Trying to figure out how many nest boxes per chicken you need? Most backyard chicken experts agree that you should have at least one nesting box per 4-5 hens. This is subject to the approval of your hens, however. It’s possible you might need more if any issues arise.
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Why Might You Need More Nesting Boxes?
The reason the number of hens per box is 4-5 - and indeed I’ve seen it said that as few as 3 or as many as 7 per box - is because it depends on the type of hens sharing the boxes and some other factors.
If all your chickens are laying daily, for example, you may need more boxes. Especially if you have a breed laying large eggs.
The last thing you want is for their boxes to become crowded or there to be too many eggs. If an egg breaks, there’s a risk that one or more hens can eat their own eggs.
If an egg accidentally breaks, chickens will often eat them. It’s a natural reaction, and something chickens do in the wild as a way of hiding the evidence so the smell doesn’t attract predators.
Don’t rule out the personality of an individual hen or the breed of a hen causing a problem either. Some hens can become very territorial over their nesting box.
If you are unlucky enough to have a flock of picky hens, you might need to increase the number of boxes to stop the conflict.
Potential Problems If You Have Too Few Nesting Boxes
If you have too few boxes for your hens, you risk running into some serious problems inside your coop.
If one or more hens feel like they don’t have a box they’re happy with, they can become stressed. Stressed chickens can become ill, they might stop eating and drinking, and will stop laying eggs.
It can be difficult helping a hen recover from stress. You should always do everything you can to prevent stress, and the first thing is making sure your chicks have good living conditions.
It can also cause fights between hens. Which, if you’ve witnessed hens fighting, it’s not nice to see. Especially if you’re not around to break them up and make sure they don’t hurt each other.
Then there are problems associated with laying eggs. Not only will your hens be laying less if they feel overcrowded and stressed, but they are more likely to break their eggs and lay smaller eggs.
The bottom line is that there will be unrest in the coop. That’s not what you want, you want a happy, stress-free coop of healthy hens with plenty of room to roam, socialize, and lay.
What To Put in Chicken Nesting Boxes?
There are a number of materials you can use to line a nesting box. Some people like using cedar shavings as it’s nice and soft and easy to clean. Pine shavings are very similar and are better at masking odors.
Any kind of shavings will do, even shredded paper or grass clippings if you’re on a budget. The key is to lay the bedding deep enough and in a formation so that it will cradle the egg without letting it roll out.
If you’re kitting out a new backyard coop, start off by providing the average number of nesting boxes for your chickens - 4-5 boxes per chicken.
Make sure you pad them out with plenty of soft bedding, collect the eggs every morning, and keep them nice and clean. This way, you minimize the risk of running into problems.
As I detailed above, however, there is always a chance that your hens will demand more nesting space. Keep an eye out and spot these signs early, introduce an extra box, and see if it resolves the problem.
If you’ve been experiencing some issues within your flock and have had too few or too many boxes, hopefully, you know now what you need to do.
Here’s to happy hens, a happy coop, and plenty of tasty free-range eggs for the family!
Frequently Asked Nest Box-Related Questions:
How Many Nesting Boxes Do I Need for 4 Chickens?
Based on the simple math of needing one nesting box per 4-5 hens as I explained above, you’ll need at least 1 box. If you only have 4 hens and plenty of room though, you could give them two.
How Many Nesting Boxes Do I Need for 20 Chickens?
The guidelines scale up the same regardless of how many chickens you have. This means, for 20 chickens you should have 4-5 nest boxes.
Number of Chickens per Nesting Box Chart
For easy reference, here is a chart showing you the approximate number of nest boxes per number of hens in your flock.
|Number of Hens
|Number of Nesting Boxes
Is It Ok for Chickens to Sleep in Their Nest Box?
It’s not OK for chickens to sleep in their nest box, no.
At least, you should try and discourage it for a number of reasons. First of all, chickens poop a lot while they’re sleeping, and the last place you want all that mess is in their box.
Related content - How do chickens sleep?
Chickens should roost for the night on a roosting bar. If you don’t yet have one, you should get one. If they’re not using it, you need to find out why.
Giving your chooks a dedicated bar and space to roost overnight is going to make them a lot happier. And, more importantly, it'll make cleaning up a lot easier for you.
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