Mar 27, 2012

Chicken Nest Box Curtains- More than a Fashion Statement

Before my first flock members were old enough to lay eggs, some of them were using the nest boxes as bedrooms. Chickens poop a lot while they sleep and I knew that I had to put a stop to the nightly nest box occupations. I had read that hanging burlap in front of the nest boxes could deter these unwanted slumber parties and figured it was worth a try.
Armed with my trusty staple gun, I headed to the coop to install a length of burlap in front of the nest boxes. Within a week of hanging these primitive nest box curtains, the young chickens began roosting like big girls.
My original nest box curtains. Charming, no?
 I do not recommend burlap as it frays and unravels, making an unsightly mess in the coop, tangling up with pine shavings and itself. I couldn't bear the sight of it and, replaced it with vinyl tablecloth material, but I found that the flocking on the back of the vinyl material got messy looking too. Plan C.

 The third nest box material choice was the charm: a colorful remnant
of fabric from curtains in my old apartment.
BENEFITS OF NEST BOX CURTAINS
Laying Privacy
Hens prefer to lay their eggs in a quiet, private place. If you've ever had a free-range hen and stumbled upon a hidden nest of eggs in the yard, you already know this. Nest box curtains provide hens with privacy they appreciate while laying eggs.

Discouraging Vent Picking
When laying an egg, a hen's cloaca (the end of her reproductive tract) becomes distended and exposed as it escorts the egg out the vent. Other chickens witnessing this process can be drawn the the reddened tissue and peck at it. Once pecking begins, further cannibalistic behavior is extremely difficult to stop and can lead to the death of the laying hen. Nest box curtains provide laying hens with privacy and darkness, reducing the risk of cannibalism significantly.
View the video of this hen laying an egg HERE!

I think she approves.
Discouraging Egg-Eating
Egg-eating is a horrible habit for a chicken to pick up and is extremely difficult, although not impossible, to break. It can also be a learned behavior from watching others engage in it. The less visible eggs are in a nest, the less likely chickens are to explore them with their beaks, break one open and discover what we already know- they're delicious! Nest box curtains keep eggs out of sight and out of mind.
 
Broody Hens
A broody hen is a hen who is inspired (by decreased daylight conditions and sometimes by seeing a collection of eggs in a nest)  to sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch chicks. Broody hens prefer dark, private places. Hens have been known to wander off for several weeks to make themselves a secret nest in a barn or under a porch, and return a few weeks later with chicks in tow! Nest box curtains provide the ambiance expectant mama hens seek.
Broody Deterrence
Broodies inspire other broodies. The power of maternal suggestion is strong and with some hens, the mere sight of another broody on a nest is all it takes to kick her hormones into overdrive. Nest box curtains keep broodies and eggs out of view, reducing the likelihood of a laying flock turning into a sitting flock.
Nest box curtains can be made of lots of materials. I prefer fabric to others I have tried as it hangs well, wears well and can be washed, in theory. I'd rather just throw it out and change the vibe in the coop! Mine are a simple, no-sew curtain that I staple right onto the wood above the nest boxes. Easy in, easy out.
Window treatments to match the nest boxes, of course.

101 comments :

  1. Lovely idea! I didn't know a lot of this, will be adding curtains to their coop now. Gotta keep em happy :)

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    1. Thanks farmerchic! The cheery curtains will make you happy too, which is also important. :) Share pic on my FB page when you finish yours, I'd love to see them!

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  2. Awesome curtains! Awesome coop! ...I like your giant PVC feeder too!

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    1. Thanks Lauren! The curtains are down in the big coop, waiting for me to find some free time to hang new ones (when that will be is anyone's guess!).

      I have DIY instructions to my PVC feeder if you're interested, see the index to the right, above. :)

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  3. i am doing curtains! i also love your hung feeder! i am going to look for one of those too! *my chicks are only 4 weeks old, but their coop is ready for the finishing touches!

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    1. I would LOVE to see the photos of your finished coop! Please share on Facebook when you're done. :)

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  4. I love these curtains! They are so darling! I need to make some of these!

