Top 10 Chicken Nesting Boxes

Tips on Nest Box Design and the Best Bedding for Chickens


By Joy E. Cressler – Finding ways to cut costs on the farm by making or designating items for poultry farming can boost the family budget—or at least not tap it for new items.

As more people turn to raising chickens for eggs or meat, most of them want to save money in keeping with their desire for self-sustaining living. One option is to upcycle materials from around the farm into chicken nesting boxes.

Purpose of Chicken Nesting Boxes

The basic purpose of chicken nesting boxes is to encourage hens to lay their eggs in a clean cubicle in relative peace and privacy. A properly built nest assures that eggs are kept in a good environment for collection or hatching. Chickens are not particular about where they lay their eggs; however, a suitable nest box in which to lay eggs can make things flow more smoothly around the farm. No one wants to hunt for eggs, except perhaps at Easter!

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Best Materials

Nest box construction can be pretty basic or more elaborate, depending on your creativity, available materials, and finances. The best materials from which to make chicken nests are those that are easy to clean and sterilize. For example, metal and plastic can be sanitized, bleached and scrubbed. In addition, these materials don’t absorb chicken feces or the product you use to clean them. Conversely, wooden boxes are convenient and easy to fabricate, but a little more tricky to clean.

How Many Hens per Nesting Box?

Most chicken experts recommend an average of one nesting space per five birds. Others say no more than one nest per 3-4 birds, which is more in keeping with the Five Freedoms guidance that promotes proper animal welfare. On the other end of the scale, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advises a ratio of one nesting box to seven hens. Overall, the minimum standards suggest not over-burdening chicken nesting boxes.

Lining Nests

Chicken nesting boxes can be lined with wood shavings, sawdust or even shredded paper. You can also use grass clippings as long as your lawn wasn’t chemically treated. Many commercial supply houses, farm and feed stores offer rubber mats that fit in the bottom of chicken nesting boxes. They cost about $5 each but are likely to last a long time and are easy to clean.

Many experts discourage poultry enthusiasts from using hay, as it can become moldy and detrimental to the chicken’s health. But any nest liner can fall into that category. Straw and hay can be used if nests are cleaned often, about every 4-6 weeks.

One word of interest: Chickens often rotate, even from day to day. A fairly thick nest lining seems to please the hens more than sparsely furnished nests.

How to Keep Other Hens & Predators Out

Nests should be designed or placed within the chicken house so they can be accessed easily for egg gathering and periodic cleaning. Poultry experts advise chicken keepers not to let chickens lay eggs outside on the ground. There is a thin coating on eggs when they are laid that helps protect the egg against bacteria, should the hen decide it’s time to sit on them to hatch. This thin layer is detectable by predators and eggs laid on the ground will not be safe.

Inside the chicken house, other hens will be less interested in soiling nests if the nests are placed in the darkest parts of the building away from the flock activity outside. A piece of burlap over the front of the nest is also an effective barrier. Discourage your chickens from doing anything but laying eggs in their chicken nests by shooing them out when you notice they’re loitering.

Ideas for Making Chicken Nesting Boxes


This rusty receptacle filled with straw makes a nice nest, especially for setting hens, but other chickens may choose to roost on the edge of the washtub. Another idea is to upend the washtub and fasten a board across the front, even securing a piece of burlap across the top opening for privacy, perhaps with baling wire or screws and bolts.

Look around your property, you may be surprised by what you have laying about that would make an ideal and inexpensive nesting box. Nests need not be expensive and can often be provided for free or at minimal cost. Providing a nest doesn’t have to involve carpentry skills or even the time to build nests from scratch.

Following are a few suggestions for providing chicken nests. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but should get the thoughts flowing:

1. Covered or uncovered cat litter boxes

2. An open-topped ceramic cask or vat pushed on its side

3. Whiskey and wine barrels or 55-gallon drums cut in half and stood on edge

4. 5-gallon buckets obtained from restaurants or other sources

5. Shallow plastic trash cans, sufficiently large enough for comfort

6. Plastic milk and soda crates

7. Wooden crates of suitable sizes (may be difficult to clean)

8. An inexpensive plastic salad bowl from a dollar store with one side cut out.

9. Pet carriers (can often be picked up at flea markets and yard sales)

10. Anything else where chickens can gain easy access, be safe and clean.


This antique dairy cooler provided sturdy and snazzy nest box accommodations.


We divided this old apple crate in half with a piece of wood, filled it with straw and created nests for two happy hens.


A single or double sized milk or soda crate stands in nicely for a makeshift nest when one can be secured or found around the farm. You can place the sturdy milk crate filled with straw in the henhouse.


By placing a 4-inch tall board across the front and making sure it squares with the bottom edge of the bucket, the nest is steadied so it doesn’t roll when a hen tries to enter.


This popcorn can was modified to create a private banty nest where the little layers can feel comfortable laying their tiny eggs.


Here, we used a hospital tub, but a plastic cat litter pan or dollar store salad bowl could be used. Just cut a small opening in the side, fill with straw and place in a secure place where tipping won’t be a problem.


Making a Homemade Chicken Nesting Box

Chickens are most comfortable with a nest size that easily accommodates and generally conforms to their own body size. The dimensions of a chicken nest don’t have to be exact, but a good rule of thumb is that it’s better for a nest to be too large than too small.

