Nest boxes: open or close? Feedback/ pros & cons appreciated!

bgmathteach

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Hi,

I made a movable tracker/coop, and still need to build the nest boxes. The coop is 4 feet wide, and I was thinking of 1 of the following 3 options for nest boxes:

1) A double set of 4 set of boxes ( 2 high, 4 wide) for 8 individual nest boxes

2) Bottom row 3 nest boxes with middle a 'double wide' in case I get a broody, top = 4 individual nest boxes.

3) both levels open, so 1 4' wide 'box' on each level.

Does anyone have experience with both 'open' nest box design and individual nest boxes? What are the pros and cons to each? I'm kind of leaning toward #2, and creating a removable door so if I get a broody, can keep her separated [i.e. not kicked out of nest box] with enough space for a small food/water dish and the chicks for a couple of days after hatch to 'get their legs' under them. Other than planning (hoping!) for a future broody, I have no idea which would be better. I've only used individual nest boxes before, and there always seems to be a squabble for the '1 special' box. Would an open plan alleviate this?

Please give me feed back on your experiences with open versus individual nest boxes...and let me know which option you think is best (or, suggest another version given my space - 4 ft. wide, enough height for 2 rows.)

Thank you in advance for your input & suggestions!!!

(P.S. at present, it will serve 26 hens that are about to come into lay.)
 

aart

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I've only used individual nest boxes before, and there always seems to be a squabble for the '1 special' box. Would an open plan alleviate this?
It might. I have individual nests with a fake egg in each to 'spread the love'.

P.S. at present, it will serve 26 hens that are about to come into lay.
How big is the tractor?
Pics?
 

bgmathteach

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It might. I have individual nests with a fake egg in each to 'spread the love'.


How big is the tractor?
Pics?
I don't have a cell, so no pics :( I'll try to get my neighbor to take a few pics for me and edit/post them later!
It is 10 x 4, and will have electronet around for 'pasture'.
The 'tractor' is a mobile coop per se. I've got 5 roosts in it...but they don't use the lowest at all except to hop up to a higher one!
 

bgmathteach

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It might. I have individual nests with a fake egg in each to 'spread the love'.
I've put golf balls in each nest box of my current coops. I'll get 9-11 eggs in one, and one - two total in all the others. Basically, somebody had their legs crossed & couldn't wait any longer! :lau
However, it is frustrating because occassionally there is an egg in the coop floor outside the 'special' nest box:barnie, because the hen refused to use another one!

( I have in one coop, 6 nest boxes for 14 hens, and in the other coop 4 nest boxes for 18...but those (18) are older and I am only getting about 9-11 a day from them. So there is plenty of nest boxes. It is the younger group that is the problem.)
 

Ridgerunner

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I'm trying to envision how you'd manage a 4' wide coop for 26 hens, sounds cramped for you to work in there. But it also sounds like it is already built so you need to make it work. A photo showing the framing where you plan to put the nests might help. I'll include a photo of my nests, that might make it easier to talk about.

Nests.JPG


I made my nests 16" cubes instead of staying with the 12" size. Three of those side by side would be 4' so they would fit. I regularly see three hens in one nest laying at the same time. These larger nests can handle more chickens. I've had a nest hog where one would not let another hen lay with her, plus she took about 3 hours to lay her egg, a real pain in the butt chicken. I was evaluating which hens to keep as part of my laying/breeding flock and which to eat. She made one of those decisions easy. I try to not keep a chicken that disrupts the peace and tranquility of the flock. A good friend called me ruthless when we were discussing that. I thanked her for the compliment.

A 2' x 4' "community" nest box can supposedly handle 24 hens by itself, but they are not good for broody hens. I could see you making one level a community nest but that presents some issues with access, especially if you make it 2' deep. My broodies regularly hatch in the higher nests. I don't have chicks falling out or chicks getting hurt when the broody brings them to the coop floor. I think one reason is that the nests are a little bigger than the usually recommended 12" x 12". Personally I would not do the open shelf nest if you expect a broody hen.

