Chicken Nesting Box Pads: All You Need to Know
Hens use nesting boxes solely for laying eggs or brooding.
So the primary purpose of the bedding inside the nesting boxes is to keep the eggs protected and clean. That's where chicken nesting box pads will come in handy!
As a chicken keeper, you can use loose bedding material such as wood shavings, straw, or grass clippings, but there are numerous advantages to using nesting box pads instead when choosing the right ones for your flock!
- Chickens are less likely to kick nesting pads out of the nesting box (unlike loose materials)
- Less chance of broken or dirty eggs
- Easier to clean and/or replace
A significant part of the nesting and laying process is your hen's wellbeing. They'll probably feel more comfortable on organic beddings like hemp or aspen. Organic nesting pads can be molded into a nest by your chickens, unlike rubber or plastic, and therefore are more cozy and enjoyable.
On the other hand, artificial nesting pads are reusable and easy to clean, and many chicken owners don't have issues with their hens using plastic or rubber pads.
We address all pros and cons and research for you so you and your hens can make a considered decision.
Types of Nesting Box Pads
There are numerous types of chicken nesting box pads available on the market. When talking about these pads, two different types are mainly used.
Organic Nesting Pads
Examples of common organic nesting pad materials:
- Dried Grass
- Coconut Fiber
Aspen, hemp, grass, coconut fiber, or straw nesting pads are organic, soft, and comfortable types of bedding often used by chicken keepers. It has all the advantages of organic loose bedding materials but is cut out to fit inside the nesting box. Therefore, these nesting pads can still be modified by hens and are comfortable.
Organic nesting pads are warm and snug for your chickens but aren't reusable or washable. When soiled, they have to be replaced by a fresh nesting pad. Therefore, organic nesting pads can be more expensive in the long run.
Artificial Nesting Pads
Examples of common artificial nesting pad materials:
- Synthetic Grass
Plastic, rubber nesting pads, or artificial grass are often used as nesting box bedding. It's a matter of taste and comfort for your chickens. The main benefit of synthetic nesting pads is that they're reusable, so they're cheaper than organic pads in the long run. Wash out the pads by simply hosing them, and they're ready to use in no time.
Chicken owners sometimes complain the plastic bedding is too stiff and uncomfortable for their hens. It doesn't feel as natural and snug as organic bedding pads. Chickens can also not rearrange the bedding into a nest.
On the other hand, many chickens don't have a problem with artificial bedding materials and use them without issues. You can train your hens to use artificial nesting pads by adding organic material on top of the pad. After some time, reduce the amount of organic bedding until they're used to the synthetic bedding.
Always watch your chickens whether they like the bedding material inside the nesting box. If they hate it, chances are, they start laying eggs in their litter or somewhere outside the coop.
Advantages of Chicken Box Nesting Pads
Nesting Pads Stay inside the Nesting Box
Chickens constantly scratch their feet in the dirt, looking for bugs or seeds. They do the same inside the nesting box, not looking for food but building a comfortable nest. When using loose bedding material inside the nesting boxes, you'll realize your hens kicked out almost all bedding, and nearly no bedding is left inside after a few days.
As your chickens kick out the nesting material, you'll have more work cleaning out the coop and nesting boxes. And more importantly, the eggs will likely get more soiled and break easier during lay.
Nesting pads are cut out, matching the exact size of the nesting box. So are less likely to be kicked out. But chickens can still mold organic nesting pads to a nest and scratch their feet around, which is an essential part of the nesting process and their well-being. This is not possible when using plastic or rubber nesting pads.
Less chance of Broken Eggs
As hens make a nest and relocate the bedding material, it often leaves a hollow in the middle of the nesting box bedding, exposing the wood. When chickens lay eggs, the chances of breaking or chipping the egg are higher as it lands on the hard wooden floor of the nesting box.
Cracked eggs tempt chickens into eating their eggs, a habit very hard to unlearn. Hens start eating not only broken eggs but also intact ones, and you'll have no eggs left to use yourself.
When it comes to egg-eating hens, prevention is better than cure. A layer of bedding material that stays in its place is recommended.
Easier to Clean and/or replace
Organic nesting pads are not reusable; however, they don't wear out that fast. When the pads get soiled, wet or dirty, you simply replace them with fresh ones. There is no need to clean out loose bedding material; take out the old bedding and place a fresh pad in the nesting box.
Synthetic nesting pads are reusable and washable. Hose down the pads to get them clean, and after drying, they're ready for use!
Disadvantages of Chicken Box Nesting Pads
There really aren't downsides to nesting pads, except for the price. Nesting pads are more expensive than loose bedding materials like straw or wood shavings.
When you have the money to spare, nesting box pads, especially thick, organic ones, are, in our opinion, the best bedding option.
Best Nesting Box Pads
Of course, every chicken keeper has to decide what's best to use. But we've done some research of our own and made a top choice in eighter synthetic and organic nesting pads.
Washable Rubber Nesting Pads
These washable and reusable nesting pads are made of rubber, and instead of spiky synthetic nesting pads, they don't prick your hens' feet. The bedding is soft and cushiony, although the pad is not as thick as the picture online suggested.
The circles on the surface prevent the eggs from rolling, but the ridges aren't too high, so it doesn't bother the hens while laying.
Like most synthetic nesting box pads, it can take the hens some time to get used to. The nesting pad is easy to clean. Shake off any dirt, rinse with water, and leave to dry before placing the pads back inside the nesting box.
Organic Aspen Nesting Pads
An absolute convenience and time saver are aspen nesting pads. These pads are made of thin wood shavings, with a back in paper to absorb any moisture.
The pads are pretty thick and, therefore, very comfortable. They can easily be modified or rearranged by hens without ruining the pad.
A big plus is; however, it's a disposable nesting pad. It's completely compostable, so no waste. And it doesn't need to be replaced too often. If your hens don't use the nesting boxes to sleep, you'll probably last a couple of weeks with one pad.
Let's sum things up!
There are many advantages to using nesting pads instead of loose materials. Whether you want to pay a bit extra for it is up to you, but as far as we're concerned, totally worth the small additional cost.