If you intend to build a chicken coop, it is necessary to pay attention to where you place the nesting boxes and the roosts. It is chickens’ evoluntary instincts not to sleep or lay eggs on the floor. You need to raise off the nesting boxes and roosts of the floor.
First, a little background information. There is a reason why chickens don’t sleep on the ground. By sleeping up on a tree branch (which is what they used to do) they will be safer at night because predators won’t be able to reach them. Since this is something that you can’t change your roosts will need to be off the ground.
Nesting boxes should be above the ground, but below the roosts. If the nesting boxes are higher than the roosts the chickens will actually sleep there and since they leave droppings during the night you’ll have some very dirty eggs in the morning.
When building your roosts you want to make sure that all of the roosts are at the same level. There are two problems if you have roosts that are underneath each other. The first is that during the night the birds on the bottom will have droppings on them. The second and more important reason is that the chickens will fight for the top roost because it’s safer (in their minds). If you need more than one roost have them at the same height, but place them 10 – 12 inches apart so the chickens have ample space around them.
You can build the roosts out of steel or wood, but I personally prefer to use wood. The chickens claws can get a good grip on the wood to make sure that they don’t fall off during the night. I origingally wanted to use dowel for the roosts, but I found that they chickens can’t grab it that well (because it’s pretty hard). I turned to 2″ x 2″ pressure treated pine or spruce because it’s a pretty soft wood.
The nesting boxes can be made from wood as well. Each nesting box should be at least 4 inches deep so the hen feels safe and secure. Do not put the nesting boxes underneath the roosts! I put my nesting boxes along the edge of the coop about 12 inches lower than the roosts. To this day I have yet to have a hen sleep in her nest.
Once your nests are built you should line them with straw or hay. This makes the nest more comfortable, but it also prevents the egg from hitting the wood which can crack and ruin it.
As long as you follow these guidelines you’ll find that your chickens only leave droppings in one place in the coop (under the roost is where most of them go). Your hens will be comfortable and lay more eggs. With the roosts higher than the nests no birds will sleep in the nest and leave droppings on your eggs.
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