- Our first flock of chickens started to lay during the last week week of October and we didn’t have next boxes installed yet. I actually thought that they wouldn’t lay until Spring so I was caught by surprise! My husband was at work and I didn’t want to encourage the young pullets to just lay their eggs on the floor of the coop so I went out to the garage to see what I could use temporarily. I looked for empty milk crates or empty 5 gallon buckets. There weren’t any that I could use and then I discovered an old wooden desk file folder insert. It had two compartments and seemed to be about 12 inches square. It was open on top and I knew that the chickens would hop up on the sides and use it as a roost during the night. That meant that I would be cleaning them out everyday, so I decided to put some sort of top over the two cubicles. I found a piece of old tarp and left-over pieces of PVC tubing and started to work on making a temporary nest box. I sat the file insert on a wooden platform then I screwed the whole thing to the end of a 2 X 4 roost. I cut wooden braces or legs from scrape wood and wedged them under each side of the nest box platform and screwed them to the next box unit. I also, screwed the unit to the wall behind it.In no time at all, I had a cute little double sided nest box, that worked great. We called it the Egga Cabana Nest Box and if you would like to read more about it and that first chicken flock adventure, just click on this link.
Our Current Nest Box Unit
Below is one of the two current nest box units that we are using. We used three black plastic cubbie cubes that we purchased from Target. These are ready made and have holes and plastic tabs that are intended to hold them together.
We found that those tabs didn’t work very well and many broke while we were trying to install them. Instead we used small zip ties to securely attach the cubes together. They are sitting on a shelf that is about 36 inches off of the floor. Avi used a 2 X 4 board as a brace between the upright legs of this unit. He positioned it high enough so that it could be used as a roost.
He screwed a wooden board in front of the boxes to hold them securely against the wall and to help keep the bedding from spilling out of them. In the photo above, you can see two vertical slats screwed into that board. These are paired with a 1 inch gap between them so that we can slip a 1 X 8 board in place to prevent the hens from entering the boxes to sleep at night.
Avi used lag bolts and placed 3 inch nylon spacers between the head of the bolt and the wooden board. They are held in place with wing nuts so that they can be taken off to be thoroughly cleaned twice a year. The girls use these perches all the time and walk back and forth on them while they try to decide which nest box they want to use. The unit is about 36 inches from the floor and most of the girls can easily jump/fly up to the wooden railing.
The second unit is positioned on the opposite wall from this one and it has a ramp for the hens to walk up so that they can get on the rail and walk down it to chose which box they want to sit in. We have several Giant Cochin (heavy breed) hens who need to be able to walk up the ramp rather than fly up to the perch.
I placed wooden eggs in each of the boxes to help the young pullets learn where to lay their eggs. The seasoned hens all seem to prefer to lay in a box that already has an egg in it. They don’t care whether the egg is real or wooden; all they are interested in is the fact that someone has already used the box to lay their egg.
Where do you get wooden eggs? I can occasionally find them in the country store area at our local Cracker Barrel. Recently, I purchased six more online through Amazon.com here is the link to what I purchased: Good Eggs
These are actually made as children’s toys but they are the correct size and weight to use as dummy eggs in the nest box. Those colorful plastic eggs that can be opened don’t work very well because they come apart when the hens sit on them and they don’t have the weight like a real egg. Our hens just kicked them out of the nest box. I have heard of people placing plaster inside those eggs and sealing around them with duct tape but I haven’t tried it. Some people also use golf balls and they work very well. The wooden eggs work great for us.
What do you use for a nest box? Please share with us.