Home Caring for Your Flock How to Stop Chickens from Pooping in Nesting Boxes

How to Stop Chickens from Pooping in Nesting Boxes

by Jamelyn

Nesting boxes are designed for only one activity: laying eggs. So then why are my chickens pooping in their nesting boxes?

Nesting boxes should only be used for chickens to lay eggs. Chickens should not be sleeping in their nesting boxes because they defecate when they sleep. When chickens spend time in a nesting box and they are not laying eggs, the boxes are more likely to get dirty quickly and eggs can be broken.

Keep reading to find out why there is chicken poop in the nesting boxes and how you can stop this behavior.

Make Nesting Boxes Conducive to Laying Eggs

Hens will prefer to lay their eggs in a quiet, secluded location. This goes back to their ancestors that lived in the jungles of Southeast Asia who lived in trees (the red jungle fowl). Since chickens are prey animals, they have a reproductive design that increase their odds of survival. One of those traits is developing their offspring external to their body in the form of eggs that remain in a nest and can be hatched either by the hen who laid the eggs, another hen, or another bird entirely, like a duck.

A good nesting box should have the following features:

  1. Enough space
  2. Dimly lit
  3. Quiet area

Provide Enough Space in Nesting Boxes

A nesting box should be large enough for a chicken to sit in the box and comfortably lay an egg. If it’s 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.

In general, a nesting box should meet these size requirements:

Type of BreedNest Box Dimensions
(long x high x deep)
Regular12″ x 12″ x 12″
Heavy14″ x 14″ x 12″
Bantam10″ x 12″ x 10″

In addition, you should have 1 nesting box for every 4 to 5 chickens. Although, don’t be surprised if the chickens pick a favorite nest box and fight over who’s turn it is to lay next!

Make Sure the Nesting Boxes are Dimly Lit

Nesting boxes need to be dimly lit to encourage chickens to lay eggs. If the nesting boxes seem too bright or visible, a hen will seek out another location to lay her eggs.

When I opened the cover on the nesting boxes, I found this chicken laying her egg in the favored nesting box that particular week. You can see that three other hens had already laid their eggs in the same box that day.

In addition, if there is too much light in the nesting boxes, this can lead other chickens to peck at a laying hen’s vent since it’s more visible. Chickens will peck at exposed flesh of other chickens, which can lead to flesh wounds, resulting in more pecking of the area.

Allow the Nesting Boxes to be a Quiet Area for Chickens

Some chickens require more privacy than others when they lay eggs. I have some hens that can pop out an egg in the middle of the coop, in the middle of the run, or even in the middle of the yard. However, I have other hens that require just the right conditions before they lay. It’s best to place your nesting boxes in a quiet area, away from barking dogs, revving engines, or any other distracting noises.

When your nesting boxes are designed specifically for laying eggs, then you have set-up your chickens for successfully using the the boxes for the intended purpose. However, some chickens will use the nesting boxes for other activities, like sleeping or hiding from a bully.

Provide Chickens Roosting Bars for Sleeping

Chickens will poop in the nesting boxes when they are spending time in the boxes doing things other than laying, such as sleeping.

Some reasons chickens sleep in the nesting boxes, instead of roosting bars, include:

  1. Insufficient roosting bar space
  2. Roosting bars too high off the ground
  3. Young chickens

Insufficient Roosting Bar Space

Chickens are more likely to sleep in the nesting boxes when there is not enough roosting bar space inside the coop.

The ancestor of the chicken would sleep in trees at night as protection from predators. Modern-day chickens still have this instinct to perch on a high branch, or roosting bar, at night to avoid danger.

As the sun starts to set, chickens will engage in rapid foraging, eating, and drinking. When they go to roost for the night, their bodies will digest the food they ate all through the night. This is why the area under the roosting bars is covered in droppings–chicken poop while they are sleeping at night.

In general, the roosting bars should meet these dimensions:

BreedRoosting Bar (length)
Regular8″ per chicken
Heavy10″ per chicken
Bantam8″ per chicken

If your chickens don’t have enough room on the roosting bars to all fit, then they will find other places to sleep, such as the nesting boxes. Since they poop while sleeping, the nesting boxes will be covered in poop the next morning.

Roosting Bars Too High Off the Ground

Your chickens should easily be able to jump onto the roosting bars. If a chicken is injured, older, or too heavy, she might have difficulty jumping onto roosting bars that are too high off the ground.

Roosting bars should be no more than 2 feet off the ground. If they are much higher than that, there should be a lower roosting bar that the chickens can jump onto first and then jump on the roosting bar.

The chickens jump on the lowest roosting bar before jumping on the top bar. They all sleep on the top roosting bar.

Young Chickens That Have Not Transitioned to Sleeping on Roosting Bars

Pullets go through a stage between being chicks and full-grown chickens where they are not quite sure where they should be sleeping at night. Chicks in a brooder will sleep in the middle of the brooder with their necks stretched out and a leg or wing off to the side. As chickens grow up, they learn that this sleeping position is not as protective as sleeping up higher on a roosting bar.

