Easy DIY Nest Box Ideas
Keep Your Laying Hens Happy with the Right Nest Box
There are pre-made chicken nesting boxes available for purchase through poultry supply retailers. You can also get creative and come up with some nice chicken nesting boxes from materials you already have on hand. DIY-type nest boxes are fun and easy. Many different containers can be re-purposed for chicken nesting boxes and the hens seem to be happy with many choices. Of course, safety is a primary concern, so let’s explore some options.
Every chicken coop design needs a few mandatory features — chicken roosting bars, windows and ventilation, dropping boards, and possibly a fan for air cooling in the summer. The nesting box is an important feature in any chicken coop. You will need one nesting box for every four chickens, but be warned, the hens will choose a favorite and actually wait in line for that nesting space!
Chicken nesting boxes need to be large enough that the hens feel comfortable, but not too large where they lose that feeling of being safe and secure. Obviously, if you raise large breed hens, like Brahmas, your chicken nesting boxes will need to accommodate the larger body size. When raising bantam chickens, you will have smaller options available for nest boxes.
Wooden Boxes and Shipping Crates
A simple handmade wooden box can be a chicken nesting box. It consists of a bottom board and sides attached all around. If the sides are high, a cutout in the front can make it easier for the hen to climb into the box. Before lining the box, consider giving the wood a quick coat of paint. Wood mites and scaley leg mites like to burrow into the wood in chicken coops. The paint helps prevent the mites from burrowing and taking up residence in the coop. Be sure to use a safe, indoor paint. Let the paint dry completely, then line it with a thick layer of dry straw or pine shavings. I like to add some herbs, like lavender, mint, and parsley, to the nesting boxes too.
Wooden shipping crates are a fun way to add a vintage look to the chicken coop. Shipping crates are similar in size to a plain wooden box but usually made with slats of instead of solid sides. These were often originally used for fruit and vegetables. I have found many of these by visiting flea markets and salvage stores. I love the way they look with straw packed in for a nice cushion and a chicken at home laying an egg.
Plastic Containers for Chicken Nesting Boxes
Plastic containers are readily available, as most products are now sold in plastic of some sort. Empty cat litter buckets can be re-used as a nest box. These are often square and when tipped on the side, make a nice deep nest box. Laundry baskets, especially with the basket-like weave sides, allow ventilation and are a nice size for nesting. Large flower pots or planters might be another choice if you have some extras lying around the yard.
Round buckets are possible to use as nesting boxes, but you will need to fasten them to something so they don’t roll away. Ideas for this include using a rack that holds the buckets on their side and has four to six buckets in the rack.
Large Wicker or Woven Baskets
These are a picture-perfect addition to the coop. The hens seem to like the material and the basket full of soft straw looks so cozy! But, heed the safety tips below. Wicker baskets are lightweight and can pose a safety problem.
Chicken Nesting Boxes Safety Tip!
Empty plastic containers can also be re-purposed into chicken nesting boxes. There is an important safety detail to mention. When using any of the lightweight plastic containers, secure the container to the wall somehow. Plastic containers easily tip over when hens stand on the edge of them. In rare circumstances, the container can tip in just the right way, trapping the chicken underneath.
This is tragic. On a hot day, the chicken trapped under a plastic container is quickly overcome by the heat. I share this sad note because it is something that happened in my coop. Lesson learned. Secure the plastic container to the coop wall using hooks or screws. If you want the nest box to be removable, using a short chain and snap hooks from the wall to the nest box will allow you to unhook it for cleaning.
What is the Best Lining for Chicken Nesting Boxes?
After you have the nesting boxes and have secured them to the coop, how should you dress the box? Some common materials are straw and pine shavings. Both of these are easily available and absorbent materials. The difference between straw and shavings in my coop came down to which the chickens liked best. The hens seemed to try very hard to remove the shavings from the nest boxes. They would kick and scratch until the box was nearly empty!
Now, if I use shavings at all, I cover them with a layer of straw. Since some bales of straw have very long strands, I buy a bale of chopped straw just for the nest boxes. This bale lasts a long time because we only use it for that purpose and for small animal bedding. Long heavy strands of straw are used for the floor in the coop.
More Chicken Nesting Box Tips
Keep the nest boxes and surrounding areas clean for best results. If the hens walk through a lot of chicken manure to get to the box, the eggs will be soiled. A quick cleanup each day with a dustpan and scoop is all you need to do. Larger cleanups can be spread out further.
Position your nest boxes away from any perches overhead. Installing a dropping board under the roost and over the nest boxes can make a huge difference! I know that sounds like common sense, but I fully admit to making that mistake with our first coop. Every day I had to clean up the nesting boxes!
Some people have used curtains to add privacy to the nesting boxes. We currently have a length of fabric acting as a curtain for the chicken nesting boxes It’s not a mandatory feature but it does add fun and whimsy to the coop.
Giving your chickens proper-sized, sturdy nesting boxes will lead to lots of fresh eggs! Set your hens up for success with safe, well-lined nest boxes and enjoy the benefits.