Posts Tagged animals

DIY Chicken Nesting Boxes Ideas For Chicken Tractors – Quick, Easy And Cheap Options

DIY Chicken Nesting Boxes Ideas For Chicken Tractors – Quick, Easy And Cheap Options

DIY chicken nesting boxes ideasNesting boxes in a chicken tractor can be a tricky thing. When I was building my own chicken tractor for my first flock of chickens, I ended up trying a lot of things. Some things worked and others didn’t. The absence of a floor is a challenge because the tractor is open to the ground. There is no surface to put anything on and the ground is not an option because the coop has to be moved each day.

I needed a DIY nesting box idea that was easy to make, cheap, easy to clean, and something my ladies liked to cozy up in to lay their eggs.

Chicken Nesting Box Considerations

things to consider with your nesting boxes

Before we get into my experiments, let’s talk about the purpose and function of your box. A nesting box is simply a container of some sort, located in your coop, where – you hope – the chickens will lay their eggs. This does two things: the hens are more likely to lay eggs because they’re less stressed and the eggs are easier to find.

Typically, you want this place to be out of the main area of the coop, a little more private, a little cozier, lined with hay/straw. You’ll save a lot of cleaning If you can avoid having these boxes under or near the roosting bars because chickens poop a lot when they sleep.

Some people have finicky chickens that are little prima donnas – my silkies were kind of like that – but in general, I don’t have time for that! If you stick with your typical chicken breeds, you’ll find good layers without the drama. For me, my ladies never had issues laying eggs anywhere I put some dry hay. There were days I was like “screw it” and I literally just put a gob of hay on the ground and called it good.

Nesting Box Size

nesting box size

You want a box that is 12” x 12” x 12”. It can be bigger; it could be a little smaller depending on your breed. Honestly, it doesn’t matter that much. When I first started, I was so concerned about finding the “right” answer to this. After years of keeping chickens, I’ve come to learn they’re not picky, so don’t fuss over this too much.

What Do You Put In A Nesting Box

what to put into a nesting box

Hay. It’s that simple – any old hay that’s dry and free from mold will work. The most important thing is that it’s dry. If you have hay that’s soaking wet you could run into issues with illnesses in your flock, but dry-ish hay keeps this at bay.

Again, when I started, I wanted to make sure I did things right. So, I bought a round bale from a farmer. One round bale is about 5 feet cubed and that gave me a ton of hay. In a pinch, I’ve used dried leaves from the yard, but I find hay easier to use and is readily available.

How much hay do you put in a nesting box?

how much hay to put in your nesting box

I put enough hay to cover the bottom of my nesting box about 2-3 inches thick when fluffed up. I only changed it when it got significantly soiled or wet, otherwise, I let it ride. If the hay was older, I’d reach in and fluff it up some, if it didn’t fluff up because it was so broken down, then I’d change it.

How often do you clean the nesting box?

how often should you clean your chicken coop and nesting box

My general rule of thumb was to clean the nesting box once a month when I changed the hay. All my boxes were plastic to facilitate easy cleaning. I’d use a Clorox wipe to quickly wipe it down and sanitize the inside. If the boxes were really dirty, I’d clean it right away. If the hay got wet, I’d clear it out right away, make sure it fully dried, then covered the bottom with fresh hay.

How to Prevent disease in your chick coop?

how to prevent disease with your chickens

Every two-ish years I’d replace the nesting boxes just as a matter of course, grime builds up and things break down. Doing this kept things fresh, germs at bay and since I chose cheap options for my nesting box, it wasn’t a big deal.

The one exception to the above rule of thumb is when I found a dead chicken, which thankfully happened rarely. Over the years I had two chickens die, one from a dog attack and the other just dropped dead. If I knew it was killed by an animal bite, I didn’t worry because I knew the cause of death.

If the chicken just died without an apparent cause, my thoughts would wander to a possible disease, though it’s not super uncommon that their little heart just gave out. Out of an abundance of caution, I removed the chickens from the coop and looked them over. Next, I removed all the bedding, raked out the run and let it l dry out really well. Then, I scrubbed down every inch of the coop and replaced all the bedding.

How Many Nesting Boxes Do You Need?

How many nesting boxes do you need for chickens

You’ll want one nesting box for every 4-5 laying hens. This will allow them to have enough space so they will not be crowded. This also prevents e piling two chickens into one nesting box; although they still may do that if they are feeling chummy.

What Should The Nesting Box Be Made Of?

what nesting box materials can you use to line a nesting box for chickens

This is one thing that doesn’t get asked enough. I try to have as much of my flat surfaces in my coop be made of durable and easy to clean materials, such as plastics, laminate, metal, etc. It’s also great if your nesting box is made of something that is cheap, because after cleaning things for a while, the grime just doesn’t want to come clean. If your container is cheap, you can just toss the old and swap out with a new one.

