Chickens Sleeping in Nesting Boxes (A Look at if It’s OK for Hens To Sleep in Nest Boxes)

Is It OK for Chickens To Sleep in a Nest Box?

Typically, the answer is no. It’s usually not OK for chickens to sleep in their nest box. And, it’s normally a sign of negative health or environmental issues.

In this post, we’re going to find out why chickens might prefer 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.

Is it a nest box, a nestbox, or a nesting box?

While all three terms are technically correct, nest box is most commonly used. I use “nesting box” and “nest box” interchangeably.

Why Is My Hen Sleeping in the Nesting Box?

Height of Roosting Bars

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?

Uncomfortable Roosting Bars

Chickens will sleep in their nesting boxes if their roosting bars are uncomfortable.

Chickens need to be able to rest and recover from the rigors of daily life. If their roosting bars are uncomfortable, they may not be able to get the rest they need. This could lead to health problems down the road.

Chickens’ Age

Older chickens may find it hard to get onto a roosting bar.

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).

Injured & Sick Chickens

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.

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

Broody Hens

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.

Warning: You might find if the broody hen does poop, it’ll be bigger and smellier. This is one of the reasons why I love using nesting liners (Amazon). Just swap out the liner and you’re done!

Mites

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.

Chickens’ Pecking Order

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 birds have 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.

How Do I Get My Chickens To Stop Sleeping in Nest Box?

Here are a few things you can do to stop chickens from sleeping in their nest box.

  • First, try putting some straw or hay in the nesting boxes. This will make them less comfortable to sleep in. You can also try putting a chicken roost in the nesting box. This will give your chickens somewhere else to sleep.
  • Finally, make sure that the nesting boxes are clean and dry. If they’re dirty or wet, your chickens will be more likely to want to sleep in them. Make sure that their nesting boxes are lower than the roosting bars and hopefully this will fix your problem.
  • 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 to 12 inches of roosting space per chicken.
  • Older, sick, or injured chickens may find it hard to get onto a roosting bar, so a ramp would help them get on there.
  • 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.
  • To help the young chickens (pullets) figure out what the rooster bar is for, you can try lifting them up to the roosting bars every night. Do this until they get into the habit of sleeping on the roost (might only take a few nights).
  • If mites are the reason your chickens are sleeping in their nesting boxes, your whole coop and flock have to be treated. First super scrub and hose down your chicken coop. I like to boil water and pour it down any cracks inside the chicken coop to kill all the mites. And then treat your chickens and coop with something like Prozap Garden & Poultry Dust (Amazon) or Premo Poultry Spray (Amazon).
  • 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?
  • 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.
Conclusion: Can Chickens Sleep Where They Lay Eggs?

It’s generally not considered the best practice to allow chickens to sleep inside the area where they lay eggs. There are a few reasons for this.

One problem is that the chickens may not get enough rest if they are constantly being disturbed by their fellow chickens trying to sleep in the same space.

Another problem is that chickens can become overheated when sleeping in their nest boxes on those hot summer nights. This can lead to heat stress and even death.

Sleeping in nest boxes can also increase the risk of respiratory problems, as dust and feathers can irritate the lungs.

Additionally, if the nest box is not cleaned regularly, it can become a source of disease for the chickens.

For these reasons, it is typically best to keep chickens out of the area where they lay eggs.

Being Self-Sufficient

Raising chickens is great because you become a little more self-sufficient and the work is truly rewarding.

However, being 100% self-sufficient on your own land might not be for everyone. It’s a lot of learning, planning, hard work, and patience to get yourself set up.

But this sweet, down-to-earth couple have done just that. They’ve been self-sufficient on their little 1/4 acre land for over 40 years! And, now they’re showing other people how they save and make money by being self-sufficient in things like food, heating, and electricity.

You should definitely check them out because you might get ideas on how to save or make money from your own backyard!