Don’t you think that one of the most delightful sights for a chicken enthusiast is that of a hen determinedly heading towards a nesting box, and shuffling down into a comfortable position?
She might, of course, be just about to lay an egg or, if she’s a broody, to settle back down into quietly incubating a clutch of eggs. The requirements for the chicken nesting boxes for these two hens are very different.
The focus for this article is the nesting box which will form the home for a broody hen and her clutch of fertile eggs for about 3 weeks or so. But first a few words about nest boxes for laying hens.
Chicken Nesting Boxes For Laying Hens
Obviously there are a huge number of design variations for these boxes. For example, nesting boxes can be fixed on the inside or the outside of the coop, they can be movable or fixed, and so on.
In fact chicken nesting boxes need to be considered as an integral part of the design and function of the shed. As a guide, a chicken coop needs one nest box for every four hens.
Get this wrong and you make a rod for your own back. Get it right and you reduce the chances of getting dirty or damaged eggs, or even of egg pecking.
You can also make your daily life so much easier! Having to walk through a shed which is one foot shorter than you are to collect eggs is no fun!
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Chicken Nesting Boxes For Sitting Broody Hens
Your objective is to set up your broody to be safe from predators and vermin, protected from the weather, in a shady location away from all possible disturbances and dangers, and (of course) to be comfortable!
Well she is a ‘pregnant’ mum who’s going to be sitting tight most of the time for at least 3 weeks!
The construction of the nesting box itself should be about 15-18” square.
Any box about this size can be adapted to the job but it is better to make them up from scratch as the result is much easier to use when you’re dealing with a broody every day.
Ideally chicken nesting boxes will have no bottom, have a hinged or removable door on the front above a 4” threshold (to keep the nesting material in place), a sloping roof to reject the rain, and ventilation holes above the door.
It is also very helpful to have a removable or hinging roof as this lets you easily lift the broody up and out of the nest for her daily exercise period.
It is also well worth installing positive catches (hasps and staples for example) on any movable panels.
You wouldn’t want to come back to your broody box a day later to find that a door had been jiggled open and the hen had disappeared leaving behind just a few feathers and some stone cold eggs!
Nest Building Inside Chicken Nesting Boxes
The nest should, if possible, be set upon damp ground, as the moisture drawn up by the heat of the hen’s body is important to the incubation process.
If this is not viable, the next best plan is to use some freshly dug and sifted damp earth within your broody box at it’s chosen location. Alternatively a freshly dug and upturned turf can be used.
A touch of dampness about the nest is decidedly better than a very dry atmosphere.
The floor area within chicken nesting boxes should be slightly dished and then covered over with nesting material to a depth of about an inch.
Soft straw (well twisted and broken by hand) or hay makes the best nesting material.
Take care that you form a nest that is not too deep as this can result in eggs piling up in the centre. They will not then get enough heat to incubate properly and eggs can even get broken.
Locating Your Broody Nesting Boxes
Remember that your broodies will need to be fed, watered and exercised at much the same time every day and whatever the weather.
And that’s why locating the broody chicken nesting boxes close to your house and next to a confined and sheltered exercise area, can really make life easier for you.
A covered or part-covered area is also a major advantage on wet and windy days.
Once your broody is installed in her nesting box and with her clutch of eggs, you will be beyond the point of no return. You will not be able to change your set up without risking the loss of all your embryonic chicks.
So just image “What if’…….?” How would you cope? Could a minor change to your setup completely eliminate a potential problem?
Here are some “What if’s…..?” to get you started
- What if you have exceptionally heavy rain – will the nest flood?
- What if the broody gets caught up in that fencing wire in the corner of the pen.
- What if a visiting friend’s dog runs through the gap at the side of the barn and chases the broody?
- What if a very strong wind blows unusually from the east and straight onto the front of the nest box and under its’ overhanging roof.