Depending on the type of chickens you own, a nesting box can vary in size. But a common question that chicken owners have—both farmers and backyard homesteaders—is how big a chicken nesting box should be.
How big should a chicken nesting box be? A chicken nesting box should be 12 x 12 x 12 inches (30.48 x 30.48 x 30.48 cm) at minimum, leaving enough room for the chickens to get in and out and be able to move around inside. Additionally, there should be one nesting box for every 4 chickens, with no more than 6 or 7 sharing one box.
When considering building (or buying) a nesting box, many variables are at play, especially if you want to keep your chickens happy and healthy.
This article will review some of the essential points about chicken nesting boxes, including height, nesting box roofs, structure, and maintenance.
How High Should Chicken Nesting Boxes Be?
Chicken nesting boxes need to be high enough for a chicken to move around in. However, they shouldn’t be too big, as they only need to accommodate one chicken at a time, since it is only used to lay eggs.
Chicken nesting boxes should be at least a foot tall (30.48 cm), giving room for the chicken to enter and exit. If you have larger birds, you may want to consider giving more space for them, but don’t make the nesting box any shorter.
There are some instances when this can vary. For example, if you put your chickens in a more homemade nesting box, the height can vary.
An example of this is if you are using a 5-gallon (18.92 L) bucket. This is a frequent substitute for a traditional nesting box, and the size of a standard bucket typically fits the average chicken.
If you do choose to go the DIY route, always make sure that your boxes are safe and secured tightly to wherever you are placing them.
Must Chicken Nesting Boxes Be Off the Ground?
It’s recommended that you build the nesting boxes approximately 2 ft (60.96 cm) off the ground if you want to keep dirt and debris outside. However, there aren’t any set rules on the placement of chicken nesting boxes, and every chicken owner has their preferences.
If you choose to place your chicken’s nesting box on the ground, keep in mind that you will likely have to clean it more often as it won’t remain as clean.
In addition, nesting boxes need to be at least 4 ft (121.92 cm) away from where the chickens are roosting.
Do Chicken Nesting Boxes Need a Roof?
Depending on whether or not you are going the DIY route and are using other containers like a 5-gallon (18.92 L) bucket as a nest, you may wonder if roofs are necessary for chicken nesting boxes.
Chicken nesting boxes need roofs as it would allow too much outside debris to get in without one. This would make cleaning more of a challenge, and it would need to be done more often.
A nesting box without a roof lets rain and snow get in, making everything wet and soiling the bedding. So, unless you want to change the bedding every day, it’s much easier to put a roof on top.
However, the roof does need to be sloped at a 45-degree angle, as when they are flat, you risk having your chickens’ nest on top. This will likely happen if you have newer chickens who aren’t accustomed to the nesting box.
Having the roof slanted will make it too uncomfortable for the chickens to nest, forcing them to do so inside instead of on top.
Structure of Chicken Nesting Boxes
If you don’t yet have a nesting box for your chickens, you may wonder what they look like. The truth is, they can be any shape and color.
Many DIY options are wooden and square, but you can also buy plastic nesting boxes with rounded roofs.
Here are some critical facts about the structure of nesting boxes:
- Chicken nesting boxes must be at least 12 x 12 x 12 inches (30.48 x 30.48 x 30.48 cm). If you have larger chicken varieties, you may want to increase the size of the nesting box even more. This size just acts as a minimum, as anything smaller will be too cramped for your chickens.
- Cedarwood plants should be used for all wooden nesting boxes, as they are naturally weatherproof and resistant to rot. While you can make your box out of anything (even buckets), cedarwood is an excellent alternative to a pressure-treated wood you can get at the store. However, stick with pine shavings for the bedding, as the oil in cedar can be harmful to your chickens.
- There should be a lip at least 3-4 inches (7.62 to 10.16 cm) at the front of the nesting box. Having this lip here prevents both bedding and eggs from falling out of the nesting boxes.
Types of Chicken Nesting Boxes
Depending on the number of chickens you own, the nesting box that you use will vary.
Here are some of the most common types of chicken nesting boxes:
- DIY Designs: Homemade methods such as a 5-gallon bucket or any other container measuring at least 12 x 12 x 12 inches (30.48 x 30.48 x 30.48 cm) can be used for these sorts of designs. These designs should still be secured down in the same way that a standard nesting box would be, and they should still have a lip of some sort to prevent eggs and bedding from falling out.
- Individual Nesting Boxes: These nesting boxes (as well as DIY designs) are optimal if you have around ten chickens and will only need two or three nesting boxes. Both the coop and the nesting boxes will be kept separate.
- Tiered Nesting Boxes: These designs are the most common for those who own many chickens. The design is also space-efficient, allowing many chickens to roost at once. Essentially, this design is just multiple nesting boxes all in a row, stacked on top of each other.
How to Maintain a Chicken Nesting Box?
If you already have a chicken nesting box, you may wonder about proper maintenance, which is critical to not only the life of the structure but the health of your chickens as well.
Here are 3 key facts about the process of maintaining a chicken nesting box:
- Check the box once every day for eggs. If you let eggs accumulate in the nests, your chickens will become “broody” and want to sit on the eggs to incubate them. Chicken broodiness is essential when your chickens believe that there are chicks inside their eggs, making them territorial of the nesting box and the eggs.
- Clean the box regularly. If the boxes go for long periods without being cleaned, the eggs will become filthy. This can also be a significant health risk, as eggs are naturally porous and can accumulate bacteria. By cleaning the nesting box regularly, you can both prevent chicken broodiness and make sure that your eggs stay healthy to eat.
- Replace the nest’s bedding. You should clean and replace the bedding for your chicken’s nesting box at least once a week. For nest cleaning, you can either use a mixture of soap and water or a disinfectant, which you should be able to find at a local feed store.