Where do I put the nest boxes.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by leaddog, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. leaddog

    leaddog In the Brooder

    I am "designing" a coop for the 11 hens and a "grouchy" rooster that Grandpa has said the kids can have. I have a 10X12 concrete slab currently being held to earth by a pile of junk.

    I think I have the design pretty much figured at least in my head, from what I have been reading here and other places, advice from neighbors and Grandpa and the materials at hand.

    I am not sure exactly where, how, or how big to make the nesting boxes. I know that I want them to be accessed from the exterior so that I do not have to go into the coop. I am thinking of 3 or 4 boxes 1ft deep, 1 ft tall, and 2 ft side to side with about an 8 or 10 inch hole cut in the center of the 2 ft side. I have seen the "hang out the side" style with a hinged top, and the "built into the inside" style with a door on the back. Which is better? should it be close to the floor, or up a little so that I don't have to stoop so far to get the eggs? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each?

    My first thought was a hang out the side style about 3 or 4ft off the floor because I have some knee wall sections that just happen to be about that height and are going to be perfect for a part of one end of the coop.

    I know that I'll get some great help here!

    Thanks to all

  2. Chirpy

    Chirpy Balderdash

    May 24, 2007
    Where do you live? It may make a difference depending on the temperature of the state you live in. A hang out type nest box will get colder than a built in style will.

    A benefit of the hang out type is that the lid is usually on top and thus gravity helps to make sure that it always is closed after getting into it. That can be a huge help if you have small children helping you collect eggs. If it gets left open the chickens can get outside AND any predator can get inside the coop! You will still want a lock on the door though.

    Because I have young children and we live in a really cold winter climate we actually made a walk-in coop with a people side and a chicken side. We can walk into the people side without walking into the chicken area. This is a positive for us in a couple of ways. First, if a child forgets to shut a nest box door (and they have) and the chickens get through the nest boxes - they are just on the people side... safe and no predators can get them. If it's pouring down rain or during a blizzard we can walk inside and be very comfortable collecting the eggs instead of standing outside to reach into the nest boxes.

    The down side of what I've done is that I took up floor space that isn't available for the chickens now.

    Putting the nest boxes on the outside gives you more inside floor space.

    I have a double row of nest boxes with the bottom row about 12" off the floor and the top row two feet off the floor. My chickens almost always use the top row so putting your nest boxes up so it's easier to get to would work just fine.

    Have fun!
  3. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    [​IMG] My nest boxes are on the outside of my coop. There are pictures on my BYC Page.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Welcome. Sounds like you've done your homework. I'm not going to argue with anything Chirpy said. It all makes sense to me.

    Chirpy is right in where you live sometimes making a difference to the answers you get. If you modify your profile to show the area you are in, it will automatically come up. It took me a while to figure out the advantage to that, so just a friendly recommendation. It can also help to put some info about your chickens in your signature at the bottom so we know if you are talking about bantams or full sized chickens.

    Size of nesting boxes - What you are proposing is more of a community nesting box rather than an individual. One 12" x 24" is probably good for 8 or more hens instead of the regular 4 per nesting box. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of people use them. Chickens often like to use the same nesting box. They will crowd in and lay with another hen if they can or wait if the nest is too little for two or more to share. A community nesting box takes some of that pressure off. I think three that size will be plenty and you still have plenty of room for expansion. The 1 foot height is plenty. And cut the entry hole as high as you can so you have 3 or 4 inches at the bottom to hold in the nesting material. You probably already knew that.

    Interior or exterior - As Chirpy said, the climate is a consideration, but you can always insulate and make it work. Just more work and materials. If you make a vertical door to get into the nesting boxes from outside, I'd consider one that has the hinges on the bottom, not the top. I like to be able to see where I am putting my hand when I reach into the nesting box. And gravity will keep the lid open if you need to use both hands. Advantages and disadvantages both ways. An exterior nesting box may be more susceptable to predators. Depends on how you build it.

    Where - You want it off the floor at least 12". The nest stays cleaner that way. They don't track in or kick in as much stuff. You do not want them so high that they roost in (and poop in) the nesting boxes rather than the roosts. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with making it more convenient to you. To me, those knee wall sections sound perfect. If the openings to the nesting boxes are 3 or 4 feet up, I like putting a perch in front of and below the opening to give the chickens some help getting into the nesting boxes.
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I see no point whatsoever to making external (protruding) nestboxes on a big walk-in coop like you're building. Only reason to do that is to save space, like in a weensy tiny little tractor type thing. You can still have access from outside if you want (little door thru the wall, *well* predatorproofed and weatherstripped), but put the actual nestboxes inside the coop. It is massively easier to do, and more secure, and has no disadvantages at all.

