Roll-Out Nesting Box

by Daisy on 06/17/2014

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Chicken Time-Out wasn’t much of a success.

First, there’s the problem of having to catch an angry chicken first thing every morning.

No amount of coffee can prepare me for that.

Second, I think there may be another culprit. My smartypants Rhode Island Red laid an egg on the top shelf of the coop yesterday morning and was proceeding to roll it over to the edge (a seven-foot drop) when I grabbed the egg and saved it from a desperate fate.

The only thing that would get to the bottom of this would be a chicken cam or dawn-to-dusk surveillance and while I admit to being a bit obsessive I’m not going to those lengths.

The fact remains: I refuse to feed eight hens seven days a week for only seven or so eggs a week.  Not happening.

I did not whine my way through a Long, Eggless Winter only to endure a Long, Eggless Summer.

The next possible solution to try was a roll-out nesting box, which is exactly what it sounds like; the hens lay their eggs on a slanted surface and gravity takes them away so they can’t get to it.

I looked at a couple of homemade roll-out nest box plans online that used plastic storage boxes but decided to use materials I already had. So I made a few rough sketches and went out to my scrap lumber pile.

For the base I made a rectangle of 3/4 inch plywood with a length of 2X4 attached to the bottom to elevate one side to make the eggs roll down to a catchment area.

In my coop I don’t have rear access to the nest boxes so I decided on a front-access egg-collecting box. The eggs would roll forward and into a box beneath a hinged door.

Here is a photo of the back showing the 2×4 attached to the plywood base. Ignore the dividers at this point, I just wanted to show how the base is simply a rectangular plywood board made to slant with the addition of a couple of scrap lengths of 2×4. Also please ignore the pieces of plywood under the 2x4s which I was using to help make the driveway level.

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Here it is from the front. You can see it has no 2×4 in the front, which makes the board slanted.

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There are four dividers which form three nesting areas. The dimensions of the dividers are based on the 12? x 12? recommendations for nesting boxes. Because the sides rest on the floor, they needed to be taller than the center dividers. I made these two side boards about 4 1/4? taller than the two center dividers to adjust for the height of the 2×4 and the 3/4? plywood. I cut them on a slant to keep hens from roosting (and pooping) on top of the nesting box. They are also 12? deep.

The width of the individual boxes is a little more than 12? because my plywood was already cut and I didn’t want to cut it just to make it perfectly 12? per box. Chickens don’t care.

I made the box in two separate pieces so the top could be taken off for cleaning and so it would be easier to move. I used a scrap piece of luan for the roof and nailed it to the dividers.

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Once the roof was complete, I made short sides all around the base to form the part of the box where the eggs would roll.

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It’s difficult to attach these from the top, so I turned the plywood base over, clamped the side boards to the (now) underside, and screwed them in from the bottom.

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Flipped back over, I could then attach the box cover. I used a pair of small hinges I had lying around. The eggs roll under this catchment area where the hens can’t get to them.

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The roof/divider unit fits over the base. It could be fastened with nails or screws, but I left it separate.

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Since using nesting material such as straw or wood chips would keep the eggs from rolling and defeat the purpose, I cut a piece of fatigue mat (you can buy it by the foot at home centers) to cushion the egg drop without getting in the way of gravity.

The chickens had a hard time getting used to this. Check back tomorrow when I post on how the intro to the new box went over with the hens.



{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sallie June 19, 2014 at 5:59 am

Never a dull moment at the little house. I am on pins and needles for my next up-date!

Amy June 19, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Love it! I hate when those little ladies destroy the eggs. Stinkers!

Joe S. June 20, 2014 at 8:46 am

Nice, simple design! Luckily, my hens don’t eat eggs. I’ve tried building nesting boxes, but the birds never seem to like them. I had rabbits in my henhouse for a while and left a rabbit nesting box on top of the cages one day. For some reason that became real popular to the laying hens. Later, I left a cardboard box with some hay in it under the rabbit cages (the cages have a poop-shelf under them with a slope that drains into a length of rain gutter to collect the urine and rabbit berries) and this became the NEW popular laying spot. Hens… go figure!

Daisy June 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

Joe S.–Thanks. I hope yours never start. Mine went years with nary an eaten egg, then all of a sudden . . . it’s a pain. I like your rabbit set up.

