I see so many different styles of nest boxes being used; everything from milk crates to buckets. Many of them actually encourage hens to use them while others do not. Here are some tips that can help keep your hens content with your nest boxes.
- Hens prefer to lay their eggs in dark areas. To encourage hens to uses your nests place them in the darkest part of your coop.
- Hens are ground nesters not tree nesters. Don't place your nests very high off the coop floor. Nests placed no higher than two feet from the coop floor are about right. This is especially important if you raise larger breeds because it can reduce leg and foot injuries like bumblefoot.
- To enhance your hens feeling of security, nest should be basically solid on all sides with the exception of the fronts. I can remember some of the commercially available metal nest even came with partial curtains installed for this reason.
- Nests can harbor external parasites so make sure you clean them frequently. This includes applying a good pesticides approved for use on poultry. This is especially important DIY wooden nests; caulking the cracks in these type nests will really help in preventing parasites because they don't have a place to hide.
- Don't make you nest boxes too large. You don't want them so large multiple hens can use the nest at the same time. This will lead to dirty or cracked and broken eggs.
- Nest boxes that are roughly 12" x 12" x 12" seem to work well for average size layers. You can adjust the size for bantams or extra large breeds as needed.
The photo above is a good nest box design if you want to use it.