Chickens are messy. There’s no doubt about that. But why are my chickens pooping in their nests? The main reason why your chickens are soiling their nests is that they aren’t using their roosts. But there can be several causes of a chicken not roosting. Let’s look at a few reasons and how you can fix them.
Is It OK For Chickens To Sleep In Nest Box?
You might be wondering what the big deal is. It’s OK to you that your chickens poop in their nesting boxes. But you might need to rethink this for several reasons. For one, it makes getting clean eggs almost impossible. Your eggs will sit in filth until you collect them. And if you aren’t careful, the risk of salmonella or E. coli.
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Not to mention, if your chickens are sleeping in their nesting boxes, it makes cleaning a hassle. You will have more scrubbing to do and not enough payout. So where should chickens sleep at night?
For the safety and comfort of everyone, your flock should have a roosting bar. Each bird should have 10 inches in length and 4 inches in width to sleep comfortably. And placement is just as important. Your lowest roost should be about two feet off the ground and positioned away from the nests. If you do this, your chickens should take to the roost just fine.
Are Your Nesting Boxes Abnormally Dirty?
Before we get too far into how to stop chickens from pooping in nesting boxes, let’s ask ourselves one question. How often do you clean chicken nesting boxes? Most people only clean their nesting boxes semi-annually. Twice a year, during your deep clean, you will also want to take out the nesting boxes and clean them as well. If you find that your nesting boxes are getting too dirty, you have an issue on your hands.
Reason #1: Roost Size
One of the main reasons people have chicken roosting in nests is that the roosts aren’t large enough. Whether your roosts aren’t long enough or wide enough, both can be a big issue. A roost that isn’t long enough will push out the last birds in the coop. Without anywhere else to roost, a few will take to the nesting boxes.
The same is true about the width or diameter of your roost. If you notice that you have many chickens pooping in nests, then your perch might be too narrow for comfort. Chickens like to sleep with flat feet for stability and warmth. So how do you solve this problem?
The first step is to make sure that your roost is 10 inches long for each chicken you have. You might even want to go longer to give room for squabbling hens or a breeze in summer. And your roost should be about 4 inches wide to allow your hens to perch with their feet flat.
Reason #2: Nests Too High
Why are my chickens pooping in their nests? We have a better question, when was the last time you checked your roost height? Chickens naturally roost in the highest points for protection. If your nests are higher than your roosts, then your chickens will want to sleep in them instead.
Solving this issue is simple. Raise your roosts to be above the nesting boxes but not directly over them. Doing this will give your chickens a new favorite place to sleep. And not putting it over the nests will prevent your chickens from pooping all night into them from above.
Reason #3: Fighting
Another reason for a chicken roosting in nest is fighting. The way your hens roost is all according to their place within the pecking order. Chickens at the top of the hierarchy roost in the highest/safest spots while chickens on the lower end roost lower. But if you have a chicken that isn’t using the roost, it might be bullied.
In most cases, the bullying resolves itself within a few days. But in other cases, the bullying is because there is something wrong with the hen. You will want to isolate it and check it for illnesses before returning it to the flock. If you don’t find anything, you should add extra roosting space, so there isn’t any fighting.
Reason #4: Injuries
Foot injuries are common in a lot of larger chickens. Things like bumblefoot can prevent your hens from roosting properly. So they do what any chicken would and find an alternative spot for the night. If you see a chicken roosting in nest, check them first for any injuries. After treatment and healing, you won’t have an issue with chickens pooping in nests again.
Reason #5: Mites
Chickens are just like people and want a comfortable place to sleep at night. So then why are chickens pooping in nests? Surely that isn’t comfortable. Well, it can be if you have a mite infestation. These tiny bugs like to feed on your chickens as they sleep and hide during the day.
So how do you check for mites? The best signs of mites are on your chickens. Mites will leave your hen’s feathers looking dull and ragged. They will also leave small scabs and redness around your hen’s vents. If you see this combined with not roosting, you probably have an infestation. Treating your hens with a dust bath and cleaning the coop with a mite repellant could solve your issue.
Reason #6: Cleanliness
Chickens roosting in nest could also be a sign that their usual sleeping area is too soiled. Yes, chickens are messy and poop while sleeping all the time. But they still like a nice clean surface to sleep on.
If you find that your roosts are filthy more often, you might want to look at your perch style. If you have multiple roosts, make sure that they are not stacked one over the other. That way, the chickens on top aren’t soiling the roosts and chickens below.
Reason #7: Broody Hens
Broody hens love to sleep in their nests. They are devoted mothers who won’t leave their eggs for long. So, it only makes sense that they won’t get out of the nest to sleep. But what if you aren’t breeding chickens? A broody hen will stay broody for up to 21 days, which can cause some problems.
So what do you do about this situation? There are a few tricks of breaking a broody hen, but none of them are 100% effective. One of the safest ways to stop broodiness is to block off the nesting area. Without access to the coop, your hen will likely give up hatching her infertile eggs.
Reason #8: Old Chickens
Why are my chickens pooping in their nests? One thing you should consider when solving this mystery is your chicken’s age. As your hens age, they start to have leg problems and arthritis. These problems will prevent your hens from roosting comfortably, so they take to the nesting box instead. You will want to place a roost 6-8 inches off the ground for your older chickens.
Reason #9: Young Chickens
If you have just introduced pullets to life outside, they might have difficulty figuring out where to sleep. This is especially true for pullets that have never had a roost before. So you will need to train them where to sleep.
Every night when you close up the coop, go inside and put your pullets on the roost. It might take a few weeks, but they will eventually learn what you expect. Another solution for the future is introducing a small perch inside the brooder. You will be surprised at how many chicks naturally roost throughout the day.
How Do You Stop Chickens Pooping In Nests?
So you’ve read through this, and you are still finding poop in the nests and on your eggs. The best way to make sure that your chickens aren’t sleeping in their nests is by blocking it off. Blocking the nests doesn’t have to be complicated. Upside down baskets inside the nests are great for keeping your hens out at night. Or, if you don’t have a lot of them, take the nests out altogether.
But you might be worried about when your flock lays their eggs. You don’t want to block them off from laying. So what time of the day do chickens lay eggs? Most chickens lay their eggs within the first few hours of sunlight. So once you open the coop for foraging time, you will want to make the nests available again. And most chickens are finished laying their eggs no later than 3 pm.
Do Chickens Lay Eggs Where They Poop?
I have done everything on this list. Why are my chickens pooping in their nests still? If you are unfamiliar with chicken anatomy, it might surprise you that chickens lay eggs and poop from the same vent. So sometimes, in the egg-laying process, they might poop a little too.
If your chickens push this hard for their eggs to come out, you might want to re-evaluate their diet. In many cases, chickens without enough calcium have a harder time laying eggs. And if you aren’t careful, you could have an egg-bound chicken on your hands.
That’s more than you could ever hope to learn about chicken poop. But with these solutions, we hope you have a clean and happy nest soon.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!