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The Nest Box

Posted by joeabbott on January 23, 2010

I’m singling out the nest box from the rest of the coop because it’s rather large, has a few special-shaped parts, but small and easy enough to build in the garage some evening after work. Or maybe two evenings.

Stand-alone nest boxes are great because you can move them to where the chickens want to lay eggs. You can also replace or modify them as needs be and they truly are easier to use. But, they take up shelter space, if placed under the roosts they’ll be soiled, and to be easily moveable they’re either smaller or just single units.

We chose to make our nest boxes part of the coop design, meaning they’re built-in. This allows us to “pooch out” the back wall of the shelter to locate them, avoid having them under the roosts, and can make them plenty spacious. Great stuff. The drawback is that the birds may not want to nest there.

If you’d read One For the Birds you would have seen a picture of the coop from behind … and, thus, seen the nestboxes. Or at least the back access to them. The “sharp of eye” would notice the nest boxes through the open side door in the image of the coop from the front. Either way, you get the idea that we’re hanging the nest boxes off the back of the shelter. Good.Oh, before I get too far, let me admit that I used this plan as the starting point for our nest boxes. The article is called How to build a chicken coop and contains the clearest plans that I could find for a dimensioned coop on the web. At least for free. So, for the nest box starting point: thank you,!

Overall, we built the nest boxes to span the entire back wall (~41″ … the dimension inside the 4×4 posts), split them into three individual nesting spaces, and then blocked off one of them to use for storage. We didn’t need the storage space but didn’t want to deal with three nests. You can always use more storage!

Now … the first thing I built was the four of these:

Start with 3/4″ plywood (again, from those stacks you have leaning up against the wall in the garage … if you’re like me). Cut a 22 1/4″ by 14″ square. I spent a lot of time with a bigger piece and tried laying out the cuts using the large diagonal line to save wood, but I wasted a lot of time and it was “fiddly” to get any real savings. I wouldn’t do that again. And it’s clear I just made an error including the extra “1/4″ to the long side … there’s no need to be that extra quarter inch long; just go with 22″.

Then cut the large diagonal. From the bottom, on the right side, measure up 11 1/4″, then along the top from the left, measure 4”. Strike a line and saw to that line, all parts.

Then cut the notch in the back. Here I had to break out my jigsaw and a straight edge to get good lines. Each notch is 3/4″ wide\deep ( I placed a scrap piece of plywood on the side to get the right width\depth). All side panels get this notch … it’s 11 1/4″ long.

Now, two of the panels get a second notch that’s not shown above, but it’s 3 1/2″ long and 3/4″ wide\deep from the lower left corner. This cut-out will hold the small lip for the birds to jump on before heading into the nest. It will also keep the nesting material in place and the eggs from rolling into the shelter. Here’s a shot of all the side panels lined up:


Notice all panels get the large notch in the back and the two center panels get the smaller 3 1/2″ notch in front. Also notice that we cut down the wall in the panel between the two nesting boxes! We just measured up from the bottom 12 3/4″ and shaved the top off. That height was an arbitrary call.

So, with the side panels done, all the parts with tricky cuts were out of the way. Here’s what it looks like with the large back panel on and the little lip in front … the places we cut notches from some or all of the nest box panels:

  and with the bottom and top pieces:

The front piece that goes into the 3 1/2″ notch, is about 27″. The back panel that goes into the 11 1/4″ slot is actually 12″ x 41″. By being 12″ wide it hangs below the nest box side panels by 3/4″ … hey, just the thickness of the plywood I’m using!

I’m then going to run a piece of wood along the top and chamfer the back edge so the back lid will seat flat (4″ x 41″); and then create a completely rectangular piece for the bottom (13 1/4″ x 41″). See the picture above, right for the nest boxes with the top and bottom in place.

Then that only leaves the piece to keep the chickens out of the storage nest box (again, completely rectangular and roughly 12 3/4″ by 22 1/4″) and the lid (17 3/4″ by 43″) … I left the lid a little long and wide to allow a drip edge. And here it is:


So, nothing terribly tricky here and, as long as you have a jigsaw, the only hard part is the chamfer along the long edge.

From here, the plan is to attach the nest boxes so the top front part sticks into the coop roughly 3″. This allows it to nestle between the big posts, not give enough of an edge for birds to roost on the top part, and allows me to fasten firmly into the other structure. The lid won’t be attached to the nest boxes but will be attached to the back wall via a piano hinge. I’ll cut it into the back panel and provide some sort of drip strip or rain deflector (a leather strip, maybe).

And, as a final picture, here are all the parts we’ve talked about so far: the posts, the bottom of the shelter, and the nest box:

Next time we’ll work on the shelter side panels! Let’s create a safe place for our chickens!


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