On the lower level I built it so I had that open space in the center I could open to either nest or keep it isolated. If you look closely you can see the pieces of plywood that can slide in those slots to isolate that middle. My thoughts were like yours, use it for a broody with chicks. I never used it for that, I let the broody hen raise them with the flock from Day 1. The bottom was 1/2" hardware cloth so it could be used as a broody buster, but I only used it for that a couple of times. And I isolated an injured chicken in there a couple of times. Having a place you can isolate a chicken can come in very handy but I typically use me brooder built into the coop for that if it is empty.

With my set-up and management techniques I would not include that middle section if I were doing it again. If the brooder is full with chicks I could use a dog crate to isolate a chicken or break a broody. I never really had to use it, other options were available. I think you have room to incorporate something like that which could be a really good idea. With a coop only 4' wide you don't have the room and flexibility to do much else.

This is a tractor, not a coop, so coop rules don't necessarily apply. But I think with a 4' x 10' tractor you are going to have a challenge getting enough roost space for all of your chickens. You may be told that you need anywhere from 7" to 15" per chicken in the roosts. There is nothing magical about precise roost lengths, each set-up is different and each flock has it's own dynamics. The roosts need to be higher than the nests as they tend to sleep as high as they can. They do need enough roosts that they can all fit. You may find that some want to sleep in the nests when they are really crowded.

You are in Massachusetts. What do you plan to do when winter hits and they can't be outside? A 4' x 10' space is not nearly enough room for all your chickens then.

I think Plan 1 or Plan 2 will work as far as the nests go, either with 12" of 16" nests. My real concern is the size of that coop section. It might work in ideal conditions, maybe. It will be very tight. But you have no flexibility to handle anything except ideal conditions. That concerns me.
 

bgmathteach

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Aug 22, 2021
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I'm trying to envision how you'd manage a 4' wide coop for 26 hens, sounds cramped for you to work in there. But it also sounds like it is already built so you need to make it work. A photo showing the framing where you plan to put the nests might help. I'll include a photo of my nests, that might make it easier to talk about.

View attachment 2830888

I made my nests 16" cubes instead of staying with the 12" size. Three of those side by side would be 4' so they would fit. I regularly see three hens in one nest laying at the same time. These larger nests can handle more chickens. I've had a nest hog where one would not let another hen lay with her, plus she took about 3 hours to lay her egg, a real pain in the butt chicken. I was evaluating which hens to keep as part of my laying/breeding flock and which to eat. She made one of those decisions easy. I try to not keep a chicken that disrupts the peace and tranquility of the flock. A good friend called me ruthless when we were discussing that. I thanked her for the compliment.

A 2' x 4' "community" nest box can supposedly handle 24 hens by itself, but they are not good for broody hens. I could see you making one level a community nest but that presents some issues with access, especially if you make it 2' deep. My broodies regularly hatch in the higher nests. I don't have chicks falling out or chicks getting hurt when the broody brings them to the coop floor. I think one reason is that the nests are a little bigger than the usually recommended 12" x 12". Personally I would not do the open shelf nest if you expect a broody hen.

On the lower level I built it so I had that open space in the center I could open to either nest or keep it isolated. If you look closely you can see the pieces of plywood that can slide in those slots to isolate that middle. My thoughts were like yours, use it for a broody with chicks. I never used it for that, I let the broody hen raise them with the flock from Day 1. The bottom was 1/2" hardware cloth so it could be used as a broody buster, but I only used it for that a couple of times. And I isolated an injured chicken in there a couple of times. Having a place you can isolate a chicken can come in very handy but I typically use me brooder built into the coop for that if it is empty.

With my set-up and management techniques I would not include that middle section if I were doing it again. If the brooder is full with chicks I could use a dog crate to isolate a chicken or break a broody. I never really had to use it, other options were available. I think you have room to incorporate something like that which could be a really good idea. With a coop only 4' wide you don't have the room and flexibility to do much else.

This is a tractor, not a coop, so coop rules don't necessarily apply. But I think with a 4' x 10' tractor you are going to have a challenge getting enough roost space for all of your chickens. You may be told that you need anywhere from 7" to 15" per chicken in the roosts. There is nothing magical about precise roost lengths, each set-up is different and each flock has it's own dynamics. The roosts need to be higher than the nests as they tend to sleep as high as they can. They do need enough roosts that they can all fit. You may find that some want to sleep in the nests when they are really crowded.

You are in Massachusetts. What do you plan to do when winter hits and they can't be outside? A 4' x 10' space is not nearly enough room for all your chickens then.