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  5. I made curtains for my hens this week, your blog really helped, thanks!!

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  6. The curtains are very cute! I may need to make some for my Mom's coop... :)

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  7. After reading this about a month ago I added curtains to the list of things I NEED in my coop. Hubby thinks I'm crazy, but he won't read all the things I have read & we'll see if my chickens are better layers than his moms chickens were! Thank you for all your wonderful information! Very Helpful! - Audrey Siebert

    BTW I have followed you for a while now & have your page Linked on my blog (http://newhomebeginnings.blogspot.com/)

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  8. Since we just got our coop today, this gives me some great ideas...as always! Your site has given me such great information!

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  9. still trying to find the perfect curtains for my girls!! Love the Blogs Kathy!! Janelle

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  10. Oooo...I like the idea of curtains. Gonna do that for sure. My peeps are 3wks old so I have some time. :)
    Question, though. I see your nesting boxes are level with the floor of the coop. I always thought they should be off the ground. Does the height of nesting boxes matter?

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    1. Oh, wait, I see they are up a bit. So, what is the best height for nesting boxes?

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    2. The height of the nest boxes relative to the floor doesn't matter but the height relative to the roosts DOES. Chickens like to roost at night as high up as possible, so the roosts should always be higher than the nest boxes so they don't sleep in the nest boxes. Poop in nest boxes=dirty eggs and sleeping in nest boxes is a difficult habit to break. If your flock is brand new, I would shut the nest boxes so they can't get into them intially. Once they become accustomed to sleeping on the roosts, you can open them up for business.

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  11. Martha Waugh5/11/12, 4:09 PM

    My girls didn't get the memo about privacy. They both lay their eggs in the doorway leading out of their coop into the run. I hope they don't teach my new girls this bad habit. Defeats the purpose of the external door to the next boxes.

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    1. Martha, you may want to try putting some fake eggs in the nest to show them where eggs are supposed to be laid. A golf ball, wooden egg or even a plastic Easter egg will do the trick most times.

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  12. I work at a fabric store. This could get dangerous!!

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    1. No way!! SO jealous!! Let me know how the curtains of the week turn out!

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  13. Love the chicken cam. We also use a barn cam to check up on our horses and chickens. It comes in handy when we're on the road. We were over an hour away from our farm when my wife checked the barn cam and saw one of our horses hoofs was caught in the hay net. We called our neighbor and she went over to help. Thank god for that barn cam and great neighbors.

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  14. We put curtains on our boxes, hopefully we will have some eggs soon! Im waiting and waiting!!

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  15. Thank you so much for this info! My partly grown chickens keep sleeping in the regular sized hens' nest boxes and, you guessed it, pooping in them! I keep trying to get my husband just to hang a bit of screen over them at night, using a couple of nails, and then removing it in the morning when he opens the run door to let them out for the day,but he just hasn't kept it up. I'm pretty frustrated about that. I'm glad that you posted this idea because it will save me getting mad at him for not doing it. Especially since I'm the one who usually cleans the nest boxes and I'm the one who has to clean dirty eggs.
    My husband will think I'm crazy, but I'm going to go look through my fabric right now to see what I can staple up. Question: Which is better: individual pieces, one in front of each nest box, or one big piece across them all?

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  16. I tried to get my husband to simply hang a bit of wire screening in front of the boxes to keep the smallest chicks from sitting in them each night, but he hasn't kept it up (he did it ONE night). I'm so glad to see your post about putting curtains up. Maybe it will save me from being upset about this with my husband. LOL. After all, I'm usually the one who has to clean out the poopy nest boxes AND clean the dirty eggs. Question: Do you recommend individual pieces of fabric, one in front of each nest box, or could one long piece of fabric work?

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    1. I think the single piece is easy to work with, but it really doesn't matter.
      Now I want PINK ones too!!!!

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  17. Ha ha! I have about a yard of that very same daisy patterned fabric that I'm going to use in my henhouse. The check on mine is pink.