    3-4' high is kind of high for nest boxes, in the sense that it forces your roosts to be pretty high to keep them higher still. Assuming you put a slanty top on the nestboxes so nobody can perch atop them, you'd still need a 5' (ish) roost, higher if you will have it ladder style with unequal tiers. That is not insanely high but some people run into problems with very big breeds jumping down from that height, also it is not the most pleasant height to work with IMO when you have to pick birds off the roost to do stuff with them (snoozy roosting birds are easily picked up and thus a prime target for your doctoring, checkups, mite dusting, etc)

    Your nest box size sounds great -- as previous posters have said, it is generous for a single nestbox and you will probably find that you don't need quite as many, but if you like building things, what the hey [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

  6. leaddog

    leaddog In the Brooder

    Thank you all for the help! [​IMG]

    I was thinking of the hang out type because there will be a 5' +/- alleyway between the coop and the adjacent barn. I was going to attach it to the barn, but decided that with the materials I have and the difficulty in tying the roof line to the barn roof (hate to do valleys) it will be easier to have the alley.

    There will be a sort of "people area" as Chirpy put it.

    Since the consensus is that inside boxes are easier to build, I'm all for that.

    I did not realize that I was building a monster sized coop, either.

    It sounds like having the floor of the nest box between 2 and 3 feet off the floor of the coop is a good height.

    How does this height affect the hen's ability to raise chicks if one decides to allow the brooding of the surplus eggs? Since I have not done this before, I was thinking about small chicks getting out of the nest box and not being able to get back inside it.

    I was not aware that the roosts should be higher than the nest boxes. Am I understanding this correctly?

    The chickens will be all standard size. I plan on allowing them to free range during the day. I have 5 acres surrounded by several hundred of corn beans and wheat.

    What else am I forgetting?
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:I think most people would remove a broody hen to a separate enclosure, certainly after the chicks hatch, many people as soon as the hen was definitely setting. So the question does not necessarily arise.

    I was not aware that the roosts should be higher than the nest boxes. Am I understanding this correctly?

    Yup, b/c it is very important in the chicken brain to be sitting on the highest roostable thing available, and if the nest boxes are a competitive option, heightwise, you will get hens sleeping there and making a pooey mess which results in pooey eggs. Best to make the nestboxes distinctly lower than the lowest roost, so as not to rely on chickens running around with tape measures [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun, sounds like it will be a nice coop,


  8. leaddog

    leaddog In the Brooder

    OK. Here we go. Maybe off subject for this thread, but....

    Did I just read that I should have a separate place for a hen to hatch and raise chicks? Is the lazy fair (bad french, sorry) approach to haphazardly allowing chicks to be born and raised not good? I am going for the low maintenance approach here. I have one 14 yr old at home with me 50% of the time. The rest of the time it is me and the dog, and the cats, and the cattle, you get the picture. The fewer chores I can create, the better. I think that 11 hens even on a bad week will lay more eggs than the boy and I can eat. I figure that with a rooster around, I'd let the uneaten ones hatch and become chicken dinners at some point.

    I bet I just showed the world that I am totally clueless, didn't I? OK educate me![​IMG]
  9. Intheswamp

    Intheswamp Songster

    Mar 25, 2009
    South Alabama
    Quote:Totally clueless???....that's me! Good question. I'm waiting eagerly to hear what folks say!

  10. Chirpy

    Chirpy Balderdash

    May 24, 2007
    Did I just read that I should have a separate place for a hen to hatch and raise chicks?

    There is no right or wrong on this topic - just what works best for you. In your situation you may want to totally let nature take its course and do nothing when a hen goes broody. If the chicks hatch and survive - you have chicken dinners growing up. If not, no biggy for you.

    The reason that many people do separate their broodies from the rest of the flock is because they really want those chicks to grow up for some specific purpose or just because it's fun. Moving a broody to a rabbit hutch or dog crate, etc. will improve the chances that she will hatch the eggs and that the chicks will survive (not falling out of a nest box and potentially being killed by another chicken or predator). I have left my broody with her chick for two weeks and then reintroduced them to the flock - she took great care of the little guy and I didn't intervene again except once to chase off a cat that had his eyes on the chick.

    Another issue that I found was when my broody was sitting on her clutch in the nest box- the other hens kept laying their eggs on top of her which would add new eggs to the nest everyday. You really want the eggs to hatch at the same time so she won't continue sitting on eggs when she needs to be out taking care of new chicks. I marked the eggs I wanted mine to hatch so if another hen laid an egg with the marked ones I could remove it and leave the fertile ones.

    Many broodies have their chicks with zero human intervention and do just fantastic at raising them. Some don't do so well.​

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