If your chickens are sleeping in their nesting boxes, you need to do something to put a stop to this. Chickens should naturally roost up high when sleeping. Sleeping in their nesting box means they’re going to poop in them, on their eggs, and possibly damage their eggs.
Why Chickens Shouldn't Sleep in Their Nesting Boxes
You want your chickens to feel comfortable using their boxes to lay eggs. But not comfortable enough to sleep in them.
For most people (and chickens) this isn’t usually a problem. But there are times when hens will start sleeping in their boxes, and this is a habit you need to break sooner rather than later.
They will end up pooping in their boxes, and chickens can poop a LOT while they’re sleeping. Just look under their roosting bar (if they use one) if you need reminding.
This means you need to clean their boxes out more often, it may attract parasites and bacteria, and it’s not nice collecting eggs with chicken poop on, is it?
There is also an increased risk of a hen breaking an egg in their nesting box. This may lead to them getting a taste for their own eggs, or some other predators getting a taste for entering their coop and stealing eggs.
There really aren't any upsides to chickens sleeping in their boxes, it’s all downsides. Which is why I wrote up this post with a few tips to help you change this behavior:
5 Ways To Stop Your Hens Sleeping in Their Nesting Boxes
Block Their Access Overnight
This sounds like an obvious solution, and maybe it is - but it’s necessary sometimes. You can’t trust some hens, even if they’re on their roosting bar when you close the door.
Place something in the way so they can’t access their box and they’ll find somewhere else to sleep. Hopefully their bar, that’s the next hurdle.
Move/Add Another Roosting Bar
If your chickens are not using their bar, it’s possible there is something about the location that’s not sitting right with them.
It might need to be a lot higher than their nests. Or, it might be too high for some of your flock. A bit of trial and error is required to figure it out.
Encourage Them onto Their Roosting Bar
Sometimes, stubborn hens just need a little bit of encouragement. Don't be afraid to get in there and place them up on their roosting bar when it's time to sleep.
This method requires a little bit of patience, but I know someone personally who resolved this issue over a couple of weeks doing this.
Have an Older Hen Show Them the Ropes
If you don’t or can’t get hands-on with the training, you can use an experienced hen to show them how to be a chicken.
An experienced hen that roosts on a bar overnight, especially if she's higher up the pecking order, will encourage the other hens to do the same.
Check for Parasites and Lice
Try and go in when it's dark or night-time as this is when they are most likely to be present. Wipe down the roosting bar and surrounding areas and use a safe and effective parasite killing solution like diatomaceous earth.
Where Should Chickens Sleep at Night?
In case you’re reading this out of interest and don’t actually keep chickens, chickens like to “roost” at night and sleep on a roosting bar.
Their bar should be at least 8-10 inches off the ground. Unless you have a small breed like bantams or silkies, or very young chicks.
In the wild, chickens take to the trees to sleep as it’s the safest place. Not only does it help them avoid predators that would take the opportunity to eat them, but it also keeps them further away from annoying parasites.
It’s also assumed they sleep on a branch so they don’t end up sitting or lying in their own poop. Because, as I mentioned earlier, chickens poop a lot overnight.
So, as you can see, all the reasons why chickens sleep on roosting bars are all the reasons why they shouldn't be sleeping in their nesting boxes.
Check Your Hen Isn't Broody First!
Something that often takes people by surprise, especially if you've never had a broody hen before, is that the reason may be exactly that - your hen is broody.
As she lays eggs in her box and that’s where they are, she may start spending more time in her box sitting on them.
I know what some of you are thinking, you don't have a rooster so why would a hen be trying to hatch some eggs?
Chickens don't know whether their eggs are fertilized or not. They are equally as likely to try and incubate them.
If they're not fertilized a hen will still sit on them for weeks, so it’s better you remove her from the flock and do something to break the broodiness.
You can’t just retrain her to use the bar when she’s broody. You’ll need to remove her and give her some time to get back to “normal”.
It’s natural for chickens to want to sleep up high on a perch or roosting bar. There will almost always be a reason why they’re choosing a box over their bar, it’s just a matter of finding out why.
In addition to the above solutions, you may find the reason is that they’re too hot (or cold) in their bar, they’re being bullied, or there might not be enough room for them.
Start testing different things and see how your girls react.