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.
Here it is from the front. You can see it has no 2×4 in the front, which makes the board slanted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The roof/divider unit fits over the base. It could be fastened with nails or screws, but I left it separate.
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.