I think Plan 1 or Plan 2 will work as far as the nests go, either with 12" of 16" nests. My real concern is the size of that coop section. It might work in ideal conditions, maybe. It will be very tight. But you have no flexibility to handle anything except ideal conditions. That concerns me.
This is just my 'tractor'. I have one extra coop (a small one) that I can use for whatever (I don't like the design, so I only use it as a spare or for emergencies - but it was given to me, so I can't complain too much!)) and am in the process of building another coop inside my permanent run for the winter. However, I will be processing my older girls in the fall, and these young ones that are in the tractor will go into that vacated coop.

I also have 2 broody/isolation pens built into my main run. These pens have a removable partition between them. So, I can have 2 isolation/breeding/broody pens that are 16 sq. ft. each, or one large one that is 32 sq. ft. Each 'half' has one nest box and a 4' roost. Since the front is hardware cloth, I have also used them for introducing new chickens gradually.

I've got 5 roosts in it...but they don't use the lowest at all except to hop up to a higher one!
I have 5 4' roosts presently, and at night, the lowest is always vacant so they all are on 4 of the 5 roosts. The second highest roost always has 9 or 10 squished onto it - while the second lowest has 5, and the bottom one is usually empty!! (Go figure!:confused:) I had assumed that with 20' of roost space, my max capacity for this was 30 hens. (Yes, nest boxes will be external.)

I'll try to get pics today & post.
 
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3KillerBs

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I had assumed that with 20' of roost space, my max capacity for this was 30 hens.

Capacity for any form of chicken housing is based on square footage of floor space, not linear feet of roost. :)

The Usual Guidelines are that each adult, standard-sized hen should have at least:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
This excellent article explains why these are *guidelines*, not hard-and-fast *rules*: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/how-much-room-do-chickens-need.66180/
 

bgmathteach

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Capacity for any form of chicken housing is based on square footage of floor space, not linear feet of roost. :)

The Usual Guidelines are that each adult, standard-sized hen should have at least:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
This excellent article explains why these are *guidelines*, not hard-and-fast *rules*: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/how-much-room-do-chickens-need.66180/
Thank you - I read that article and it is a pretty comprehensive guide.
Guidelines for chickens in tractors (where the tractor is coop & pasture) is 4 sq. feet per bird total - if moved daily (Per Joel Salatin). Unlike a standard tractor, I do have 2X3 welded wire underneath because I have too many predators around. I am so amazed at how many people can get away with an open bottom tractor! Mine is moved daily, and there is 40 sq. ft. of 'safe' coop space in tractor, and 200 + sq. ft. of 'pasture' in addition during the day - giving them a little over 9 sq. feet per bird...and fresh ground to explore/greens to peck every day. They have been in it just over a week and so far all is good.

In my primary run, I have 1.3 - 2 sq. ft. of coop space per bird(depending on coop), but over 15 sq. ft. of run per bird...and more than half the run is covered with a solid roof (for inclement weather & catch snow off tall old barn roof), plus space under coop ( 3 ft. high), This has so far worked really well for me. In winter I wrap the sides of pen with clear tarps, plus 3 of 4 sides of the 'under coop' area, so they have plenty of space that is protected in winter, but outside of the coop (note, still plenty of ventilation as about 40% of run has no solid roof). I haven't had any issues (so far) with pecking/feather picking, etc. [3 years here at this set-up] I have lots of roosts in pen, plus one under coop, and an old wooden coffee table that I enclosed sides on with feed bags to make a chicken tunnel/hide-out, with 2 small roosts on top. Plus a couple of elevated dust bath areas (I think they were supposed to be water tables for kids, but they work really well for this purpose) that they can run under, a converted curio cabinet with mirror & roosts -open sides & front, and a few places to hang chicken 'tether ball' items. (small pumpkins, cabbages, spare apples, or baskets of greens,etc. as available)

While I realize I don't have 'extra' space in this movable coop/tractor, I'm not concerned about the size at the moment. (I am concerned because it came out heavier than anticipated, and my small riding lawn mover turned tractor can just barely move it with birds inside. Next one needs to be lighter, but still sturdy:rolleyes:. I've tried PVC, but it gets too brittle after a season or two.)

Anyways, back to my quandary about the nest boxes.:idunno
 
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