Nesting Box Curtain
Leave a couple inches below your curtain to allow it to close freely.

Make Your Own Nesting Box Curtain for Clean Eggs and less breakage

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."

Make your own Coop Curtain

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

flat iron

Installing the Coop Curtain Rod

Install a heavy duty screw-in hook, keeping the hook 2" or more from any obstruction or, as in my case (see left) corner.

Install a screw hook to hold the nesting box curtain.
Tip: Predrill the hole for the screw hook. Use a screw driver to finish the installation with ease.
Hooks for hanging Nesting Box Curtain
Screw hooks installed to carry Nesting Box Curtain

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.

Nesting Box Curtain
Leave a couple inches below your curtain to help it close freely.

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.

Nesting Box Curtain Installed
Clip open the panels to help the chickens get used to their new nesting box curtain

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!

Here in Vermont, the ground is frozen solid all winter. Chickens are inhibited from their natural way of staying clean and preventing infestation of parasites. 

All it takes is a pan or box and some clean sand. The chickens go wild for the experience and defend their turn until they have completed their toilette. It is really fun to watch and clearly a pleasure for them.

I use a rubber feed bucket. I tried a metal feed pan but the sides were so low that most of the sand gets kicked into the bedding. It does no harm if some gets spilled but requires more frequent refilling. The feed bucket is about 8” deep and 24” across and helps contain the sand. It accommodates a chicken very nicely and often another will climb in for a shared bath.

Use clean sand, such as Quickrete tube sand which is inexpensive and free of harmful additives. You can also use play sand which is made for childrens' sand boxes.

You will find many suggestions of potential additives for a dust bath. One of them is diatomaceous earth. I strongly recommend that you don't use this. It is made of ground fossils. Under a microscope, you will see that it is made up of tiny shards. It is hazardous to your chickens. Breathing it can cause tiny cuts and it sticks to lung tissue causing scarring in the respiratory tract and lungs. It can cause great pain and irritation to the eyes. Giving your chickens a big pan of diatomaceous earth for dust bathing is to invite them to breathe clouds of abrasive, damaging dust.

Adding fragrant dried herbs (catnip, lavender, sage, oregano, rosemary, basil, pennyroyal, wormwood, yarrow) to your nesting boxes and replenishing them when the fragrance fades is a much more effective way of preventing pests in the coop, either in the bedding or nesting boxes. Essential oils of these herbs used sparingly, such as a dab on the wall, are another option.

Chicken challenges happen. What to do.


Feathers get damaged over time. Molting is the process during which chickens lose their feathers and grow new ones. It usually occurs once or twice a year. Sometimes it is gradual and slow. Sometimes it is dramatic.

One morning you go into the coop and there are feathers everywhere! You’re sure something has gotten into your coop and made off with one of your birds. But wait! The head count shows no one is missing, but one bird looks absolutely wretched! This is often called a “hard molt.” 

A chicken in a hard molt
Butterscotch in a hard molt

During molting, chickens can be more vulnerable to illness. You can help.

Minimize stress

  • Consider removing your rooster to a separate space if he is mating hens in a hard molt. New feathers are vulnerable and can bleed profusely if broken.
  • Don’t choose this time to introduce new flockmates or a new dog, for example.

Feed high protein supplements - such as mealworms, tuna, etc. in very small amounts.

Remember that a chicken eats only about ½ cup of food per day. It is recommended to give no more than a TBSP of other foods as it risks unbalancing the nutrition of her high quality layer mix.

Don’t handle the hens  unless it is really necessary. Feathers come in surrounded by a rigid shaft of keratin as you can see in Butterscotch's picture above. It is painful for hens to have these feathers pushed about. If they get broken, they will bleed.


A chicken with a severe mating injury covered with a piece of apron cloth
Buffy after a severe mating injury which was covered with an extra wide apron to keep it clean and prevent further injury and pecking.

Chickens operate primarily on instinct and they are opportunistic omnivores. Their first approach to anything is - Can I eat it? 

They peck at anything that might be food. They seem particularly tuned in to the color red and if there is blood, they cannot be deterred. If one of your chickens is injured, the others will peck at the blood, worsening the injury and can ultimately kill the injured bird. They are not being cruel. They are just doing what chickens do. 