These chicks were all asleep in the brooder. You can see many of them had their necks stretched out while sleeping.

Pullets might need some training to sleep on their perches instead of inside the nesting boxes. After the chickens are in the coop at night, move any chickens that are in the nesting boxes onto the roosting bars. It might take a few attempts but they will soon learn that this is where they need to be sleeping at night.

Minimize Bullying Within the Flock

If there is excessive bullying within your flock, you could have some chickens escaping the tension by hiding in the nesting boxes.

Typically, chickens will bully each other in the following circumstances:

  1. Not enough food or water
  2. Not enough roosting bar space
  3. Too much light at night
  4. Boredom
  5. Age difference in chickens or new hens added to flock

Not Enough Food or Water

If you have more than 3 chickens in your flock, then you should have at least 2 feeders and 2 waterers available to your chickens.

The reason for having multiple feeders and waterers is two-fold:

  1. There will be sufficient food and water throughout the day and it is less likely for both to go empty
  2. If there is an aggressive chicken in the flock, she will not be able to protect both feeders and waterers

It is not uncommon for an extra aggressive chicken to prevent the more submissive chickens in the flock from getting access to feed and water. Even if you don’t have a bully chicken, you can see that if one chicken higher on the pecking order finds a tasty treat, she will peck anyone else on the head who comes close. It’s best to set-up at least 2 sources of food and water for your flock in order to make sure everyone has easy access.

Not Enough Roosting Bar Space

As stated in the section above, insufficient roosting bar space leads to chickens finding other places to sleep, including the nesting boxes.

If there is not enough roosting bar space, your chickens will squabble and push each other off the roosting bars. This will be more extreme than the occasional bickering you often hear after the chickens are in the coop for the night, which generally subsides after a few minutes. An easy clue to see where your chickens have slept during the night is to look for mounds of manure.

Too Much Light at Night

Chickens that are not getting enough rest will start to pick on each other during the day, similar to people when we don’t get enough good sleep at night.

In general, chickens require 6 to 8 hours of sleep every day. Sleep is essential to chickens as this is the time their brains will process new information and how they are able to build their body’s natural immunity. When the chicken coop is too bright at night, the chickens will not sleep since they are awake when there is enough light to see.

To prevent bullying from lack of sleep, make sure that the coop isn’t getting hit with direct light at night. Make sure your neighbors don’t have a bright porch light that is shining in the coop all night long. Try to position your coop in your yard so that street lights don’t shine into the coop.


When a chicken’s immediate needs for food, water, and shelter are met, they need activities to prevent them from becoming bored. When chickens get bored, they can become bullies and will peck on each other and their eggs, resulting in egg eating (check out this post for ways to prevent egg eating).

There are several ways to prevent boredom (see this post for a list of ideas), but essentially it comes down to spending time with your flock and giving them a daily simple treats (like kitchen scraps, scratch grains, or sunflower seeds).

Age Difference in Chickens or New Hens

Age differences in the chickens in your flock can be a source of bullying. Older hens can pick on pullets that are new to the coop. In addition, new hens being added to an existing flock can result in the pecking order being shuffled, resulting in bullying.

To prevent this, allow your chickens time to meet and adjust to each other from afar. If you have a mixed age flock, it would be beneficial to have 2 coops: one for the older hens and one for the pullets. (This second coop is also great for a time-out coop or a sick bay.)

Give your chickens time each day to view each other through a fence or have supervised free range time. When the chickens are given an opportunity to get used to each other from afar, they will be more inclined to accept the other chickens.

After you feel like the chickens are at least somewhat friendly with each other, place the pullets into the big coop at night after everyone is in bed. Try placing the pullets on the roosting bars with the other chickens and stick around for a few minutes for any sounds of distress, in case you pushed the relationship too quickly and they are not quite ready to be mixed together yet. If necessary, repeat the process in a few days and try again.

The best way to prevent bullying within your flock is through good flock management practices. When you provide a safe, clean environment for your chickens where their needs are met, they are more likely to get along with each other.

However, chickens have their own personalities and some are just difficult to be around. In this instance, you might consider placing the bully hen in a time-out coop by herself for a day or two. This will allow the pecking order inside the main coop to rebalance while she is gone. When she returns, she will need to adjust to this new order of things and the bullying behavior might be stopped.

Difference Between Being Bullied and Being Broody

Chickens that are hiding from a bully will spend time in the nesting boxes during the day. This is different from a broody hen who also spends time in the nesting boxes during the day.

A broody hen will be attempting to hatch eggs and when she is doing this, she will not poop in the nesting boxes. She will leave the nest occasionally to go eat, drink, and defecate and then will promptly return to the nest. A chicken that is hiding in the nest boxes doesn’t have this same strict routine and has no problem pooping in the box.

You may also like

Copyright 2021 - 2023 - All Right Reserved. 

Youtube Pinterest