Coop Improvement: Nesting Box Failures and Successes

The nesting box is a pretty important part of the coop – it’s where the chickens, hopefully, lay their eggs. Our nesting box has seen a couple of modification lately. One worked. One really didn’t.

Let’s start with the failure, shall we?

Fail! Using Shredded Paper For Nesting Box Material

In an effort to turn more of our waste stream into something useful I had this idea that I could use shredded junk paper for liner box material.

Looks great, right?

Well, it didn’t work. As one reader warned, the shredded paper stuck to the eggs. Did you know that when an egg is freshly laid it’s covered with a wet “bloom” that dries almost instantly and protects the egg interior from contamination? Well, if in that instant the egg is laid onto printed paper, the ink will transfer to the egg and the paper strips will stick to the shell.

This in itself wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker for us, because we aren’t selling our eggs or anything, and a little confetti with our breakfast is kinda fun, in some ways.

The bigger issue was the weight of the shredded paper. It was just too light. The chickens, in attempting to make a nice little nest for themselves, kick and turn the nesting box liner material into a bowl shape (you know, like a nest…). When they did this with the shredded paper, it just flew everywhere. The vast majority of it flew out of the nesting boxes entirely and left the chickens laying eggs on the wooden floor of the nesting box.

The shredded paper also had a tendency to migrate everywhere…it would blow out of the coop when I let the chickens out and little pieces of it would drift onto the white currant bushes. Pretty soon the area around the coop looked like it had been TP’d by disrespectful little 2-inch tall fairies.

If the lip of our nesting box was several inches taller this problem could have been mitigated. I thought about yet more coop tweaks but in the end swapped the nesting box material back to straw and didn’t look back.

Success! Built-in Storage for Extra Nesting Box Material

About a month ago we had some problems with a few of our chickens being total bitches picking on one of their sisters. I modified one of the never-used nesting boxes (they have three but only ever use one) to hold the picked-on hen in isolation while she healed.

(Read more about the Solitary Confinement nesting box conversion.)

It was a simple thing to smack some screen up on the front of one of the nesting boxes, and it did keep the injured chicken isolated, but I felt far too guilty keeping a hen in that small a space for longer than a few hours, so we quickly abandoned the confinement box idea.

Some days later I was gathering eggs and realized that the blocked-off nesting box would make an excellent place to store back-up liner material for the nesting boxes. Periodically, because the chickens kick enough straw out the nesting boxes to reveal the bottom, or because an egg gets broken in the box or the liner material becomes poopy, nesting material needs to be replaced or topped-up.

So, from the outside, egg-hatch side of the nesting boxes, I shoved the blocked-off nesting box full of straw.

The mesh at the front keeps the back-up straw in place and keeps chickens from soiling it.

It is ever-so-easy to grab a handfull of straw to top-up the nesting box liner material when it is right there at the ready. When I’m harvesting eggs I just open up the egg-hatch, grab a little extra straw if needed, and move it to the nesting box. Because it is so simple and convenient to keep the nesting material clean, dry and plentiful, the eggs stay a lot cleaner.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the follow-up on the shredded paper. This was s0mething I was considering, as just like every other identity theft fearing American, it’s a material we have in abundance.

  2. It’s so funny how they have their favorites. I have three boxes and they all refuse to use the middle box. Except at night when they pile into it and poop everywhere. :/

  3. “Pretty soon the area around the coop looked like it had been TP’d by disrespectful little 2-inch tall fairies.” Thank you for starting my morning with a laugh. :-)

    • Mary W. says:

      That phrase was the best part! (besides the handy info, of course). Thanks for being a writer instead of just sharing information. :)

  4. I put my shreds into the compost. I like using straw too, but where does one store a whole bale of the stuff? I can see your bin being a great idea for small quantities, but I’ve always got a whole bale sitting here and one small bin is woefully inadequate for a bale. When you mentioned using the nest box it got me to thinking that perhaps a shelf could be installed in the coop right above the tops of the nest boxes and I could hoist the bale of straw up there. I’ve tried using wood shavings instead only because it comes neatly packaged in plastic and I can store it in the garage.

    I’m curious to hear how others store their bales of straw.

    • Tanaya Ropp says:

      I used to keep my bale of straw in a wheelbarrow and covered it to keep it dry.

