Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nest Box Traffic Jam

The temps outside are about -30 with the windchill right now here in Vermont.  Not a car on the road and all is quiet outside, except for the loud wind..

However, inside the chicken coop there is a traffic jam of hens waiting to get into their preferred nest box.

I have 7 floor level nest boxes, but since I put up the "high rise" milk crate, this is now the only "hen approved" egg drop.      Almost immediately after the last screw was drilled into the wall the hens started using this box.   Most visit this box every day.  In fact my egg production went up the day this box was installed.     Really.

Now I am desperately searching for another old milk crate 9x10x17 to put in the space to the left of it so there wont be so much pressure on this one by every hen in the coop.  

There have been a few "issues" with having only one nest box that the girls love:

Long lines, loud noise and frustrated hens, just to name a few.

Amber, one of my blue egg laying pullets, takes a little more time than the others....
So Mrs Howell gets right up there and encourages her to hurry up.

As Mrs Howell coaches Amber on the finer details of laying an egg in the proper time....

 the huge Buff Orphinton, Adele, forms a line at the rear and starts loudly clucking encouragement to get this line moving!

Soon Mrs Howell is clucking louder to remind everyone that she is next in line and has been waiting for 20 minutes.

Adele, is my deaf hen, and she clucks louder than any hen I have ever heard, probably because she can't hear herself.... so the noise level goes UP in the coop.  With Mrs Howell trying to "out cluck" Adele, it became too much for my sensitive, cold ears, so at this point I went and got a cup of hot chocolate and came back hoping my absense would rush things along.

It didn't.

As they got more anxious, they moved closer to and got into the nest box with little Amber....

The little pullet on the bottom was being heckled, pecked and crushed.

I moved the 2 larger hens to the perches and kept guard until the blue egg was finally laid and Amber safely on her way out of the box.

I waited 5 minutes for the rest of the hens to borrow the nest and grabbed all the eggs in the nest box and headed to the house to make breakfast.

Here are a few frosty photos of my walk back to the farm house.

I brought out more warm water for the flock to enjoy.

After a drink they tried to find some sun beams to soak up.

And then they all ended up on the porch asking me for treats.

They are a hard bunch to say no to, so I brought out some black oil sunflower seeds.

Then I went back in and enjoyed the delicious quiche made from my hens eggs and the veggies I raised this summer.  Fresh, hot and healthy!

My brother is coming this weekend to build me one more nest box about the same size as the popular one.       He is a beekeeper and the unofficial guardian of a flock of wild turkeys that visit him every day.  I am trading him some fresh eggs from grateful hens for his carpentry skills.

I will let you all know if my egg production increases again, with the second high rise nest box.

Anyone taking bets?

What kind of nest boxes do you have and which ones do the hens prefer ?


  1. This post is so cute!! I love your chickens!! Great photos of them.....I hope they get their new nest box soon.....thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the nest-box pile-up! Hilarious! We have five nest boxes. Four are all in one wooden unit my hubby built; another is an old apple crate attached to the wall. Lately it seems like everyone has been using the same box. I find a nice pile of eggs in the old apple crate each day.

  3. haha...this is sort of like waiting for a guy to get out of the bathroom!

  4. What a beautiful quiche, so light and fluffy...I have four nest boxes about two feet off the floor, my flock now consists of 12 hens and one rooster...egg production has increased...How can you determine if a hen is deaf? just curious...My flock appears to be handling the cold weather...warm water...feed block...and a recently added heat lamp...I know there are assorted feelings on heat lamps, but it works for us...stay warm...

  5. Lol love the chooks the millefleur one is beautiful. They are very entertaining , isnt it funny how they all like to lay in the one box .

  6. LOL So funny! I guess you will definitely need more boxes like that one!

  7. Janis,

    For the number of hens you have you should have more. Here's nest box info. Providing exactly what they need does mean much higher egg production.

    First and foremost, hens need to not be able to see out, and no one to see into the nest box. This alone will improve production.

    Next, a minimum of 1 box for 2 hens.

