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Why are my hens not laying eggs in the nest boxes? Have you ever had your hens laying on the floor of the coop? Under nesting boxes? On the poop decks? Have you introduced a nice new roll away nesting box that they HATE? I have, and it’s been trial and error for a while but I have outsmarted them for the moment, let me share with you what has worked for me to get my chickens to lay eggs in the nest boxes.

I think that keeping your chickens laying where you want them to is a constant revolving education of trial and error as the chickens try to outsmart us. They like one area one day, then change to another area the next. I think new layers are also a bit more wishy-washy as they learn.

Last summer we had a lot of new layers, so we cut them some slack and put up with the eggs in random places and not in the nest boxes. We were just happy to have more eggs.  Then winter came and we do not supplement light so the egg supply drops dramatically and pretty much stops for 3 months. For the winter I loaded the linoleum coop floor with pine shavings to help the coop stay cozy warm. The hens got lazy and would just drop the egg right from the roost when they didn’t want to move. Then an egg would show up on the floor in the corner of the coop and then they would make a nest in the corners and fill it up. I put boxes in the corners and messed up their nests. They just moved and re built their nest to the side and laughed at me. I picked the hen up and put them in the nesting boxes and they popped back out and pushed me aside to go back in the corner.

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How high does a nest box need to be off the ground?

I suggest that you install nest boxes 16-20 inches off the floor. If they are any lower those sneaky chickens think it’s too cozy right underneath the nest boxes and lay their eggs on the floor. The nest boxes need to be lower than the perches installed in the coop as well. If the nest boxes are higher than the roosting perches the chickens will sleep and perch in the nest boxes.

What size should the nesting box be?

Generally one nesting box should be about 12 inches wide by about 10 inches tall. Depending on the size of the chickens. I built an open nest box for my hens that is the equivalent of 3 nest boxes wide and works well for 11 hens.

How many nest boxes are needed per chicken?

Generally you need one nest box for 3-4 hens. Hens usually pick one nesting box as the favourite and all fight over the one. If you use a shared area nest box that will accommodate more chickens to lay and they will have one favourite side of the nest box to lay in.

Here are the two main things I did to get the eggs in the nest boxes:

  1. My hens were laying in the corners on the floor. You need to take away the deep fluffy bedding on the floor of the coop. The spring day that I cleaned out the coop down to the lino flooring, I had extra concrete stones and put those in the corners where those eggs would show up. The hens were mad, they stopped laying for 3 days. But guess where the eggs went on day four?  Straight into the roll away nest box stuffed with nice fluffy bedding. It’s been 3 months and I haven’t had an egg on the floor since!
  2. To get them to lay in a roll away nest box after I cleared the coop floor I filled the nest box with fresh straw and shavings for a month. The hens loved it as it was comfy and fluffy and they could sit on their eggs. (I also added 2 ceramic eggs for their visual cue) They got used to laying in there and then I slowly removed the straw and bedding so the eggs would roll away as intended. The happy hens have been laying in there since.

I found that new layers are inconsistent about laying in a specific location. Even when there are older layers going where they should. I think that every year I will need to check what new areas my hens are trying to lay in and again, figure out how to stop it. I found that nest boxes need to be over 14 inches off the floor or they will nest right underneath, and be very proud of themselves. You need to make it uncomfortable for them to lay where you don’t want them to. Put bricks in the corners, and don’t give them fluffy bedding on the coop floor.

If you keep your chickens laying all winter I understand comfort for your chickens is first and foremost. I would love to hear your tried and true ways of getting the stubborn or young hens to lay their eggs in the nest boxes. Leave your advice, best known tricks or questions in the comments below.

So you may have to pick some eggs off the floor in the winter. But when it’s springtime……. Let’s make those nest boxes look extra comfy and you will find your eggs where they should be.

Enjoy collecting your eggs!



Welcome to The Kitchen Magpie Farm! I'm Karami Urbanoski and I head up the care of all the animals out on the family farm in rural Alberta. I'm so glad to have you here and I hope you have fun reading about all my homesteading adventures!

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