Home Chickens for Beginners Do Chickens Make Nests?

Do Chickens Make Nests?

by Jamelyn

Chickens are birds so it’s a reasonable question to ask whether chickens make nests.

Chickens do not make nests that are as complex as other birds. When a chicken lays an egg in a nesting box, they might adjust the bedding material before laying the egg. If a chicken lays an egg in the yard, they might dig up grass to form a type of nest.

Keep reading to learn more about how chickens make nests for laying eggs.

Chickens Lay Eggs in Nesting Boxes

Domesticated chickens will lay their eggs in a nesting boxes inside the chicken coop. A nesting box is usually a compartment within the chicken coop that has walls on 3 sides, with the front of the nesting box open. Some nesting boxes will have tops, while others are open on the top.

Chicken coops are generally designed to have at least 1 nesting box for every 4 to 5 chickens. Even if you have enough nesting boxes, the chickens will typically claim one box as the preferred box and this preferred box can rotate to different boxes in the coop. 

The reason why chickens will choose to lay their eggs in one box is because they view a pile of eggs as a safe place for them to also lay their own eggs. You can encourage hens to lay in different nesting boxes by adding wooden eggs into the nesting boxes. It also helps to regularly remove eggs that have been laid to prevent the chickens from congregating in one box for too long which can lead to broken eggs.

This Plymouth Rock is comfortably in her nesting box sitting on a clutch of eggs.

Nesting boxes should be appropriately sized for the type of chicken breed that you are raising so take this into consideration when you are building or buying your chicken coop. Most chicken coop kits or instructions for building coops online will give you the nesting box dimensions, so just check them against the minimum nesting box size for your chicken breed. To learn more about nesting box dimensions, check out Items that Should be Inside Every Chicken Coop where I give more detailed information on nesting boxes, including nesting box dimensions for different breeds.

If you can catch a chicken in a nesting box before she lays an egg, you might find her rearranging the bedding with her beak. Some chickens will move the bedding around and even place it on their back. Some chickens will spend a good amount of time getting the nesting box in perfect condition before laying an egg, while other chickens will quickly go into an available box, lay their egg, and leave.

Chickens Will Make a Nest in the Yard

Prior to domestication, chickens in the wild would find a secluded place on the ground to make a nest and lay their eggs. Since chickens are such large birds, they would not fly into a tree to make a nest and lay an egg.

Here is a cute nest made by a Cardinal in my backyard. Since chickens are too large to fly into a tree, they will make any nests on the ground, usually under brush. However, domestication has bred out the desire for chickens to make nests prior to laying eggs.

Today’s chickens have had the instinct to make nests and sit on their eggs bred out of them so it is unlikely that your chickens will regularly make a habit of making a nest prior to laying an egg. This is also why chickens of today will usually not sit on their eggs to try to hatch the eggs into chicks.

Backyard chickens can make nests in the yards if their nesting boxes are not adequate:

  • If the nesting box is not large enough for a chicken to sit in the box and comfortably lay an egg, she might seek out another location to lay her egg.
  • If the nesting box is too large, some hens don’t feel like it’s secluded enough and will seek out a more private nesting location elsewhere.

Some chickens will lay eggs in the yard under bushes or other secret places if they don’t feel comfortable in their nesting boxes. To learn more about why chickens lay eggs in the yard, read 12 Reasons Why Chickens Lay Eggs in the Yard.

In addition, if you let your chickens free range in the yard you might find eggs that the chickens have laid randomly in the grass or under a bush.

My chickens were free ranging in the yard for several days last week when the weather was really nice. At one point I looked out the window and saw a random egg in the yard. When I went outside to look closer, I saw that whoever laid the egg had made a type of nest by scratching up the grass.

I have also found eggs in the garden under the tomato plants, but there was no nesting material around these eggs. It’s probably because the chicken thought the area was safe and secluded enough to lay the egg directly on the ground without a nest.

I found this egg laying in the garden under the tomato plant. I’m not sure who laid it, but they did not try to make a nest.

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