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August–time for another nest box

Posted by joeabbott on September 20, 2015

With my last post taking us up through July in the Project-a-Month effort, I’ll get us closer by yet another project: a new nest box for our chickens.

Now, this could have been one of the simpler projects … after all, I’ve seen nest boxes as simple as a 5-gallon pail tipped over with a few wood shavings in the bottom … but it was made harder because Suzy and I hadn’t agreed on a plan and it was already late in the month when I started it.

What we have

Coop 042The challenge was deciding what we wanted to do here. With our expanded flock, we needed something! Hens were laying under the water barrel, behind the dahlias, and searching out new spots under the ferns where our cats relax in the mid-summer heat. And when the new chicks start laying, the problem will only compound. So this was a timely project.

But let’s catch you up on what we have.

Our coop isn’t an original design, in that I looked over the Internet, books, and talked to other folks about what they had and how they were built. In the end, we opted to hang the nest boxes off the back of our coop so the chickens would walk into them from within the shelter but I included a lid on the back so we could open it from outside to get the eggs. Again, this sort of thing has been done before.

I created three partitions or nest boxes but, as we only had three hens, we closed off one of the “bays” so Suzy had a place for a few tools, some feed, maybe a little medicine for the hens and things like that. It worked out great … one of my better ideas. The other two bays were left for the hens to use.

For the most part, no problems over the last few years.

Earlier this year when we expanded the coop for our spring batch of youngsters, we had the new storage bin we made (see February’s project) and so I knocked the wall out of the closed off bay and we used that as another nest box.

All seemed fine but then we added yet more chickens!

WP_20150905_15_11_58_ProWhat we decided

The key decision was whether we wanted stand-alone boxes … something we could move from time-to-time … or something built-into the coop. The benefit of a stand-alone system is that we could move it wherever the chickens seemed to want to lay. And the argument against building into the coop is that there didn’t seem to be an easy location to attach the new nest box.

In the end, we did decide it should be part of the coop and we located it just below the existing nest boxes. What this meant is that our hens could not access these nest boxes from inside the shelter, but they were accessible from the run. Also, the plans we had to use the lower half of the run for housing birds we were putting in a “time out” (think “sick hens who need peace from her sisters” … chickens can be jerks) … may have to be re-thought.

So the new design would have the nest boxes being the same rough dimensions as the existing boxes but would be square … no tilted lid. It would nestle up directly under the existing boxes and chickens would enter from in their coop almost the same way they did now. So we could get the eggs from outside the coop, we’d build a vertical lid: it would open with a small pull and remain closed by virtue of some strong magnets.

I was OK with using magnets for the latching mechanism for two reasons: first, the entry the chickens used to get into the nest box is open from the run side, and we always keep our run doors open; and second, I can always add a latch later if we need it.

With that, it was time to build!

I got nothing but apologies

I usually like including plenty of pictures with my posts, but I seem to have not taken any of the project during construction! It seems a bit weird at that … but, I have no evidence of the work in progress.

Here’s what the SketchUp model looked like:


The view on the left shows the chicken entry for laying; the image on the right shows what it looks like when you’d open the door to get the eggs.


Construction-wise, you can see that it’s simple plywood panels, all of it: just screwed and glued. The notch on the upper left is so it would nest onto the horizontal support for the existing nest box and the top of this set of boxes would become flush with the bottom of the others.


The real test is whether the chickens like them and, while it appeared to have been an acquired taste, we now have eggs regularly appearing in all six boxes. Yes, the hens who started laying under the water barrel are still using that location, but the others seem happy to have a bit more room.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ve not only started my September project but I’ve also already started photographing the construction process! Next post will be better. Thanks for dropping in!


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