Nesting box curtains have been around for a very long time. Farmers would hang burlap or feed bags over the front of their hens’ boxes; present-day backyard chicken keepers often get more fancy, using attractive fabrics and adding ruffles, tiebacks, and other detailing. But why? Is there a reason for the curtains, or are they merely for aesthetic purposes?
Nesting box curtains actually can serve several important functions in your coop:
1) Curtains provide a more private, secluded spot for your chickens to lay their eggs. Chickens naturally gravitate to a dark spot where predators won’t find the eggs.
2) Curtains can encourage a broody for the same reason – you’re providing a safe, hidden spot to sit on her eggs and hatch chicks.
3) On the flip side, curtains can help discourage multiple broodies, since the instinct to go broody is often triggered by seeing another hen sitting on a nest. Blocking the view of one broody prevents the hormone to sit being aroused in other hens.
5) Curtains can also help prevent vent pecking, a fairly rare, albeit serious, occurrence, whereby other hens will be attracted to a laying hen’s extended reddened vent as she lays her egg and peck at it — sometimes leading to death, if not serious injury.
6) Curtains help retain heat in the nesting boxes helping both to prevent cracked or frozen chicken eggs and to retain a broody’s body heat if she’s setting eggs in the colder months, thereby making it easier for her to keep the eggs (and eventually the chicks) warm.
7) Curtains are pretty. I love changing mine out with the seasons and if that were the only reason for them, I would still hang them! But it’s comforting to know that the curtains are serving so many useful purposes.
If you decide to hang some curtains in your coop over your nesting boxes, here are some tips:
1) Use a natural (i.e. cotton, wool, burlap, muslin) fabric in case your chickens get the urge to try and eat them.
2) Be sure the fabric won’t ravel or shed strings that can get caught in the crop and lead to impaction or choking.
3) The best bedding for chickens in this case, is a non-dusty choice, such as straw, will keep your curtains cleaner than using shavings (or sawdust or sand which should not be used in a coop as bedding anyway).
4) Sew, staple, hang a curtain rod …. there are lots of ways to construct and hang your curtains.
5) Start by hanging curtains over just a few boxes to let your chickens get used to them slowly.
6) Scout out cute (and inexpensive) fabric, curtains or sheets at a thrift shop. Then you won’t feel bad tossing the curtains out once they get dirty and need to be changed out, although I admit to having laundered mine and rehanging them!
For a bit more information about nesting box curtains and to see some of the curtains I’ve hung over the years, click HERE.
Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.