where fashion meets function inside the chicken coop. Yes, nest box curtains can add a whimsical, fashionable touch to a chicken coop, but more importantly, they serve several important functions in the management of a backyard flock. A discovery born of necessity in
my chicken coop, nest box curtains evolved as the result of my efforts to deter
my first flock from sleeping in the nest boxes. At six weeks of age, I moved my
first dozen chickens from their brooder into the Big Girl Coop and while the
nest boxes wouldn’t be needed for another three months, they were ready for
action, full of clean straw in anticipation of fresh eggs. However, not having
had a roost in their brooder box, my chickens were not aware that roosts were intended
for sleeping upon and they began huddling in the nest boxes at dusk, hunkering
down for the night in the comfy straw.
with droppings and the nest boxes reduced to outhouse status. Nest boxes are
supposed to be a safe-haven for egg-laying and mother hens, not used as bedrooms
or latrines. I needed to figure out how to keep the ladies out of the nest
boxes. Having somehow missed Chicken Psychology 101 in law school, I began
scouring the Internet for suggestions for outwitting my nest box nappers.
for discouraging these unwanted slumber parties was to drape burlap over the
front of the nest boxes. I assume the theory was that the burlap created an
“out-of-sight-out-of-mind” scenario. Whatever the rationale, I was skeptical it
would work at all, but I had nothing to lose by trying it. So, armed with my
trusty staple gun, I headed to the coop to
install landscape-grade burlap in front of the nest boxes.
within a week of hanging the burlap, the chicks stopped sleeping in the nest
boxes entirely and began claiming their positions on the roosts at night! While
I was pleased with the result, I was not thrilled with the appearance or
performance of the burlap- it frayed and began unraveling, making an unsightly
mess as pine shavings stuck to it. While a cat might have appreciated the
entertainment value of the burlap strands, I did not and was concerned that the
chickens might become entangled in them, so I hit the linen closet for an
The burlap was replaced by an
old vinyl tablecloth, but that didn’t work well either; I found
that the flocking on the back of the vinyl was also a pine shavings
magnet- it looked messy and I soon replaced it too. The third and final
material choice fit the bill perfectly: a colorful remnant of cotton fabric from
kitchen curtains that had formerly hung in my bachelorette apartment.
It was bright, cheery, did not collect bedding, was washable, free and most
importantly, it kept the young chickens out of the nest boxes at night
hatched and as outlandish as the concept of curtains in a chicken coop may
sound, they actually have many practical implications beyond solving the
original problem that inspired their evolution.
prefer laying their eggs in a dark, private place. The desire for privacy is
likely an evolutionary adaptation resulting from the need to hide potential
offspring and hatched chicks from predators. Hens lay a clutch of eggs over a
period of a week or two before setting in earnest to hatch them, if the eggs
are not kept in a secluded location, they risk being lost to hungry predators
before the setting period can begin. Many chicken-keepers tell tales of stumbling
upon a hidden nest of eggs in the yard laid by free-range hens whose instinct
to conceal and protect them is still very strong. Nest box curtains provide
hens with the darkness, privacy and secrecy they insist upon when
egg-laying and caring for newly hatched chicks.
motivated by various biological and environmental factors to sit on a
clutch of eggs and hatch chicks. Broodiesinspire other broodies. The power of maternal suggestion is strong among hens
and with some, the sight of another broody on a nest is all it takes to
encourage her predisposition to set. Witnessing
a collection of eggs in a nest box can also promote broodiness. Broodies are
wonderful to have in a flock if the
chicken-keeper is interested in having baby chicks hatched at the whim of a
hen’s biological inclinations.
a broody hen may not be desirable in a backyard flock. When that is the case,
nest box curtains keep broodies and eggs out of view,
reducing the likelihood of a laying flock turning into a setting flock.
curtains can significantly reduce the risk of hens being injured by flock
mates while egg-laying. When laying an egg, a portion of a hen’s reproductive tract becomes visible momentarily as it escorts the egg out of the vent. Chickens
explore their world with their beaks and an innocent passerby witnessing the spectacle may
be drawn to the moist, pink tissue and peck at it, causing injury to the laying
hen. Once pecking begins and blood is drawn, other flock members may join in
the bloody investigation. This cannibalistic behavior endangers the life of the
laying hen if it is not interrupted.
come as a surprise to learn that chickens will eat raw eggs out of the
nest boxes, but who can blame them? They’re fresh, tasty and nutritious.
However, egg-eating is a habit that should be discouraged as soon as
possible after discovery. Not only does it reduce the number of eggs available
for collection, it is a habit that is quickly learned by other flock
members and is extremely difficult to break.
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 from chickens and hopefully, out of mind.
curtains can be made of a variety of materials from burlap to vinyl, cotton to
empty feed sacks and beyond. They can be stapled to the nest boxes or hung with
curtain rods. They can be sewn or not. The chickens tend not to express
opinions about their color, pattern or material- they do care about being able
to gain access to the nest boxes, however. Vertical strips should be cut into
the material from the bottom towards the top, stopping a few inches from the
top of the nest box in order to facilitate entering and exiting it.
birds that have yet to lay eggs do not need nest boxes, but it’s advisable to
hang the curtains before their occupation of the coop if possible. Pullets will
begin testing out the nest boxes just prior to laying their first eggs. They
will walk through the nest box curtains and discover the nest boxes at that
time if not before.
Older hens having lived in a coop without nest box curtains may be wary of them
initially, but ordinarily get past any apprehension fairly quickly. Once they
have inspected the nest boxes and deemed them worthy of egg-laying they will
appreciate the privacy upgrade from coach to first class.