    Third size counts. Basic size: 12” wide x 15” long and 13” deep.

    Fourth: height from floor counts. They should be 17 - 19" from the floor. If this height causes access problems, build a sturdy ladder.

    Fifth: Siting counts. Situate the nests in a dark area away from the general activity of the chicken house.

    Sixth: Plan easy egg pickup.

    When building nests, putting an 8” hallway in front of the nests, like bedrooms off a hall, and having an access opening at one or both ends, will satisfy the hide-a-way instinct. It also, if kept bedded, will mean cleaner eggs.

    Here's photos of our nestboxes. If I could have, I would have sited the ladder at one end. But in this place, it would have blocked either the chicken door or the people door, so it went into the middle.


    Use the arrows to look at more photos of the boxes. There are some back, and some forward.

  8. My hens all seem to be a little scared of heights so they have two large covered litter boxes at ground level. I have two boxes for 5 hens.

  9. Can you imagine the pressure when all those ladies are giving you the stink eye?? We have a standard metal nest box with 6 nests but the hens still line up for 1 or 2 of the favorite places. I honestly don't know how they tell the nests apart but while I am milking there are always lots of angry chicken sounds form the ladies in line!! Stevie @ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

  10. Wonderful story! We have 5 nesting boxes and every day there are squabbles. I love their stubbornness!

  11. I am so glad I found you on WW!! Your flock is gorgeous and I am glad they are doing well with the very cold temps up there. Stay safe and warm :)

  12. Wow! Laying eggs is quite the ordeal! It has got to be difficult to take care of those animals in this weather (not that farm life is ever easy).

  13. I think I like your chich stories as much as I enjoyed your bovine tales. Our ladies have quit laying. We haven't had eggs for weeks and weeks. They are going on 3 years and probably should go to the soup pot, but I don't think we will do that. Perhaps milk crate would help or a new place to nest. For 8 hens, we have 3 nesting boxes. What do you think?

  14. When the two in line were *egging on* (ha!) the one in the box, I was laughing out loud! That is all just too funny! You'd better get a couple of high-risers while you're at it :)
    And when they all gathered on your porch... what a bunch of silly hens! They must know where the treats are! Not sure if I'd tell them that the fruit of their *labor* (I just can't help myself) wound up in your quiche!!
    Thanks for the laugh today!!

  15. That is certainly cold...

    I love your cute hen story, we had chickens when I was young and it brings back some great memories...

  16. What a lovely bunch of chickens! So pretty too :)
    Just like us,asking for treats! heehee
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    and Angels Tiger and Tillie

    Thank you for your kind thoughts and purrs
    when our Tiger crossed the Bridge.
    She was a sweet kitty .

  17. This is one of the most remarkable posts that I have read (and I have read thousands). The hens reactions to the new box is just hilarious.

    Thank you for making my day.

  18. You got me smiling with this story of impatient hens! Since I've never kept chickens, I feel I don't know enough to make any prediction. But I'll sure will follow the next episode:)

  19. MAGIC box! I hope you do find another and that it turns out to be just as popular!

  20. We had two high plastic boxes, like the one you show, none on the ground. We also had a long beam between them, extending to the sides of the hen house, long enough for all the hens to roost at night. Two boxes seemed to be enough for 7 hens. We had a small hole in either end for them to walk in and out, with a cloth door hanging down to keep out breezes, since the hen house was a chicken wire coop in the yard, exposed, and closed box tops so I don't think they could have been on top of each other like yours. I never remember a line-up like you show. That's hilarious!

  21. Aren't chickens funny little creatures? I have three nesting boxes and they all want to occupy the same one....even though the boxes are identical.

    I love watching them. :)

  22. OMGosh that quiche looks delish!!!!!

  23. You share such fun things from about your chickens. all those chickens in the same crate made me giggle. Thank you so much for helping to make the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop so much fun Hugs!

  24. What a cute story...lining up for their turn in the crate! Love it! Visiting from LOBS!

  25. Those hens are hilarious...

    And that quiche looks sooooo delicious!

    Thanks for linking to the letter "H".