space is a major consideration, then you can make it work with one box for every 6 to 8 chickens.
Other factors will include climate, do your chickens lay all year-round or do they take the winter off? You can get away with fewer boxes with less use. If you have a dozen or more hens that all lay eggs close to the same time in the morning, then you can’t have just three boxes. You have to assess the needs of your flock and adjust accordingly.
Smaller chickens, like bantams, can be perfectly fine sharing a nesting box. It is not uncommon to find two or three sharing a nesting a box. If you do have bantams, you can make the nesting boxes smaller and cozier than you would for larger breeds like Barred Rock and Orpington.
What To Put Inside Chicken Nesting Boxes
Some of the more modern nesting boxes don’t require bedding as they come with mats. Even if they do have mats, your chickens may prefer addition bedding for comfort and to easy that natural instinct to burrow into nesting material. Nesting material also makes nest cleaning a breeze as you sweep it out and add the new material very easily.
You can read more about the nesting box bedding that I recommend in my article, The Best Bedding For Chicken Nesting Boxes.
Nesting pads can be used alone or under any material you choose. The material you pick will depend on the number of nests you have and your budget. If budget is not an issue, it would be ideal to have a nesting pad with material on top. You can do a more thorough job of cleaning out the boxes every few weeks by removing and cleaning the pads underneath the nesting material.
Straw or Hay
The most common nesting materials are straw or hay. These are very natural for a chicken, absorb moisture, and provide good egg protection. Hay and straw do need to be replaced often as they will be prone to mold and bacteria if left in a nest for too long. If you have other farm animals, you will most likely have a steady and readily available supply of this material.
Another popular choice for nests is pine or cedar shavings. These materials smell great, are easy to clean, and absorb moisture well. Shavings are readily available in pet and feed stores and will be more expensive than straw or hay.
Cedar shavings are on the higher-priced end of chicken bedding but make the coop smell great. The cedar scent will also help keep away unwanted mites and insects.
DIY Nesting Materials
If you want to make your own nesting materials, consider the following options. The drawbacks to these materials are that they are not super absorbent and they tend to get dirtier more quickly.
Remember that your hens need to be happy and comfortable with their nesting material. If you can make them happy and keep your boxes clean, there is nothing wrong with DIY bedding material.
Grass clippings. Cut or gather your own grass. Do not use any grass that has been sprayed with insecticides. Dry it out well before placing it in your boxes.
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Recycled or shredded newspaper. Use paper that is free of dyes.
Shredded leaves. You can shred then store leaves in bags for use as bedding.
For a look at reviews of some of the best bedding for nesting boxes, you can read my article about it here.
What Makes a Good Nesting Box
Plastic or Metal
The reason non-porous materials like plastic and metal make good nesting boxes is because they’re easy to clean. There’s a lot of business that takes place inside a nesting box in addition to egg laying.
Unfortunately, with all the activity of chickens coming and going from the nest, eggs get broken and hen’s can poop in the nesting box. With a wooden nesting box, much of that moisture can be absorbed and lead to very unsanitary conditions that are ripe for bacteria growth and mite infestations.
With plastic or metal nesting boxes, you’ll be able to easily hose them out and keep them clean for your hens.
If you’ve ever walked into a busy chicken coop, especially on a hot day, you’ll understand exactly why it’s important to have nesting boxes that have a decent amount of ventilation.
Easy To Clean
If nesting boxes are left unclean and get to the point where they’re even too much for the hen’s to use, your chickens will find another place to lay their eggs. The problem is, no one loves cleaning out chicken coops, let along nesting boxes. So if you make them easy to clean, you’ll find yourself cleaning them out more often.
Nesting Box Size
A good size for a nesting box is around 14” x 14” x 14”. If you keep larger chickens like Jersey Giants you should feel free to make the nesting boxes even larger. The same is true with smaller chicken breeds like bantams. In these cases, the nesting boxes can be smaller. You want the chickens to get a sense that they are in a safe environment without having to squeeze into.
For more information on quality nesting boxes that I recommend, check out my article, The Best Nesting Boxes For Your Flock.
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