They also peck to establish their place in the flock. This type of pecking can be worsened if there is not enough roosting space or not enough space for birds of lower rank to get away from those at the top. This type of pecking can worsen and become entrenched behavior. Once pecking causes an injury, it is a serious problem. It is best to notice it right away and eliminate the cause.

Flock behavior is a way that certain species of birds survive. Even the chicken at the very bottom of the “pecking order” has a place. 

However,  if the flock is stressed, it can become a habit or way of coping. It can cause escalating stress as well as injury to your birds.

If you have a hen who is continually bullying others, it can be helpful to move her out of sight of the others for a few days. This can be accomplished with a dog crate with a sheet over one sight so they can’t see each other. When reintroduced, the pecking order will be changed and her position will be reset.


Injuries can be caused by pecking, overmating by a rooster, predator attacks, contact with a sharp object.

Chickens have an affinity for the color red. And they are omnivores. If an injury is visible, they will sometimes peck at a wound until they kill the injured bird. Keep the injured hen separate until the injury is healed. It can be helpful to keep a folding dog crate on hand to deal with such situations, as well as feeders that can be used in the crate. 

If there is bleeding, use styptic powder to stop it. This will not stop pecking but it will stop blood flow. Some people say that cornstarch or white flour can be used. Styptic powder is inexpensive and a very smart thing to have on hand. It stops bleeding immediately.

Each injury is unique. Bandaging is pretty much a losing game.

Some injuries can be covered by an apron and thus protected. If you choose to keep an injured hen with the flock, you MUST keep a very close eye on her to make sure the wound is not being reopened by pecking.

Buffy after a severe mating injury which was able to be covered with an extra wide apron

Sometimes the hen will peck at the injury herself and it will not be able to heal.

Buffy, had an injury under her wing, caused by a large and clumsy young rooster who adored her just a little too much. She pecked at her injury off and on for a couple of days.  

This did not seem to cause bleeding so I left her alone. After a couple of days, she stopped pecking at it. The 4” long gash, located along her side, was problematic because big movements such as fluttering up or down from the roost would open the wound again. For some time, I kept her in a crate so that she did not have the opportunity to reinjure herself. 

Because it was out of sight under her apron, I put her back in with the flock as soon as the skin had closed over the injury.

If the injury is  severe enough that your hen cannot move or feed properly, you will need to consider euthanizing her. If she can feed and have a safe place in which to heal, it is pretty amazing how quickly a chicken can heal even a serious injury.


Mites are  parasites that take up residence on chickens. 

If you move their feathers out of the way, you will spot them under the wings and around their bottoms. Good hygiene can help to prevent them. 

When I clean the coop, I dust the edges (where the wall meets the floor) with a little diatomaceous earth. I use a kitchen shaker for this - such as a large empty spice jar with big holes. Wear a mask as it is harmful for you to breathe it. Then add bedding as normal. Diatomaceous earth dehydrates all life stages of mites and helps to prevent them from breeding in tight, damp spots. It also dries out those corners that tend to be a bit damp. 

Diatomaceous earth is not harmful for chickens to eat, but is damaging to their lungs. Do not use it for dust baths. Diatomaceous earth is not recommended because it has minute sharp edges and can be very irritating to chicken (and your) lungs and eyes. 

Don’t be afraid of the deep litter method in winter. If you add clean shavings when it becomes dirty, the balance of waste (nitrogen) to carbon (wood shavings) creates a natural biome that will help you to keep a clean, healthy coop. If you are seeing more than 50 / 50 manure to shavings ratio, it’s time for more shavings. Toss some shavings on top of the places where waste accumulates under the roosting bars. If there is a strong ammonia odor, you need to add shavings or clean the coop.

Provide dust baths for the chickens all year around. In summer, they will create dust baths by digging outdoors. In winter, provide a tub with 3 or 4 inches of play sand (without salt or additives). I use a deep rubber feed tub. Keep a cat litter scoop on hand to clean out bits of poo that get dropped in there. Add more sand as the level gets low. 

There are several products available for treating for dust mites. Some require an egg withdrawal period.  Elector PSP features Spinosad soap which is safer for your chickens and the environment. Plus there is no period of time during which you must discard the eggs after treatment (egg withdrawal period). 

Something not covered here? Drop us a line. We will add more topics as they arise or are requested. 

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