There are two main reasons that you might consider installing a coop curtain on your nesting boxes:
Reduce Egg Breakage - Let's face it. Sometimes eggs get broken. They are laid on top of other eggs. The hen rolls them around after laying, as is her nature. Shells are sometimes weak because the hen is not getting enough calcium into her eggs, due to age or nutrition or both. Chickens who don's see eggs don't seem to go looking for them out of curiosity or out of recalling how tasty they can be. And you don't want to let them get a taste for eggs. If many learn the fine art of breaking eggs from one another, they will likely make a daily mess and ruin a lot of eggs.
Stop Chickens sleeping in nesting boxes A hen who is avoiding bullying or having difficulty finding a spot on the roosting bars, make choose a nesting box for her sleeping quarters. The problem is that sleeping chickens leave droppings behind. The result is dirty and/or stained eggs and messy nesting boxes.
Gives the hens a little privacy and security for that vulnerable moment of laying her egg where her cloaca (aka. vent) is exposed and can be injured by curious or aggressive flockmates.
In all of these instances, we are aided by a great chicken keeper wisdom. "Out of Sight. Out of Mind."
You will need:
A length of dowel cut a couple inches longer on each end than your nesting box will serve as a curtain rod. I used an old broomstick with rubber chair leg caps on the ends to help hold the curtain from sliding off and to keep the rod from sliding out of the hooks.
Note: You can take your dowel to the hardware store to make sure your hooks and caps are the correct size.
Fabric - denim, canvas or other cotton - I used some reclaimed canvas and liked how it is heavier and tends to fall closed on its own - you could double lighter fabric
2 screw hooks to fit your dowel - you should be able to slide your dowel into the hooks
thread, sewing machine, pins or clips
Install a heavy duty screw-in hook, keeping the hook 2" or more from any obstruction or, as in my case (see left) corner.
Make sure that your caps fit snugly on the end of your dowels and the dowels fit in the hooks.
Temporarily hang your curtain rod on the hooks. Add the rubber chair leg caps. If that all works fine, you are ready to measure for your curtain. These are going to be unique to your coop, so take a piece of paper and note the measurements you take.
Now for the WIDTH of the panels. My nesting box has three nests in it. I took three measurements - from the left hook to the center of the first nest box. From the center of the first nesting box to the center of the second nesting box. From the center of the second to the center of the third nesting box and finally from there to the right hook.
Also measure the HEIGHT from the top of the hook to where you want the bottom of the curtain to fall. Leaving it above the litter will keep it cleaner and allow the panels to close even when litter builds up in winter.
Draw patterns for each of your panels, using the height and length measurements you have made. Now add 1/2" to each of the sides and bottom. To the top, add 2" to the top. Draw around the outer lines with a heavy marker from SHEETS of paper, taped as necessary.
Around each panel, press and turn up 1/4" on all sides. Stitch.
Turn up 2" on the top and stitch within 1/8" of the edge, creating a 2" casing for the rod. Double stitch the ends.
Install the curtain panels in the proper order left to right. Hold the rod up before the nesting boxes to confirm that you have the panels laid out properly. Hang the rod on the hooks you previously installed. Add the chair leg caps.
You may wish to use a clothes pin to hold the curtain open. Chickens are notorious for being terrified of new things and this can help them adjust.
I also installed a manure shield (upper left) as the curtain is near the roosting bars. this will keep the litter and the chickens feet cleaner on their way in and out of the nesting boxes. This is a simple scrap of plywood, attached with a couple of screws into the upper horizontal wall support and resting on the lower support which carries the hooks.
The chickens never skipped a beat using their nesting boxes. Each day I closed one of the curtains. I am happy to report that broken eggs are rare now and the nesting boxes stay clean . Success!