Nesting Boxes

Chickens lay eggs in nesting boxes. At least they should. Some hens lay eggs on the ground. Some, especially free-ranged birds, hide their eggs in all sorts of odd places, but most hens simply want a safe cubbyhole to lay their egg in, and then go back to their day’s work of eating, bathing, and scratching.

Nesting boxes can be homemade or store-bought, made of sheet metal, plastic or wood. As a rule of thumb, you need a nesting box for every three hens. This is in theory. I have six nesting boxes for the seven hens that live in the HenCam coop. They are the right size – about a foot square. They have roosts in front so the chickens can get easily in and out. They are all bedded with the same shavings. But, this is what happens:

Lulu and Coco are broody. They are huffy. They are in bad moods. They both want the same real estate.

This is what happens when I take Lulu out and try to get her to think about going in different nesting box.

Notice the dramatic body language. She is making staccato clucking sounds. She is trying to stare down little Betsy. (Betsy will win this round. In the coop, it’s not always size that matters. Sometimes it’s attitude.)

Meanwhile, Tina would like to lay her egg. She didn’t lay one yesterday – I think she was too intimidated by the angry broody girls. There’s an empty nesting box on the left, and three down below. But she wants the middle one. She’s thinking through whether it’s worth going for. She ultimately, and with great resignation, decides to sit in the left box.

Tina doesn’t even consider laying an egg in the bottom boxes. It’s too sunny. A nesting box should be slightly dark and safe. Only the clueless hens lay in the blue boxes.

Getting back to that rule of thumb about one box for every three hens – if you have only three hens, and two are broody, and you have only one nest, well, you can see how that won’t work. So, the revised suggestion is one box for three hens IF you have a large flock. But, if you have only a few birds, and those are heritage breeds which are likely to go broody, then have three nesting boxes per five hens. And don’t site the boxes in the morning sun.


  1. I also raise chickens and it is not unusual for me to find 3 hens trying to lay eggs in the same box, even though I have 1 box for every 3 hens. They definately have their favorite box, and I have found as many as 13 eggs in one box.

    They are funny creatures!

  2. I have 26 hens. I have a 6 hole nest box and two large community nest boxes I made myself. The community nest boxes are 4 feet long by 18 inches high and open on both ends.
    It is not uncommon to find 10 or so eggs in one box, just like Joyce. One day one community box is the favorite the next day it maybe a single nest and the next day the other community nest. I wonder if they switch it up because the previous day some “predator” got their eggs?

  3. My hens only get slightly broody. Just enough that egg productions drops dramatically. I didn’t collect eggs for a couple of days. Then out of thirteen eggs I collected from 17 hens, I got ten from one box. I have eight boxes for 17 hens, but they rarely even use the bottom four. Mine are like yours. Only the young clueless ones do.

  4. I hate it when I’ve got a broody hen setting on eggs and all the other hens climb in with her and add their eggs to her clutch! Why can’t they put them in an empty box. Now, the broody’s got eggs with all different hatch dates. She could be setting for months!


    Silly girls!

  5. I’ve noticed two hens squeezed into one box on your cam before. Glad to hear the explanation. Your girls are so entertaining. I love them!

  6. What do you do about your broody hens…how long are they broody? I have one hen that is broody…this is the first time I have had to deal with a broody hen. I took her out for a few days…trying to get her to “snap” out of it…it didn’t work.

  7. Good Buff has been broody again, and two days in the crate has cured her, but in the first few days of nestbox grumpiness she seemed to have a profound effect. Dora and Pixie stopped laying. I was quite worried until this evening on shutting them in I found a clutch of eight eggs tucked under the golden Hop that grows over their run! Always worth looking around in hidey holes if you have a broody and non-layers simultaneously…

  8. The henhouse drama is so amusing – it’s like a 5th grade slumber party most days! My two dear girls–Georgie, who lays with some regularity, and Blossom, who “tries” with rare successes–have 4 boxes between them, and daily argue over who gets the one on the top right. Our pushy broad(Georgie) will holler to beat the band is Blossom is enjoying her alone time. You can almost hear Blossom sigh as she jumps out of the nest to let Georgie have her way. What would we do without our chickens!!! (don’t ask my husband…he has a ready answer!)

  9. The best way I have found to cure a broody hen is off to jail… I have a wire cage with a wire bottom suspended approximately three feet off the floor of the coop. I put broody’s in there for about a week. Remember the food and water ;-) It works 95% of the time. I’ve been told it’s the fact that the wire bottom (off the ground) cools them down and snaps them out of it. Don’t know for sure the reason why except that it works for me most of the time.

  10. i’m still learning about chickens and eventually want to get my own hens. What does a broody chicken do that they need to be snapped out of it?

  11. I use the same method Ken uses to cure my broodies. The breeze from under the cage cools them down. Last year I tried walking around the yard with my broodie buff oppington while checking out the gardens as I was told this would work. But ended up caging her.