Chickens Sleeping in Nesting Boxes… Is It OK or Should Chickens Roost To Sleep?

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Chickens Sleeping in Nesting Boxes (Is It Ok?)

It’s a problem if chickens sleep in their nesting boxes and it’s usually a sign of negative health or environmental issues.

In this post, we’re going to find out why chickens might choose to sleep in their nesting boxes instead of their roost. (A roost is an elevated bar/branch where chickens should sleep.)

We’ll also look at the health problems that can occur if chickens keep sleeping in their nesting boxes.

Height of Roosting Bars & Nest Boxes

Chickens will sleep in the highest place they can get to in their chicken coop. So if the nesting boxes are higher than the roosting bars, the chickens might choose the nesting boxes to sleep in.

Why is this a problem?

When chickens roost and sleep at night, they poop a lot!

Chickens will usually only poop in their nesting boxes when they’re sleeping in them at night. And it gets really dirty in there, very quickly!

This isn’t great for the chickens’ health. Plus, who wants pooped-covered eggs?

So just make sure that their nesting boxes are lower than the roosting bars and hopefully this will fix your problem.

Comfortable Nest Boxes vs Roosting Bars

Make sure your roosting bars are comfortable in the first place!

Chickens will favor a flat roosting bar.

A flat wooden roosting bar that is at least 2 inches wide (but 4 inches or more is better) is good for them to roost all night, even in cold weather. Just make sure that the wide side is facing up and have at least 8 inches of roosting space per chicken.

Chickens’ Age vs Roosting Bars

Older chickens may find it hard to get onto a roosting bar, so a ramp would help them get on there.

For younger chickens, they might not really get the idea of what a roosting bar is at first. But because it’s natural for them to want to sleep at the highest spot they can find, they’ll eventually use the roosting bar (hopefully).

To help the young chickens out, you can try lifting them up to the roosting bars every night for a few nights until they get the hint.

Injured/Sick Chickens vs Roosting Bars

If a chicken has an injured foot, it may sleep in the nesting box because the perch might be too uncomfortable. Also, an injured chicken might not be able to physically make it to the roosting bar by itself. In this case, a ramp for the chicken to get up on the roost might help.

Sick chickens might also avoid the roosting bars because they tend to get pushed around looking for a spot.

If a chicken is injured or ill to the point where it can’t go roost at night, I would go see a vet. You also might have to isolate the chicken from the other chickens until it heals.

Broody Hens & Nesting Boxes

Another reason a hen might sleep in a nest box is that she’s broody and she won’t want to leave until those eggs hatch!

If this is the case, let the hen sleep in the nesting box.

Broody hens typically won’t poop often like sleeping chickens. But, WARNING, you might find if the broody hen does poop, it’ll be bigger and smellier. This is why I love using nesting liners (Amazon). Just swap out the liner and you’re done!

Mites vs Roosting Bars

Chickens might choose to sleep in a nest box instead of a roosting bar if there’s an infestation of mites in the coop.

During the day, mites will hide out of sight. But at night, they’ll come out to feed on your chickens.

Since mites can go on the roosting bars and make your chickens uncomfortable, the nesting boxes might be a safe haven.

My favorite solution for this is sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth (Amazon) in and around the chicken coop. This natural solution won’t just kill mites, but it’ll kill a whole bunch of insects you might find in the chicken coop.

Basically, diatomaceous earth kills almost all exoskeleton insects by drying them out.

Chickens’ Pecking Order & Roosting Bar Space

All chicken flocks have a pecking order. There will be chickens higher up in the hierarchy, and there will be the more submissive chickens on the lower end.

The less space your flock has in their chicken coop and run, the more likely it is that the more dominant chickens will bully the chickens at the lower end of the pecking order. Bullied chickens might get kicked off of the roosting bar and decide to sleep in the nesting boxes.

Newly introduced members of the flock will also try to avoid the chickens higher up in the hierarchy. Until the new pecking order is stabilized, the new members will often sleep in weird places.

Check to see if your chickens have enough room to live healthy and happy lives by checking my post: How Much Room Do Chickens Need?

Block the Nesting Boxes

If all else has failed, and you’ve looked at all of the other options, block the nesting boxes just before sunset. All the hens will be done laying their eggs by then, so the nesting boxes can stay blocked until the next morning.

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Summary:

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