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While you can purchase ready-made nesting boxes, if you are enthusiastic about taking the DIY approach, you’ll spend much less on nesting boxes. This is especially true considering that after completing the coop, you will likely have enough leftover plywood, boards, hardware and fasteners to build the nesting boxes. If you must buy anything else, it will only be a few items.
Read on to find everything you need to know about building nesting boxes.
Building a nesting box from scratch
Materials, supplies, and tools
- Untreated wood
- Tape measure
- Waterproof rubber strip
- Water-based paint
Steps for building a nesting box
Consider the following steps when building nesting boxes.
1. Start with the skeleton
When building a chicken coop, it is good first to put up the skeleton. The temporary structure will guide you when building the final box, ensuring you avoid common mistakes. You can also label the skeleton on the sides and edges with the measurements of the final nesting box you want to build, and this will help you develop an appropriate-sized box.
The skeleton is meant to give a predetermined design of how your nesting box will look. However, the size of individual nesting boxes will largely depend on the chicken breed you want to keep. For most chickens, a 16-inch x ″ 16-inch x″ 16 inch ″ nesting box is a good size.
This is also the right time to determine how many boxes you need. Depending on the number of birds you want to raise, remember that you need one nesting box for every 3 to 4 hens.
2. Measure and cut wood pieces
For this step, you need flat plywood about 2 inches thick. You can buy from the nearby construction supply store or use scrap wood from a previous home improvement project. If you are using scrap wood, you need six pieces that are as long as your boxes put together, and 3 of them are at least as wide as the boxes you want to build.
From the plywood, cut out the side pieces and dividers. You will need one of these for every box, plus one more, and they should be to the exact measurements of the boxes. For instance, you will need 16 inches square pieces for 16 × 16 × 16 in. nesting boxes. Always wear protective gear–eye goggles, hearing protection, and dust mask–when cutting materials to avoid injuries.
With the side and divider panels ready, cut the support pieces for the sides and dividers. The pieces hold the sides and dividers, making your nesting boxes sturdy and stable.
Next, make the top, back, and bottom pieces, ensuring they are long enough to cover all the boxes. Multiply the width of one box by the number of boxes you want to make to get the length of the top and back pieces. The bottom should be as long but 10 inches wide. The extra width creates a ledge on the front side, offering a place where your hens will step onto before entering the boxes.
Cut another long piece for the front lip – a short board stretching across all boxes’ bottom that keeps the eggs and bedding material in place.
3. Assemble the units
Measure and mark where the dividers will go on the bottom piece. This ensures that you install the dividers evenly so you end up with boxes of the same size. Next, use wood glue to attach the sides and dividers on the bottom piece. Ensure you follow the markings so that you don’t make some boxes smaller than others.
Clamp the parts together, then secure them with screws or nails. Next, put on the top to cover the boxes, ensuring it is flush with the top edges of the sides. Fasten the top using 2-inch ″ screws along each side panel and divider; 3 to 4 screws should be enough along each divider or side. Flip over the box and put some screws or nails to hold the lower part to the sides and dividers.
To finish assembling, attach the back piece with nails or screws, then add the front lip to the bottom front. The front lip keeps bedding and eggs from falling out.
4. Train your birds to use the box
Hens will almost naturally use the nesting boxes if they contain nest-like material, so the first step to making them attractive is adding bedding materials. Thankfully, there is a wide range of things that you can use as bedding in nesting boxes. Straw, dried grass, and shredded paper are commonly used because they are affordable and readily available.
Hens prefer nesting in dark and private places, so find some scrap fabric to make curtains as long as the curtains won’t block the hens from getting or out of the box. You can attach them to the top of the box with thumbtacks or staples.
Once the boxes are ready, bring in fake eggs or golf balls to encourage your hens to lay eggs in the new boxes. Hens get broody and lay more eggs when they see other eggs in a box, so fake eggs will most certainly lure them.
Once your birds are accustomed to laying eggs inside the nesting boxes, the next task is to keep up with maintenance practices. Keep the nesting boxes clean by checking them weekly and removing dirty bedding. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, and lavender can keep pests away and boxes smelling fresh. This is vitally important because dirt discourages hens from laying and can potentially transfer diseases to your birds.
Finally, to avoid fights amongst your birds over egg-laying space, ensure all the boxes are identical in color, size, light, and height. Even though hens tend to lay eggs in the same box repeatedly, it is crucial to keep all the boxes identical and let the hens choose which one they will use.
Tips for building a suitable nesting box
- Use untreated wood because the treated one can harm your birds and animals if they peck or chew that wood.
- Arrange the boards so that the growth rings radiate away from the center so that subsequent cupping will have to force the constructed box together rather than apart.
- Put ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes at the bottom. Avoid putting any holes in the roof, as this can allow dirt to fall inside or cause water leakage into the nest.
- Have a lid that slopes from the back to the entrance with a moderate overlap, and ensure this lid is hinged for easy cleaning once the hens have completed a breeding season.
- Choose a sheltered location within the coop to build a nesting box.
- If you put the nesting box outside, go to the side with a cold wind.
- Raise the box some inches above the ground to prevent damage and other environmental threats.
- Add some bedding material to your nesting boxes to create a comfortable and welcoming environment for your birds. Bedding also cushions the eggs to reduce cracking.
- Double-check to ensure there are no pests in your nesting box before you let your hens in.
- Remove all the bedding and clean the box if you find any pests. Close it for some days before you bring in new bedding.
Nesting boxes provide a safe and clean place for your birds to lay eggs. Interestingly, you don’t have to be an expert or need specialized equipment to build these helpful creature comforts. This step-by-step guide gives insights into building nesting boxes and valuable tips to make your project successful.