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    1. I retired the red curtains after having served us well for three years. They were such a cheery print. :)

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  18. Tami Emerson11/12/12, 6:44 PM

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing. :o)

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  19. I will be adding them to my laying boxes maybe my girls will like the privacy and start laying.

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  20. TheChickenChick11/12/12, 10:50 PM

    My pleasure, thank you Tami!

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  21. Marlo RepurposeMyLife1/14/13, 2:55 PM

    Thanks for sharing at Repurposed Ideas Weekly. You always provide me with great advice for my girls.

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  22. Tammy Jackson1/15/13, 7:13 PM

    You are absolutely amazing. 

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  23. Love this idea. My teenage girls just got put in w the big girls and they are sleeping in the nest box! Now I know how to fix the problem! I love ur blogs...so informative for us newbies!

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  24. I'm so excited, and can not wait to decorate our new coop!!  Just waiting to hear from the rollback driver if the one I found on Craig's List can be moved!!
    I never thought about nesting box curtains.  It makes sense though, we found eggs everwhere (on top of the rabbit hutch, under the balance beam covered with a tarp, under the azaela bushes, etc.) around the yard until they decided on our dog's Igloo Dog House.
    Also, the coop I am trying to get has more boxes than roosting space, and it appeared like the girls are sleeping in the boxes.  Now I know how to hopefully correct this!!

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  25. TheChickenChick1/15/13, 10:55 PM

    Wow. Thanks Tammy!

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  26. I did put up one set of curtains up on our 2nd box as no one would use it.  It did help!  Now I think they all love it, so more curtains.  Oh and I made tiebacks, very cute.

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  27. Mary Gilbert1/16/13, 10:20 AM

    Did I see "chicken cam" in that final picture?  Does that mean...LIVE FEED?  If not...hint, Hint, HINT :)

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  28. Love your coop!  Inspired to go decorate our three.  We have nest box sleepers too!  Maybe the curtains will work.  At first did your laying hens not want to go in to lay with the curtains up?  Also love the grate under the roost...awesome idea.  That area gets so poopy.  :)

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  29. TheChickenChick1/17/13, 10:31 PM

    Great testimonial, Ellen! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  30. TheChickenChick1/17/13, 10:31 PM

    Very observant, Mary! :) lol

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  31. TheChickenChick1/17/13, 10:48 PM

    They never had any qualms about going in the nest boxes, Melissa.
    As for the droppings pit, I don't recommend it. I far prefer a droppings board; you can read about droppings boards on my post here: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/droppings-boards-because-poop-happens.html

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  32.  Thanks!  Last night I was showing my husband all my new coop ideas and your site!  :)

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  33. Would love to know what you used to set up the chicken cam and how. Love the foral curtains, lends a bright cheery touch to the coop. Keeping them clean would be a challege ~ how often do you find the need to replace them?

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  34. The very last photo has a picture of what I'm guessing is a home-made feeder... I'd love the instructions of how you did that (ie: made the bottom pan.. I can figure out the pvc tube...LOL!)  Thanks!

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  35. TheChickenChick2/26/13, 11:01 PM

    Hi Leslie, here's the link to my PVC feeder: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/05/my-pvc-chicken-feeder-diy-instructions.html

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  36. peartreehens7/26/13, 8:38 PM

    I'm all set to make my girls some curtains--one or two questions though: do you make them the whole length of the nest box opening? In some of your photos, it looks like there's a 3" or so gap between the curtains and the bottom of the nest box door. Also, does it matter much how far apart the slits are?
    thanks so much!

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  37. TheChickenChick7/28/13, 12:19 AM

    Yes, make them the entire length of the nest box. I was using a remnant from another project for those shorty curtains! lol It doesn't matter how far the slits are apart at all.

