How Many Nest Boxes Do You Need

How Many Nest Boxes Do You Need?

One of the requirements when keeping poultry is a nest box. I started without nest boxes. 

My hens used to lay eggs anywhere they thought was convenient. This led to having soiled eggs since sometimes they would lay them on their droppings. 

Some eggs would disappear under the litter. By the time I discovered them, they were already spoiled. Had I used the next boxes, I would have had cleaner eggs and not suffered the loss of spoilt eggs. 

What is a Nesting Box?

A nesting box, also known as a nest box is a set enclosed space where hens can lay eggs.  It provides privacy and a feeling of safety while the chicken is laying eggs. 

Nestboxes offer an isolated place to lay eggs, away from the other chickens. They are usually darkened to provide privacy. Some poultry keepers go to the extent of having curtains in order to provide additional privacy to their chickens. 

Why do Chickens Need a Nesting Box? 

Chickens need a place to lay eggs. They need to feel safe while laying and also they need to know that their eggs will be safe after they are laid. 

This is because laying eggs is part of the reproductive process and chickens need to feel that their offspring will be safe. 

The maternal instinct is an innate feeling where chickens feel the need to get offspring. Eggs are the first step in this process. Knowing that the eggs will not be taken away by predators assures give some sort of peace to hens. 

At the beginning of my chicken-keeping journey, I used to free-range the chickens. When a hen got to the time for laying, the rooster would walk around, with the hen following behind. The rooster would go scratching at different areas, trying to find the best place for the hen to lay her eggs. This was before I got nesting boxes. 

How Many Nest Boxes Do You Need Per Chicken.

For a new poultry keeper, I thought each chicken would need a nesting box. I faced an issue with space. I had a small coop and could not fit many nesting boxes in there. 

My mind was eased when a friend told me that I did not need a nest box for each hen. 

How Many Nest Boxes Do You Need?

Chickens need one nest box for every three to four chickens. Some poultry keepers have five to six nesting boxes per chicken. The reason for not having one box per chicken is that chickens do not lay at the same time. They lay at different times and one next box can be used by four chickens in a day. 

Hens also do not lay every day as eggs take 24 to 27 hours to develop. This means it is safe to have fewer nest boxes than the number of chickens, as they will not always lay every day. 

I have had situations where chickens were waiting in line at the nest box. When one hen gets out another gets in. Once in a while, I have seen their chickens trying to squeeze in one nesting box. 

The rule of thumb is to have enough nesting boxes. Having few will lead to injuries and broken eggs. 

Number of Nesting Boxes Chart

Let us look at how to determine how many nesting boxes you need for your chickens. How many nesting boxes do you need for 100 chickens? How many do you need for 15 chickens?

To get the number that will work for you, we need to use a standard ratio of next boxes to chickens. The recommended number is one nestbox for every four chickens. 

Using this number, we can easily calculate the number of nesting boxes for 100 chickens. We simply divide the total number of chickens by 4. This gives us 20 nesting boxes. 

What about 25 chickens? Or 15 chickens? 25 divided by 4 gives us 6.25 next boxes. 15 divided by 4 gives us 3.75. 

If you find yourself in such a situation when trying to determine how many nest boxes you need, the best course of action is to round up the next number. This will make sure that the nest boxes are enough. 

In the above example, 25 chickens will need 7 next boxes and 15 chickens will need 5 next boxes. 

Depending on your setup you can decide to use one nest box for every 6 chickens. If this works for you, you will need fewer nest boxes than when using the ratio of one nest box for every hen. 

The chart below shows how many nest boxes you will need for a specific number of chickens. It incorporates one box to four hens ratio and one box to six hens ratio.

Number of ChickensNumber of Nest Boxes (Ratio of one box to 4 hens)Number of Nest Boxes (Ratio of one box to 6 hens)
1 chicken1 nest box1 nest box
2 chickens1 nest box1 nest box
3 chickens1 nest box1 nest box
4 chickens1 nest box1 nest box
5 chickens2 nest boxes1 nest box
8 chickens2 nest boxes2 nest box
10 chickens3 nest boxes2 nest box
12 chickens3 nest boxes2 nest box
15 chickens5 nest boxes3 nest box
20 chickens5 nest boxes4 nest box
25 chickens7 nest boxes5 nest box
50 chickens13 nest boxes10 nest box
100 chickens25 next boxes17 nest box
Sample chart showing how many nesting boxes are needed for a specific number of chickens. The chart uses the ratio of one nest box for every four chickens and one nest box to six hens

How to Tell When You Need More Nest Boxes. 

You might calculate right and get the right number of nesting boxes needed for your flock. While the numbers might be right, flock dynamics might be different. You will need to observe your flock to be able to tell if the nesting boxes are enough. 

Signs that you need additional nest boxes include stressed-out hens, regular fighting, fewer eggs, small eggs, and hens squeezing in one nest box. 

Stressed out hens

Hens that do not have enough nesting boxes will appear stressed. Instead of getting in the nestbox when it is time to lay eggs, they will move around the coop, looking for an alternative area to lay their eggs. 

This will happen, even when there is a nest box that is free. When you notice that your chickens are behaving this way, chances are that you do not have enough nest boxes. That hen is not used to laying in a nestbox since it is occupied most of the time. 

Regular Fighting

Hens will fight for various reasons. Hens might fight because of fewer feeding stations, fewer watering stations, or an unresolved pecking order. These are easy to fix. 

If you have done everything to make your hens comfortable but they still fight, the reason might be that you have fewer nesting boxes. Add extra nesting boxes in the recommended location and see if your hens will still be fighting. 

Fewer eggs

Hens that do not have enough nesting boxes will be stressed. Stressed hens will not be productive. This means their bodies will not be comfortable producing eggs at optimal levels. 

After all, why produce many eggs and you do not have a comfortable place to lay them? 

Small eggs

Another after-effect of stressed-out hens due to few nesting boxes is smaller eggs. Just like the situation where they lay fewer eggs, stressed-out hens will also lay smaller eggs. 

Hens squeezing in the available nest boxes. 

The most tell-tale sign that you need additional nest boxes is when two or more hens squeeze in one next box. If all the nest boxes are full and hens are squeezing in some of them, then you need to get more nest boxes. 

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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