One of the first things you need to learn and understand as a chicken keeper is their nesting habits.
Of course, domesticated backyard chickens often have a small cozy nesting box provided for them, and most of the time their instincts will take care of the rest.
But, when you think about free-range chickens or even their wild counterparts you can’t help wondering – do chickens make nests?
Here we explore whether chickens make nests, from the wild to the backyard, so that you can understand their nesting habits in more depth.
Do Chickens Make Nests?
Most birds make some kind of nest, whether it’s a classic convenient nest out of twigs, hay, or other debris, or whether it’s just a small hole in the ground.
The bird’s nest provides two main purposes, both of which also apply to chicken nests too. The first is for shelter, comfort, and safety. The second is for a house to raise its eggs and young.
When it comes to chickens, they still have the instinct within them which tells them to nest in a safe environment, for their own safety, and so they can lay their eggs. This will always be in a small, nestled space, ideally away from light, and close to the ground.
So, chickens do in fact make nests. Whether it’s backyard chickens picking a favorite nesting box or a free-range chicken nesting under bushes deep within scrubs. You’ll find that when your hens get broody, they will sit in their nesting spot for days on end, which is their instinct to sit on their eggs to hatch them. You might even find your hen has moved all her eggs there!
Do Chickens Make Nests In The Wild?
The first thought you might have here is, are there really chickens in the wild? Well, in some places in the world there are, such as Hawaii, or the city of Fitzgerald for example. In these places chickens certainly make nests, and it’s not so far from their backyard counterparts either!
See, although some wild chickens may sleep in trees or other roosts, they will exclusively make nests on the ground in a safe location to lay their eggs. This is usually deep with shrubs or bushes, or under trees or other surroundings.
Do Free Range Chickens Make Nests?
If you own your own free-range chickens you will know this all too well. It starts with you simply thinking some of your chickens have stopped laying. Then you find their secret egg stash somewhere hidden out of sight, and certainly not in the nesting box let alone the coop!
I’ve found a pile of eggs in a small bucket under my house, and another pile deep within a bush one time.
So, free-range chickens do in fact make nests – even if you’ve provided them with enough nesting boxes in the coop!
If you do find a hidden nest, it’s best to unfortunately get rid of it and encourage your hens to again start laying in their nesting boxes. This is both for their own safety, and also so you can collect the fresh eggs more easily!
Make sure to use suitable bedding in their nesting boxes too. Otherwise, you might find your hens kick it out entirely!
How Are Chicken Nests Different?
A typical bird nest is circular-shaped and made of twigs and debris. Birds position their nests high up in the trees to protect their homes from predators.
Chicken nests, on the other hand, are unconventional.
Since they’re flightless birds (or mostly flightless!), their nests aren’t found in trees but rather in odd places. When a chicken recognizes a place as safe and secluded, it’ll make a nest there.
That usually means areas such as overgrown bushes, undergrowth, and thick brushes are their go-to’s.
When it comes to the material used, chickens don’t mind much so long as the nest has a smooth surface. So a few pieces of straw do the job just fine.
That’s why chicken nests are usually easy to find because they’re so simple. But, that isn’t a rule – as some nests go undetected for far too long, particularly if you have a large property!
Should You Provide Your Chicken A Nest?
Not so much a nest, as a nesting box. If you’re a chicken owner already you’ll know how essential it is to create or add a nesting box to your chicken’s coop. In fact, you should have at least 2 nesting boxes for a small of five chickens and one more per five chickens after that. This ensures there is always a vacant space so your chickens can use it when they need to!
So, by providing a nesting box for your chickens it will:
- Stop chickens from tripping over and breaking any eggs left around, and from eating what’s inside.
- Eggs laying around will attract predators. Having them in a secure place prevents that, elevating them off the ground helps too (ramps are optional!).
- It makes it easier for you to monitor your chicken, and know if it’s their brooding period yet or not.
- No eggs are lost, missed, or destroyed! Dedicating a nesting place guarantees that.
Every day you own chickens is another day you get more addicted to them in every way.
Understanding your fluffy feathered friends’ nesting habits helps you provide a safe space for them to do their business.
If you have free-range chickens, keep an eye on where they are laying. You don’t want them laying anywhere but the nesting box, really it attracts more predators and means you get fewer fresh eggs yourself!