Nest-box-construction tips

Hen nest box

Since I wrote my
previous post about
a nest box to the chicken coop
, Mark has installed two more nest boxes, both doubles.  That adds up to
five egg-laying stations in two different coops, which is really
more than we need for the eleven hens outside the chicken
tractor.  But since Mark has become such a pro at cobbling
together nest boxes out of scrap materials, we figured we’d err on
the size of excess.

The great thing about
making extra nest boxes is that it helped Mark figure out the
best-case scenario…which we can share with you!  Here are
my top tips for nest-box building:

External nest box

Your first decision
is: external vs. internal.  External nest boxes have the
positive side that they don’t take up space in the coop, which
means both you and the chickens have more room inside.  On
the other hand, you have to make sure the top of an external nest
box is waterproof and sheds rain away from the coop, and in our
limited experience, it seems to take chickens longer to find an
external nest box than an internal one.  After Mark added the
nest box shown above, a couple of hens took to it right away, but
at least half the hens kept laying in the floor for a week until
Mark put a brick in their laying spot.  In contrast, our
original, internal nest box was discovered and became the prime
laying spot within 24 hours.

Two-story nest boxes

Perch on front of nest boxPart of the reason that
first nest box was colonized so quickly, though, might be its
location.  The main roosting station in that coop is right
beside the door, so it made sense to install the first nest box on
the end of the perch.  I imagine the hens woke up the next
morning, looked straight into that straw-filled chamber, and
sighed with contentment.  Whether or not that’s true, having
a perch in front of your nest box does seem to help matters. 
(Mark also added a perch to the front of the external nest box to
make it easier for hens with clipped wings to get up there.)

Nest box door

The best nest boxes
have a door to the outside so you don’t even need to enter the
coop to collect the eggs.  After some experimentation, Mark
against the option shown above, with a hinge at the
top.  This kind of door has to be held up while you collect
the eggs, which can be a bit ungainly if you’re gathering a dozen
eggs at a time.  Instead, Mark’s new method puts the hinge at
the bottom so the door hangs down by itself when open.

Occupied nest box

My final tip is
simple — try to install your nest boxes in the afternoon! 
We didn’t, with the result that annoyed hens were squawking at
Mark throughout the project.  “Get out of here and let us lay
our eggs!” they complained.

Do you have any other
next-box tips to add?

An automatic chicken
makes coop care even easier.

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