I’ve tried several things, which I’ll get into now.

Nesting Box Ideas And How They Worked For Me

chicken nesting box ideas

Traditional Wood / Metal nesting box

I’ve built these before out of plywood and looked at buying them from places like FarmTek or Tractor Supply. I think a lot of people try these when they first start because they’ve decided in their mind it’s what a nesting box “should be”. For your average backyard chicken hobbyist, I find them to take more time to build than they are worth. The store-bought metal boxes are expensive and make me feel guilty when tossing them out because the funk won’t disappear even after cleaning them a million times.

They’re great to look at and could be justified (or required) if you’re running a commercial operation but there are many other workable options that are easier to build, just as easy to clean, and cheap to replace. I’d skip this option unless you really want to build them.

5 Gallon Bucket Nesting Boxes

five gallon bucket nesting box idea

nesting box 5 gallon bucket nesting box lid perchThese were my first nesting boxes I ever made. I bought a few buckets with lids, cut an opening into the lid, then made a bracket to hold them in the coop. A bucket with a lid costs less than $5 new from a big box store and you can find them everywhere. If you are on a tight budget you could try to get free buckets from the bakery at the grocery store. By and large, these worked very well with only one main drawback.

Cleaning out the buckets is a breeze; the plastic is slick and super durable. I can wipe these out quickly and every now and then wipe down with vinegar or a bleach solution to sanitize. If you can, choose a darker color so any grime stains don’t show, the white ones get a little dingy looking after a while even though they’re clean.

The one major downside I found was that they were hard to mount. The bucket will be on its side so you need to mount a round object. To add to the complexity, they’re often tapered making it trickier to make a bracket.

how to make a 5 gallon bucket nesting box

The best way I’ve found is to cut the lid opening, then lay the leftover piece of plastic on the bottom of the bucket as reinforcement. After that, screw right through into a solid wall. You can use some washers to make sure the screws don’t tear through. The trouble with my coop is I didn’t have enough wall space to mount them all so the chickens could get into them easily. Otherwise, this would be my preferred method.

Milk Crate Nesting Boxes

using a milk crate for a nesting box

black snake in milk crate nesting boxI tried these when I first went from a permanent coop to a chicken tractor for the first time. I used to two screw hooks drive into the wall that held the milk crate. It was off the ground by a few inches so that when I moved the coop they didn’t get hung up. They worked really well in general and I had the crates laying around.

Here is the only photo I have of them, when a black snake climbed into the box and starting eating eggs.

The one downside to these was the latticework because it collected grime and dust. Unlike the smooth simple surface of a bucket, it took more effort than it was worth to clean all those little nooks. I soon abandoned this nesting box to make sure I kept things sanitized.

Cement Mixing Tray Nesting Bin

cement mixing tray nesting box for chickens

hens and rooster in chicken tractorThis ended up being what I settled on for my nesting box solution, though if I had more wall space, I’d stick with 5-gallon buckets. I was walking around one of the big box hardware stores when I found these tubs, they’re a smooth plastic tub that’s all black, roughly 2 feet by 3 feet.

I liked that they are black and would hide any dinginess. The slick plastic was very easy to clean and the tub was pretty sturdy because it is intended for mixing concrete. It also was just enough space for up to 15-20 chickens in one tub, meaning I only had to go to one spot for all my eggs. It also had a thick rounded edge all around the container, which let my ladies hop up on the lip comfortably without any danger of cutting up their feet.

The tub was filled with hay and placed on the ground directly. Then when I pushed the tractor, the tub was so slick and light that it was pushed along without any problems.

Chicken Nesting Box Tips and General Advice

chicken nesting box tips

To sum things us, I wanted to finish with a few points that I wish I was told more directly when I first started. Chickens are the perfect homestead animal because they’re easy to take care of, they are fun to watch, and they make a lot of protein each day. They don’t require a lot of effort, they are very forgiving, and they give back so much.

Ryan’s Tips

  • Chickens aren’t that picky, so don’t over think things
  • Set yourself up for success by choosing the right breed
  • Make the nesting box easily accessible
  • Choose nesting boxes that easy to clean and cheap to replace
  • Make sure the hay stays dry and clean
  • Keep your nesting boxes out from under roosting bars

Hopefully that helps you wrap your head around making a nice home for your hens. You’ll enjoy keeping chickens and all the eggs-ellent benefits that come from the newest members of your homestead family.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for raising chickens?
  • What do you use for your nesting boxes?