Joe S. June 20, 2014 at 11:53 am

Thanks, due to the cold weather here in Michigan, I keep my rabbits inside to help prevent babies dying due to cold. The cages have a watering system with two nipples in each cage connected to two 5 gallon water buckets. The urine and poop pellets go through the wire cages and drop onto a sloped, tarp covered plywood panel that dumps everything into a length of rain gutter that drains into a bucket with a strainer on top. I also have 3/4 ” pvc ‘flush pipes’ so I can flush the debris into the rain gutter and clean under the cages to keep smells and flies under control. I collect the rabbit poop and put it on the garden. Our soil is rapidly becoming super fertile!

Daisy June 20, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Joe S.–I see. Good system. How do you use the liquid waste?

Patricia June 21, 2014 at 10:32 am

When I lived alone in Oregon, I had a little sports car and I brought home some STRAW in it… made a mess, so I’d suggest a tarp, but I do believe that STRAW may be the missing link in keeping eggs safe from breaking. Chickens love to lay eggs in straw nests. Birds… nests… you know… it works. Of course, after a few weeks or months you have to replace it, but it’s cheap and it makes a great fertilizing mulch for your garden! Grass clippings might work as well, but straw has longer, tougher fibers so it won’t break down as quickly.

I fed my three little chickens sprouted sunflower seeds daily. Bought the hulled organic variety at the health food store and soaked them overnight, then drained, rinsed and let them sit a day or two until they had little tails. I used old quart yogurt containers and I’d have three batches going at one time… They LOVED them and they gave me at LEAST one egg a day… sometimes one egg each!

Update to 2014 and a move to the midwest:

Here, we have 20 chickens and not too many eggs. We were using commercial chicken feed and then we realized that it probably had GMO (genetically modified organisms) in it and that animals fed GMO were not reproducing very well. Soy and corn and wheat are big culprits. So we then made sure that we were feeding the chickens organic, non-GMO feed and the egg production and quality soared.

They also had been kept inside until almost noon – not good – too little sunshine! And when they were let out, it was into a yard that they’d pretty much cleared of bugs and worms, so then we let them roam outside the fence, into the real world of SUNSHINE and TREES and GRASS and WORMS and BUGS!!! – gravel in the driveway, etc. They love it and the egg quality has soared again.

Chickens are simple people. They need sunshine, good food, a comfortable home, a nice dust bath now and again, and they lay eggs like crazy. Now we have isolated two roosters from the chickens – they are such “busy” little boys and the girls were kept running all day long. I wonder if the peace of mind will also improve egg quality. Will let you know.

Joe S. June 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

Sometimes I use the liquid wasted from the rabbits (much diluted by the water flush I use to clear the slanted poop board) as a sort of “compost tea”. We often have whey left over after my wife makes goat cheese, so I throw that into the mix with some molasses, and spread that over the garden. It’s supposed to greatly increase fertility, and the sugar content of the whey and molasses is supposed to kill insects as they don’t have a pancreas to process the sugar, and die after consuming it. I’m hoping that’s true, as i noticed a lot of small Ladybug -like beatles in the potatoes last night as i was spraying with that mixture. Hopefully they will die from the sugar content, as there were quite a few of them. time will tell.

As for eggs, we get plenty. we have about 13 chickens and 6 ducks. The ducks are very dependable layers and we love their giant size eggs. Another 6 chickens are growing out in our chicken tractor, and will join the main flock soon. (right now they are still small enough to squeeze through our fence wire with 4X4 holes.)
Our chickens and ducks are out all day long as we have the PulletShut door, which opens at dawn and closes at dusk. Ducks and chickens share the same henhouse, by the way, so nesting boxes end up with a mix of eggs.

Joe S. June 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

Patricia, I can relate to the staw mess. I once brought home several bales of staw in the back of my Pontiac Vibe, and that was an epic mess. I feed our rabbits, chickens and ducks sprouted fodder as a supplementary food. i built a fodder system in our basement that gives me 2 trays of fodder daily. about 4 cups of wheat/barley gives me about 3 or 4 pounds of fodder, and the animals love it.

Patricia June 22, 2014 at 11:50 pm

🙂 Thanks for the inspiration, Joe. I think I’ll start sprouting more of the feed here. My roommate the other day expressed concern that when it rains, the feed will get wet and the chickens will not eat it. I said, “They LOVE sprouts – it will not go to waste!” And at this very moment, it is raining cats and dogs and I bet we will have an opportunity to watch what happens to moistened, sprouted grains. 🙂 I will be more involved with their food… I know that sprouted seeds and grains are SO much healthier for them. Jeez… it is POURING with rain and it sounds like someone is shooting. 🙁 I hope it’s not the deer they are shooting.

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