We have had various nesting box setups, but they lacked the one thing our rebel, free-range chickens seem to want — darkness and protection. Instead most of the chickens prefer to climb under the tarp that covers the hay and lay eggs all over and around the stack.
Other chickens would choose to lay eggs in broad daylight — on the tractor seat, in the old Red Flyer wagon, on the work table. Don’t ask me their logic, I don’t understand. But I do understand that it creates problems — like eggs rolling off and breaking and chickens eating their eggs because they’re right there in front of them. Basically, less eggs for us.
Other chickens laid eggs in the grass, in little dirt caves, and elsewhere we probably haven’t found. Last fall, one hen laid a clutch in a woodpile in the calf’s pasture (unbeknownst to us). We found out what she’d been up to the day she walked up on the porch followed by eight chicks. This was a delight, of course, but proved to us that we did not have a handle on our eggs.
So… making nest boxes that our chickens would actually want to use sounded like a good idea. Keep all our eggs? Yes, that’s the idea.
Saturday, Jeff and C. set out to make nesting boxes — or rather, one big nesting box with plenty of room. The goals were clear: 1) doable in a day, 2) very simple yet works, and 3) built out of things we already have. Thus, our nest box/boxes probably look nothing like any official plans you’ve ever seen. But do they work? Keep reading.
The base: layers of pallets on piers. Plywood between the layers to provide a base for the top pallet, whose spaces would be the nests. This is in one bay of our barn. Another bay is where they roost at night, coming and going freely.
Designing the sides and cutting out doors for the chickens to enter.
The sides are in place, as well as a door on three of the four sides.
This is the top. They cut in half for easy handling.
The girls filled the bottom with hay to make it cozy. Our chickens love hay — most of our eggs to date have been laid in the hay.
Putting the top on. The halves can be easily lifted to check for eggs. They aren’t tacked down at all, just laid on top.
A space between the side walls and top so the boxes have good airflow. They stacked up logs in front of each doorway so the chickens could get in.
A chicken came to see what was up.
The first day, one egg was laid in the new location. Yesterday (Monday), twelve eggs were laid inside. Today, we’ve found three in there. Clearly, there are up and downs. But we’re pretty encouraged.