Why Are Chickens Sleeping In Nesting Box Instead Of On The Roost?

From a commenter here on the blog: “Chicken question, my two Rhode Island reds prefer to sleep in their nesting box and mess it up instead of sleeping on their roost bar in their coop. Any ideas how to get them to sleep up their vs laying eggs in their mess?”

Great question, and I wanted to capture it for a stand-alone post under the “CHICKEN” category. Here are the responses:

How many total do you have?

Is there enough room on the roost for all of them?

It is their natural instinct to roost. Make sure roost is the highest point.

There is a pecking order, however not natural to sleep down in nesting box.

What’s the roost made of? Make sure it’s wide enough for their feet. I use a 2×4 (3.5 inches wide). They like to roost flat. They curl their toes over the edge. (At least mine do that)

Maybe you could put something in front of the nesting boxes at night to restrict them from going in there. Problem though would be getting up EARLY to open it up for egg laying!

Maybe others have additional thoughts…

~ Ken J.

Thanks! The bar is 3ft across and only 2 hens in the coop. They don’t lay till about mid morning. I can try blocking off the boxes at night and remove the barrier when I open up the coop to the run at 5:30am. The roost is about 1.5in. I’ll try running a 2×4 across instead.

After installing the wider roosting board, go into their roosting area about a half hour after they have settled into their nest for the night. Move them to their new roost. If it’s dark, they won’t attempt to go back to the nest. Do that for a few days and they will accept their new roosting area.

~ AZoffgrid

Now that’s interesting. I strung a 2in x 2in across from one wall to the other. All the birds jump up there and roost at night, except for a Silkie that is brooding, but I put her up on the roost before I shut out the lights at night. Never knew about them roosting flat footed. Maybe because this was all they’ve ever known I might leave it as is.

Saving up for the final piece to my “Cluckingham Place” as another poster called it. (Sorry, forgot who), a Wifi enabled, programmable timer, automatic coop door opener. Sometimes they like to stay out a bit later than dark, so I can look at the coop cam, get a headcount, and open the door if they are late. Yeah, it’s a weird cross, engineering and Chicken farming :-)

~ DoubleTap

Broody hens will sleep in nest boxes. Chickens with foot or keel injuries will too.

If your chickens suffer from leg mites, the mites tend to hide in cracks in roosts and come out at night to feed on the chickens. Might check for that and treat the wood if found. That will also cause them to sleep elsewhere.

Nest boxes aren’t under the roost are they?

~ Anony Mee

Nesting boxes are a few feet away from the roost at a lower point in the coop, I’ll take a look at their feet when I get home. Thanks!

Do what Ken suggests with a 2×4. Chickens roost flat footed and need the 3-1/2″ roost bar to keep them stable when roosting for the night. Just MHO…

~ Northern Sarge