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  38. One of the best posts that I have seen on raising chickens! Thanks

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  39. Chicklover22468/26/13, 7:10 AM

    Thank you for writing all this and making it available! My 2nd hen has been laying for a week (in the nesting boxes w/curtains). My 1st layer has been laying for 2 weeks & just started laying in the nesting boxes after a week of curtains which was a week of laying across the coop from the nesting boxes w/out curtains. Curtains must be what she needed! I searched how to get a chicken to lay eggs in a nesting box and found your site. I love it!
    We also have chicken cams. It started as chick cams when they were in the house so I could check on them when I wasn't home and now has evolved into 8 chicken cams covering the coop and run. Happy to see we're not the only crazy ones! Thank you for all the pictures and writing you've done here and on facebook!

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  40. vicki spleas8/29/13, 8:33 PM

    do chickens chew on the wood in the coop?

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  41. TheChickenChick8/29/13, 11:31 PM

    They don't have teeth, so they can't chew, but I have never seen a chicken peck wood.

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  42. Pennilynn Zobrist McNew9/16/13, 8:58 PM

    Next project: curtains for my girls...

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  43. Anita Holmes9/29/13, 10:40 AM

    What a lovely site! I'll be a first-time-ever chicken owner this coming spring (2014). Am in the process of learning all I can. I noticed in one of your pixes what looks like a large piece of PVC attached to the wall vertically with a feed bowl under it? Is this a homemade feeder?

    Thx, Anita Holmes

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  44. Jennifer McLaughlin Doane9/29/13, 8:41 PM

    I currently have our nest boxes blocked off since The Ladies aren't ready to lay yet. If I do curtains from the start will they know to venture behind the curtain or should I leave the boxes open for a day or so first?

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  45. TheChickenChick9/29/13, 9:04 PM

    They'll know.

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  46. TheChickenChick9/29/13, 9:11 PM

    It IS a PVC feeder, Anita! It's super easy to make too. Here are the DIY instructions: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/05/my-pvc-chicken-feeder-diy-instructions.html

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  47. Our bay chicks just turned one month old. We have had two snow storms already here in Wyoming (yes its only oct 4th) and they are handling the weather great thanks to some of your tips. We have given them warm soup, which they go crazy for and other fun snacks to keep them occupied indoors. We have a little while before they start laying, I will definitely keep curtains in mind! I love your blog, thank you!

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  48. I'm sorry I might be a little dense, but question.... If you use the curtains to deter the littles why doesn't it deter the hens from laying?? I'm not so sure it would deter my littles whom I'd love to move to the big girl roost.

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  49. TheChickenChick10/31/13, 10:21 PM

    Laying hens appreciate privacy- they seek it out. The curtains provide them with darkness and privacy that they prefer.
    Usually by the time the littles wander into the coop, the sun has begun to set and they don't see well at night. All but the most determined chicks will hop up onto the roost vs walking through curtains into a dark nest box. If you do find chickens in the nest boxes while closing up the cop for the night, simply put the chickens on the roost. A week or two of this usually teaches them that the roosts are the place to be all night, not the nest boxes.

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  50. I love your site!! I have a very broody bantam hen. Do you think curtains will help to stop her broodiness?

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  51. So I put up my curtains and my hens tore them down in two days flat. Do I put them back up or just leave them down? I put them up to keep the new young hens from roosting in there.

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  52. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 3:22 AM

    If you have no laying hens, block off the nest boxes completely with a board or something that fills the boxes, such as egg cartons. I would still put the curtains up again. Try stapling them with a heavy duty stapler (not an office stapler).

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  53. Barbara Van Fossen12/4/13, 7:27 AM

    Community Chicken had an article about a killimg cone versus an axe, but did not say what a killing cone is. Can you tell me.

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  54. You inspired me to install nipple waterers and now to put in nest box curtains. My lovely hens and handsome roosters thank you!
    -- Colleen Rhodes-Golub aka SierraC

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  55. Shannon Collins-Gilroy2/4/14, 8:33 PM

    I'm going to sew some tomorrow during storm #2 for this week.... My ladies however don't mind the snow so much. They are laying everyday without artifical light! I think the reflection of the sunlight on the snow is helping :)

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  56. Ok Ok you talked me into it, making curtains for the girls. This should help a lot with them taking their nest material out of the boxes to. Thanks for the info

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  57. I am enjoying decorating my coop....You give me lots of ideas .........I have a box full of cloth napkins in a variety of colors I Think I'll use for curtains....

