Why are my chickens sleeping in the nest boxes?

by Sharon L
(Annapolis, MD USA)

My hens laid well all summer and have stopped for the winter. I know this is normal but my Delaware's want to sleep in their nesting box. I have been blocking the nesting box at night to stop this. Should I keep doing that or is it ok for them to sleep in the nesting box?

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Why Chickens Might Sleep in Nest Boxes
by: Sharon

I couldn't tell you exactly why these girls want to sleep in the nest boxes rather than on their roosts. I don't know what your coop is like, how and where the roosts are.

My guess would be that they stay warmer all nestled in to a cozy nest. Legs & feet would be warmer, so they could use their energy to keep the rest of their bodies warmer.

It's important that the coop be draft free in winter, and that it be free of dampness, especially at night. It's possible that the nests are less drafty than the roosting area.

If the girls have entered their natural break from laying, it's unlikely they are feeling broody and most likely they just want to feel warmer through the cold nights. Not laying allows them more of their physical resources for staying healthy.

The only reason I don't like my hens sleeping in their nests is that they tend to poop, so nests get dirty faster. The warmer they can stay in winter, the healthier they will be.

Chickens are tough creatures and generally don't need supplemental heat if fully feathered and mature, and if they have gotten used to the cold temps as they drop through fall & winter. They have usually shed old feathers and grown new and more insulating feathers during the fall molt.

A diet supplemented with whole seeds like flax, safflower & black oil sunflower can raise their calorie intake with good fats. Chickens need more calories to keep warm in winter. I also like to give vitamins once a week to help support good health.

As long as the coop is locked up tight, no drafts, dry and safe from predators, I'd let them sleep where they like.

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