General guidelines for making a homemade nest box:

    • Should be about a foot deep, wide and tall for standard breeds and 10″ high by 12″ wide and 10″ deep for bantams. Larger standard breeds like New Hampshires and Jersey Black Giants need nests that are 12″ wide by 14″ high by 12″ deep.
  • Have an opening about a foot high in front for hens to enter.
  • Have a wooden lip about 4 inches high across the bottom front to keep litter in place.
  • Have a steep-pitched roof, as much as a 45-degree angle, so chickens don’t sit on top and soil the nest during the night
  • Can be made of many types of scrap or new lumber and plywood. Go to construction sites or lumber yard and ask for materials they are throwing away.
  • Can have a piece of burlap over the front entrance to protect hens and give them privacy and darkness, especially if they go broody.
  • Should be secured about 3-4 feet off the ground to discourage predators from gaining access to the nest.

Some chicken owners choose to provide ladders to the nests, but predators will also use this and render the nests unsafe. Instead, let hens fly up to nearby roosts and amble into their nests on perches you install in front of nest entrances.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

3 Easy Steps to Build Chicken Nesting Boxes

1) Obtain a balsa wood basket or similar type to modify. A half-bushel basket works well for a standard-sized chicken nest.

2) Cut three six-inch pieces of wire. Mark and drill a 4-inch-high piece of wood to go across the front entrance to retain straw. Make sure the wood is long enough to cover the front of the basket along the bottom. Also drill corresponding holes in the basket. Secure with the pieces of wire, making sure to tuck the ends of wire carefully beneath to protect chickens from getting cut.

3) Fill with straw and place in obscure place in henhouse where hens are invited to lay their eggs in privacy and security.


Originally published in 2009 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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  • I have a eggs farm so chicken start 40 in may 2017 is have 90 chicken in all

  • My hens will not lay in there laying box
    The keep finding a was out and lay in my yard
    How can I are then lay inside the coop

    • Keep them penned up in the coop and don’t let them roam. If you follow the guidelines in this blog concerning their nest boxes and such will help. Keep searching and learning.

  • my hens all want to use the same nest they wait for the other hen to get out of the nest

    • Mine tend to do the same thing in both coops. Even my Bantams and ducks lay eggs together in one nest. It common for me to get up to 12 eggs from one nest in my large breed coop (there’s 18 hens in coop).

  • I’ve had hens for quite awhile now. Lately, everyday I go to the nests to collect eggs there is always a broken egg and then chickens pooping in the nests. There are also ants….This is just in one day. I put hay in the nests and I’m looking to do something else. I think the egg that always breaks has a very thin shell. Any suggestions????

    • Dont use hay in nests, its for feeding livestock and it can mold easily when wet. Use straw, pine shavings or a premade nesting pad instead.

      • Try adding lavender sprigs to to nests, it’s a natural insecticide plus it smells good.

  • if chicks hatch inside a closed box from all angles; where to place food and water on the hatchment day for chicken. do you place it in or can the chick jump out f it and eat

  • i use boxes from sams for nesting boxes and cedar shavings the most cost effective choice

  • I’ve had good success using those old fashioned green plastic “turf”/grass look door mats…you know, the ones that traditionally had a fake daisy attached to it …one mat can be cut in half and used for two nest boxes (daisy removed)… It gets shaken out daily or semi-daily, hosed down as needed, easily disinfected if needed, last forever, cushions the eggs, and the girls seem to like it a lot…works well for us…best to all

  • In your article you say that the nesting boxes should be 3′-4′ high without a way for them to climb up. But in my flock of 16, 4 are bantams and 2 of those are Silkies. Since Silkies are not good flyers, won’t that make it impossible for them to access the nest? What do I do for them? I don’t want to keep them separate from the rest of the flock! I have builders coming to build my new chicken coop this week! What do I do for my Littles?

  • I have 8 hens -They have several nest areas right on the back porch -An old dog house, a very narrow old cat house,a rabbit hutch with a basket in it and lots of hay then the holes in the coop with lots of hay as well. There are fake eggs in these places and the giris like to lay their eggs in groups in one or two of these places . They like the privacy that a cover over the entrance provides as well. I think the 3 older hens showed the younger ones where to lay and they got the idea real well. Right now there is less daylight and a couple are molting as well -so 2 or 3 eggs a day is what is happening until we get more light.

  • Kathleen S.

    I have 3 hens… all seem to want the same “spot” for laying, no matter what choices they have. However… Hen #1 seems to hate anything to be in that spot; she throws out any straw, etc., and rips up, breaks and/or pushes out any boxes, including aluminum pans (rips holes in those). Hen #2 will use the space after it gets “tossed”, but much prefers a box with straw in it. Hen #3 hops up on the roost to lay her egg, if the nest box with straw isn’t properly placed– which means the egg breaks either due to the fall or because the other two peck at it from below. Putting the box on the other side of the nesting space, and leaving the prime spot bare, doesn’t help– they still all want the prime spot. Any suggestions on how to “please everybody”?

  • I used draws from an armoire but will be replacing them soon. They’ve been roosting on sides n pooping in nests. I found some sturdy rectangle laundry baskets at Goodwill for $2 each. I’m going to cut one end out for an access. Where they’re tall, they’ll fit perfectly on the open shelf rack unit that the draws now are on. I got unit free from TSC (ones they use for packaged bulb displays), they work great as roosting area and holding new nesting boxes. I also found a plastic pet food storage bin without the door at a thrift store for under $4, it made a perfect nest. Now I’m on the lookout for more of them or anything else cheap/free to turn into nesting boxes for when I build a new addition to my biggest coop.

  • Is there any way for us to post photos of what we each use as nesting boxes so we can share our ideas with each other.


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