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  58. Nadine Sizemore2/4/14, 8:56 PM

    Very interesting!

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  59. TheChickenChick2/4/14, 9:22 PM

    Sounds cool. I'd love to see it when you're done!

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  60. Lisa Frazier2/4/14, 11:27 PM

    Cathy, I've had curtains up in our nest boxes since I read this post last summer (2013) & they've discouraged all but one hen to roost at night. She WILL NOT give up sleeping there & I move her each night when I go close the pop doors & do the head count. Any advice? She's not broody & not low in the pecking order. We have plenty of roost space... I just don't know what to do! I'm getting real tired of cleaning poop out of that box every day.

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  61. TheChickenChick2/5/14, 1:37 AM

    I have one or two who do the same thing from time-to-time. I figure I have to close up the coops every night anyway, it's not that big a deal to move them from nest to roost. At least it keeps the nest poop-free for early birds who want to lay eggs first thing in the morning.

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  62. TheChickenChick2/5/14, 1:38 AM

    The daylight hours have been increasing, that explains the production. ;)

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  63. Elizabeth Nicole Stelling2/5/14, 12:08 PM

    I had the same questions and this answered them. Thank you for the wonderful information!

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  64. I had a hen that did the same thing... after they had laid for day I put a big bucket in the nest box and just took it out in the morning when I opened the coop. Believe me put something in there that is big and fills up the next box.... I had put a smaller flower pot in there- but she slept right with it.. so I got a big bucket and did that for about two weeks and she hasn't done it since :)

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  65. Peggy Bishop3/31/14, 8:24 AM

    My chicks have not yet moved into the "big girl house", but when they do, should I immediately set up the nesting boxes with straw, etc. or wait until they are close to egg laying age?

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  66. TheChickenChick4/1/14, 12:50 AM

    They won't need nest boxes before 16 weeks in the vast majority of breeds.

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  67. Cecilia Lizarraga4/10/14, 1:57 PM

    I have an injured chicken, she drags her leg I think its dislocated from the hip, should I put her down or what do you suggest. She is in a kennel resting and she has been in there for about two weeks, she eats well and is as fisty as ever, what do you suggest. Please email me. Thanks.

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  68. TheChickenChick4/10/14, 3:40 PM

    If you can't get her to a vet, I would put her down. Two weeks is a long time to be in such pain with no improvement. :(

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  69. C.C. Lizarraga4/10/14, 3:45 PM

    Yea, that is what I was thinking. I just don't have the heart to do it and my vet is not chicken savey to try to heal her. So sad....
    Thanks.... :(

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  70. Sounds like you've got a lot of different issues going on there. I can't speculate as to what is going on with the abdomens of those hens. Can you get them to a vet for a proper exam?

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  71. Cindy Butzer5/20/14, 8:43 PM

    I have four 9 month old layers, Lucy a SS, sisters Amelia and Jethrine, Ameraucanas, and Dyna a mixed BCM/silky. The big girls will not let my 11-week old girls, Pearl a BR and Daisy a BO, up on the roost at night. Needless to say they curl up in a nesting box together. They actually have their own coop, but have graduated to wanting to be with the big girls. Unfortunately the feeling is not mutual. They are all together all day, well they don't hang together, but they are not penned separately. Bums me out the big girls are being so mean to them, but they are not hurting them. HELP!

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  72. I would take the 11 wk olds out of the coop and start over with this technique: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/06/integrating-new-flock-members-playpen.html

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  73. natalien5555/23/14, 3:23 PM

    Kathy is there a certain place or height the nest boxes need to be? The little coup I have isn't going to do...I have to modify it big time just to get a roost in there that's appropriate for the size of a grown chicken. The coup and chickens are in a nice size enclosure for their safety. I'm looking to place the next boxes outside of the coup yet inside the enclosure...is that ok? Also what are the matts, you mentioned in another article, called for the nesting boxes? My older babies are at 15 weeks on Monday. I gotta get this created and soon :) Thank you for all of your help...couldn't imagine doing this without you :)

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  74. Katy Herring6/5/14, 4:01 PM

    Is there a "best" place to put nesting boxes? As far as should they be above roosts, below roosts, certain number of inches above the ground?

