Do you really need nest box curtains in your chicken coop? Yes, you do. And here are the reasons why they benefit your chickens.
There have been lots of questions about nest box curtains. Many new chicken keepers think they are frivolous and unnecessary. Aren’t they just to make the coop look pretty? But do the chickens prefer them? Are there any benefits to using nest box curtains in the chicken coop?
Let’s look at the reasons why everyone should have curtains for their nesting boxes.
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Why Put Curtains on Nest Boxes?
There are many reasons why you should put curtains on your nest boxes. (And no, it’s not to make the coop look pretty.)
Nest Box Curtains Provide Privacy For Your Hens
Hens prefer to lay their eggs in solitude. They like a dark, quiet area to nest while they lay. If you research chickens in the wild, you would learn that typically, they would find a secluded area to lay their eggs away from the danger of predators. In the wild, hens want to be safe while laying eggs but they also want a place to keep the eggs safe too.
Until coops became the norm, chickens used to live in the barn with other animals. They would lay their eggs in random spots all over the barn and the yard. You may have even heard stories from older folks about having to go out and find the eggs for breakfast. Laying eggs in a dark, solitary place is just a hen’s natural instinct that they still have today.
Even if you free range your flock most of the day, the hens will either go back to the coop to lay their eggs or find a dark, private spot away from the other chickens.
Rarely will you ever find an egg that was laid out in the open. (Occasionally, you may find a random egg laid elsewhere but this is the exception, not the rule. And most of the time, the random egg in the open is due to a pullet who has just started laying eggs and isn’t quite sure what to do.)
Generally, if you have nest boxes, your hens will use them, especially if they feel safe and secure. And nesting box curtains help them feel comfortable and protected.
Nest Box Curtains Can Help Prevent Broody Hens
Hens tend to like to lay eggs where they see other eggs. You may notice that your hens tend to prefer one nest box over the others. With chickens, the maternal instinct is strong. If one hen sees another hen trying to sit on a clutch of eggs, it can trigger something in her so she wants to sit on a clutch of eggs too.
And unfortunately, if one hen goes broody, and then another, and another, very soon, you won’t be getting many eggs.
Nesting Box Curtains Help Keep Eggs From Freezing
During the winter, it can get pretty chilly in the coop, especially if you don’t provide supplemental heating. (And most chickens don’t need extra heat anyway.) Providing curtains for the nest boxes will help retain some heat in the boxes and prevent the eggs from freezing as quickly.
This gives you more time to collect the eggs before they crack and split open. (As a side note: If you do find a frozen egg in your coop, please immediately dispose of it. The cracks can allow bacteria to enter the egg which could make you sick.)
Curtains Can Prevent Egg Eating
Nesting box curtains can prevent egg eating. This is another reason I have found nest box curtains to be so important. Many times, when a chicken is coming or going from the nest box, they will step on the eggs. Occasionally, an egg will get broken. And if an egg gets broken, and your chickens can see it, they will taste it.
Nest box curtains make it much more difficult to see inside the nest box. Therefore, if an egg does accidentally get broken, it is less likely the hens will notice. Yes, it will still be a mess for you to clean up but probably won’t lead to an egg-eating habit.
How to Make Nest Box Curtains
If you decide to make nest box curtains, how you make them will partially depend on how your nest boxes are constructed. I’ve always used wooden boxes so making the nesting box curtains is relatively straightforward. I’ve shared my method below.
If you use pre-fab boxes or materials other than wood, you may have to get a bit creative about how you attach the curtains to the box. But no matter what type of nesting boxes you have, I recommend curtains for all.
What To Use For Nest Box Curtains
When deciding what to use to make your nest box curtains, a fabric curtain is best. Look around your home and see if you have anything you can repurpose for curtain material. It doesn’t need to be fancy and I definitely wouldn’t use anything expensive as the material will get soiled and need to be replaced every so often.
The best material is cotton or other natural fibers that don’t unravel too easily. (Some people recommend burlap, but I’m too worried it will unravel. Chickens will try to eat the burlap strings and that could cause many other issues.) Old sheets or old curtains work great and can be cut to fit your nest boxes.
The size of curtains you will need depends on the size of your nesting boxes. Mine were built from salvaged wood so they vary slightly in size but most are roughly 14″ x 14″. You need extra material to wrap around the sides of the box a bit.
How to Attach Your Curtains
I attach my curtains to the nesting box with fencing staples. I usually use two pieces of material for each nest box. I let the two pieces overlap slightly in the center, which is where the chickens will go in and out of the nest box.
However, I recently experimented with using one piece of fabric that I stapled to the box and just cut up the center to create the opening. So far, this seems to be working well and was actually a bit easier to attach. (See picture above for more details.) If you have plastic nesting boxes, you may have to get creative when attaching the curtains.
Will My Hens Actually Use The Boxes?
If you’ve never used nest box curtains before, your hens may be a bit apprehensive at first about going into the nest boxes. For the first few days you can tack them back so that they are partially open. Give the hens a few days to get used to them. Then untack the curtains.
Check carefully the first few days to be sure the hens aren’t laying their eggs on the floor of the coop. Generally, after one or two hens start laying in the curtained nest boxes, the other girls will follow suit.
Over time, the nest box curtains will get dirty. You have two choices: wash them or replace them. I prefer to just replace them every couple of years. My Mom sews a lot so she often has random pieces of material left over from her sewing projects, so I just go raid her stash. Sometimes the two pieces of material on each nest box don’t even match, but I promise the chickens don’t care.
Do You Use Nest Box Curtains?
I think nest box curtains make a great addition to the chicken coop. They give your chickens privacy and can prevent other problems as well. I would love to know if you use nest box curtains. Why or why not? Leave a comment and let me know.