Chickens are a wonderful addition to any farm. They are easy enough to maintain, that small backyard coops have become popular. Regardless of ease, the birds can develop some bad habits that need correcting. I had a recent problem in my coop when young laying hens were roosting in the nesting boxes.
If a chicken is roosting in a nesting box there is going to be poo. Although it can be scooped out and eggs washed, you don’t want poo where the eggs are laid.
Ideally, chicken eggs should not be washed. Eggs are laid with a natural coating that keeps air and bacteria out. The protective coating is removed when the egg is washed.
Some young hens in my coop started roosting in nesting boxes last fall. I spent weeks moving them to the roosting rails, but they refused to stay put. I finally put a tarp over the nesting boxes each evening when closing the coop, and removed it each morning. The birds were mostly detoured, but if a night was missed they were right back to roosting in the boxes.
By late winter the older birds began laying early, and the tarp cover was a hindrance. When I began finding eggs on the floor when opening the coop in the morning, I knew I had to find a new plan.
Nesting Box Curtains
I confess I’ve always chuckled when seeing someone share pictures of nesting box curtains. Decorating for livestock is not something I have time for, but dirty eggs call for desperate measures. That said, I was careful not to alert any of my family members that might try to take pictures of my desperation.
I measured the length and height of our boxes and found fabric to fit. I chose some cotton fabric leftover from a sewing project. Using a utility staple gun, I attached the fabric across the top of each row of boxes. I then cut the fabric between each box to allow the chickens access.
I’m sure you’ve concluded my efforts were a success, or I would not be sharing. Not only are the younger hens no longer roosting in the nesting boxes, but also the usual egg count has increased.
Chickens tend to hide their eggs. It’s a natural mothering instinct to protect their babies, so they often hide their eggs from predators or other hens. With free-range birds, it’s become a joke that every day on the farm is Easter given we have to hunt for eggs. Since adding the box covers, our hens seem to feel there is a new layer of security.
Although I may still chuckle over pictures of decorated chicken coops, I cannot deny the benefits of nesting box curtains. I am thrilled that my hens no longer roost in the boxes, and I enjoy the extra time not spent hunting for eggs. Just don’t expect me to add any lace or ribbon.