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  75. The only important rule to abide by is to keep the roost higher than the nest boxes.

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  76. Should the curtains be as tall as the box or should there be a gap

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  77. I always learn something new here, thank you!!! I put up curtains, for the reasons you mentioned, except...discouraging vent picking! Never occurred to me. It's also never happened, so I guess we're lucky or the curtains work!!!

    My first curtains were of an adorable egg pattern with red background, to 'inspire' the ladies to lay (LOL). They were terrified of them. I made new ones, no more fear. Put the red ones back up, they wouldn't go near them. Guess red isn't my ladies color,haha. I finally ended up cutting up a reusable blue, beach scene, Trader Joes grocery sack, for easy cleaning, and they all love them.....silly chickens. :)

    And to answer someone's question about length, I left an inch or two at the bottom, so they can see to hop in, etc. But that's just MY way of doing it.

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  78. I just have a couple of questions. Is it ok to have round poles for the roost and if the coop is large and nesting boxes an roost are on opposite walls does it matter if nesting boxes are higher?
    My older chickens are roosting in the nesting boxes. Will curtains cure this?

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  79. Nest boxes should always be lower than roosts because chickens like to roost as high up as possible and may begin sleeping in the nest boxes.

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  80. mommylonglegs6/30/14, 2:24 AM

    I love your ideas and appreciate you sharing them (: your chickens are so lucky to have you for their "mom"!

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  81. I put some curtains in a couple of days ago because this year's hatch (almost point of lay) have been hanging around the nesting boxes and eating eggs like the unruly teenage gang that they are. But now my hens aren't laying! I don't think they like the change. I have a couple that will go in and sit for a while but the others just stand there on the ground looking up at the boxes. I'm starting to find the odd egg out in the paddock under the bushes and I wonder how many others have been laid and eaten out there. :(

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  82. I am new to all of this. Our 4 month old Oprington just laid her first egg today. The hens had all been sleeping in the nesting boxes, prior to this, as I keep finding it full of poop. I clean it out and put in new material, and they have two roosting posts. I didn't read any of this prior.....so now my question is...if one hen laid in there today, will she continue..will the others follow suit? Will they still sleep and poop in there now that they know that is where to lay? Or should I put up curtains and try to train them to sleep on the posts at night? I have 3 more that seem about ready to lay and have been in an out of the nesting box all day!

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  83. Suzi Stephenson7/27/14, 1:47 PM

    I just found some navy bandanas on sale and they are perfect for curtains! Love your posts, one of these days I will win a grand Pa feeder!

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  84. Gena Thomas7/27/14, 3:14 PM

    GREAT article as usual. I am going to work on some curtains right away. :) (love your page and fb posts. so informative!)

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  85. Esther Dickinson7/27/14, 4:45 PM

    Well. . .I have added nest box curtains to inhibit egg eating. . .today, it worked. We will continue to hope it does for all time! I was so upset and discouraged when I found the egg, so I went to work! New navy blue curtains on the nest boxes. One of my roosters was in the box this morning, so I think he approves!

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  86. LeaAnn Friend7/28/14, 12:57 AM

    I feel really dumb, I am new t this, just started in April, did not know that the chickens were not supposed to sleep in nest at night, we did build roost in the coop but they sleep in the nest boxes, I assumed that was where they were supposed to sleep? now I'm confused

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  87. Barbara Montgomery Laughlin7/29/14, 12:53 PM

    My young hens had just begun laying. Because they had been sleeping in the nesting boxes they were messy and they didnt want to lay their eggs there. Curtains solved these problems overnight! Thank you so much!

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  88. Hi there. How far off the ground do you have your feed in the picture above. Love the curtains! Going to be working on things tonight!!

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  89. They are supposed to sleep on a roost so that they are not laying in their own excrement.

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