    • We use wood shavings for the coop and run floors, but baled grass for the nest boxes. I find the shavings are much more prone to stick to the eggs (it comes off easily enough, but I still don’t want to have to deal with that for every egg). We just rearranged the area outside our coop and we’re giving storing the nesting material bale on a pallet a try. This way it’s off the ground, has good air flow, and when our rainy season comes back around I can throw a tarp over it.

  5. Tanaya Ropp says:

    I use shredded paper and haven’t had any problems. I’ll look to see if the lip on ours is higher. I crumple it all together before I put it in. Is your cross cut?

  6. Deborah Joy says:

    I, too, loved the line (and DID laugh audibly) about the disrespectful fairies! It created a wonderful picture in my mind’s eye.
    Thanks for all of the coop tweak info. I don’t have chickens yet, but hope to – and all of the tips are very helpful. LOVE your blog!

  7. Lindsey says:

    I mix shredded paper in with straw and it works great, but I do have a good lip on the nesting box that tends to keep things in better.

  8. We use wood shavings as the nest box material. At one stage I thought it would be a great idea to put newspaper underneath to make it easier to clean, but the chickens ended up kicking all the nesting material out of the box when they scratched around to make a nest. Now I use a layer of lime and diatomeceous earth, followed by wood shavings. Unfortunately some of our hens insist on sleeping in the nest boxes, so we have to clean them more frequently than I’d like. The alternative is to block them off at night, but I can’t be bothered doing that EVERY night!

    • dixiebelle says:

      Liz, we noticed ours are now sleeping on top of each other in the nesting box too, maybe for the warmth, or maybe because our broody hen, Princess Layer, is hogging it all day & night!

  9. I’ve discovered that if I leave golf balls in their boxes, they don’t kick out nearly as much hay. Thought i’d mention it in case it helps anyone else.

  10. Luella says:

    We use pine shavings in our nest boxes and on the floor of the coop also ,smells so nice and eggs are kept clean,We periodically just change pine shaving in nesting boxes clean coop twice a year once in while 3 times a year chicken seem to love the shavings ..And makes for nice smelling coop

  11. I was wondering how it was going with the paper shreds. My girls get so mucky running around the yard that I was not sure it would work for us. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  12. dixiebelle says:

    You’re so darn clever aren’t you! I love your nest boxes. Ours are wood boxes in the ‘nesting/ roosting’ area of the chicken tractor. They all like the same one, those crazy chooks!

  13. This is a good read! Our new chickens are nowhere near egg laying age, but we’ve been rather unhappy with the nesting boxes on our coop and are trying to figure out what to do with them (AND what to use as bedding for the nesting boxes). It’s good to see what other folks are up to.

  14. I thought about using shredded paper in the nesting boxes but I found it is better used in my worm bin (where it works really, really well). And I love the pixie line!

  15. Lol it’s interesting to see people to use shredded junk paper in brooder box. Nice try Erica! Congratulations on your success :).

  16. Wow, thanks for all the info. I have been reading a lot of website info and this is one of the most informative. I just got my ratproof chicken feeder from “thecarpentershop.net” and am just starting so this info will help me not make the mistakes that you have show here.

  17. Thank you for sharing your ideas and lessons learned from building nesting boxes. There was a time when we find the hens not wanting to use their nesting boxes and look for other places outside the coop. The trick we learned is to keep the nesting boxes appealing and comfortable, we solved this by providing for thick fluffy layers of shavings or straw. It might help also to keep chickens inside coop until mid morning-hens lay eggs early in the morning so we can be sure that egg laying is done before they went out of the coop. Though I have yet to prove this someone suggested to put a fake”ceramic egg” or a golf ball in the nesting boxes to let the hens know that the nesting boxes is the place to lay eggs.

    • The golf balls in the nests stops a chicken from pecking holes in the eggs and eating them. A couple of pecks on a hard golf ball teaches them not to peck at the eggs. I don’t care what we have tried to put in the nesting boxed the hens will destroy it or kick it all over the coop.

  18. Cheryl Morgan says:

    When I find I have too many eggs, and the neighbors are locking their doors when they see me coming, I take the oldest eggs and put them in the blender, shells and all. I whir them around for a couple of minutes, pour them into a hot frying pan and cook them. After cooling, I feed them back to the chickens. They love them. I can remember my mother feeding her hens the egg shells, saying that it helped them make shells. I have no trouble with my chickens eating their eggs. That’s my job.

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