Introduction: Easy Egg Collecting Exterior Nesting Box
With a new baby on the way, I wanted a way for my wife to collect our chicken eggs without having to bend over and reach inside the hen house. I felt the best way to do this was to build an exterior nesting box. I have seen some that the top opens up and you can reach in but when I was little my dad built one that the eggs rolled away from the hen. The eggs were collected at the back. I wanted to recreate this because I felt it would also minimize the chance a hen would start to eat eggs. I watched some videos of similar kinds. Others discussed the difficultly of insuring the eggs roll to the back when typical bedding was being used. When no bedding was being the chickens tended to abandon the nesting box and lay the eggs elsewhere. I then stumbled on a YouTube video of someone using paint pans with carpet lining the bottom. The paint pans sloped just enough the egg would roll to the back. The carpet gave the chickens enough comfort feel they would use the box. Also, the paint pans are easy to remove and dumped into the compost bin for cleaning. The video didn't give step by step instructions but demonstrated the idea. Now I hope this step by step inspires others to do the same.
This nesting box was built to have three nesting boxes. This can scale depending on how many nesting boxes you need. My henhouse is designed to house up to eight hens. From the research I have done, you want one nesting box for two to three hens. Right now we have six hens meaning at least two nesting boxes. Most of the time the eggs we find are in the same box. Rarely are all three used. I believe this only happened on the five egg day.
The supplies I had on hand from building the henhouse and run. The paint pans I bought from a local Habit for Humanity Restore. They were less than a dollar each. I got new carpet turf scraps from a mini-golf course that was rebuilding their putting holes.
Scrap turf carpet
Get a helper or two
Step 1: Building the Base
Nesting boxes need to help the chicken feel safe without being crowded; most directions instruct to build the nesting box 12 x12 x12 inches Since the paint pans are going to be placed in the base, I measured the dimensions of the paint pans to figure out the dimensions of each box. Paint pans dimensions will vary depending on the manufacture. My pans were roughly 11 1/4x14 inches. I cut two short 2x4 to 12 inches for the width of the box. For the length of the base of the box, I cut four 2x4s to 18 inches. I screwed the 12inch 2x4s between the 2 of the 18 inch 2x4s. I found using a wood framing clamp made this a lot easier to do. I repeated this till I had two u-shaped sections. These u-shaped frames will hold the paint pans in place.
For the bottom of the nesting box, I cut one piece of plywood 48 x 18 3/8 inches long. The 3/8 of an inch was added to allow for a 3 1/2 x 47 1/4 inches to be placed at the backside of the u-shaped frames. The 47 1/4 inch measurement was to give space for the sides. I attached be 47 1/4 inch board to the open ends of the u-shaped frames. I first did the outside edge. To keep the u-shaped frames square I used a wood clamp to squeeze the non-screwed end to 12inchs between the two. This is shown in the fourth picture.
I attached the 18-inch side of the u-shaped frame to the baseboard with 1 1/4 inch screws. I made sure my frame was center on baseboard 3/8 of an inch from both sides. The 3/8 will give enough space for the sides to sit on the baseboard. This gave the edge a nice finish and matched the henhouse width perfectly when mounted.
Step 2: Sides and Dividers
The sides and dividers needed to be cut on a slope to give the ruff a pitch. I just decided a drop of 1 1/2 inches over the 18.5-inch length would be fine. I happened to have two long sheets of scrap plywood ripped down 16.5x36 inches. These worked great for sides and dividers. I cut them down to 18.5 inches and set the smaller pieces aside for the inner dividers. The inner dividers don't run the full 18.5 lengths so they were used later on. I then measured up one of the 16.5-inch sides to 14 and marked it. Pulled a chalk line from that mark to the corner of the other 16.5-inch side. This gave me a line starting 1.5 inches in width slowly tapering off. I then used a skill saw to cut this slope. I placed this board on top of the other one and traced the slope then cut it off. I matched 16.5-inch sides to the other two scraps marked it and cut it.
The length of the dividers depended on the size of the egg gathering door I wanted. I used a scrap 3 1/2 x 48-inch piece of plywood I had laying around. I cut the dividers to 15 inches making sure I didn't cut off the side that was 16.5 inches. I installed the dividers on the outsides of the frames. This was to make sure the paint pans would still fit once complete. With those dividers installed, I then built another u-shaped frame to place inside the middlebox. This was to hold the middle paint pan in place.
At this point, I needed some kind of blocking to attach the back and top. I figured 2x2s would work fine for this. I used the dimensions of the dividers for the dimensions of the blocking. Using a speed square, I found the angle of the slop; about 5 degrees. This angle was used to cut the 2x2s to match the slope. I placed the blocking on the insides of the outer two boxes (see the last three pictures).
Step 3: The Back and Top
To get the width of the top I measured the length of the slopes of the sides. This came out to be about 19 inches. I made sure the 19 would be long enough so water wouldn't run off and drip on the door. In retrospect, I should have cut the top 2 inches wider to give a better drip edge. I ripped a piece of plywood to be 19x48 for the top. I then measured from the top of the short end of dividers down to the 2x4 u-shaped frames. This measured to be 11 inches. I ripped another piece down to 11x48 inches. This board needed to fit between the two side pieces so I cut 3/4 of an inch off one end. I ended up with a piece of plywood 11x47 1/4 inches. I then attached the back to the blocking on the two side boxes.
Step 4: Attaching the Door
The door was simple I had a scrap piece of plywood laying around that was 3 1/2 x 48 inches. I had to cut 3/4 of an inch. This made the door fit between the sides like the back. I used four hinges to help spread the weight of the door out. I attached the hinges first to the door. This took some trial and error. I decided to attach the hinges like they are in the picture because I felt the screws would hold better this way. I then attached the door to the back of the paint pan holder on the nesting box. I found the door was hard to open; there was no place to grip it. I built a simple hand out of a scrap piece of 2x2. This fixed the problem.
Step 5: Carpeting the Paint Pans
The carpet was placed for the chickens to have a soft place to lay their eggs. I purchased the carpet scraps from a mini-golf course that had extra from repairs made earlier in the spring. I cut the carpet to fit the bottom of the paint pans. Using superglue, I glued the carpet down to the paint pan. I found a brick worked well to weigh the carpet down to the pan while the glue cured. At first, I thought the superglue wasn't going to cut it but. It has been a couple of months now and it is still going strong.
I placed the paint pans in the nesting box so the sloped down to the door. I then tested the nesting box out with an egg to see if it would roll down to the door. It worked like expected.
I then attached the nesting box to my hen house. I choose not to go into detail on this part because I wanted to focus more on the building of the box. When I built the henhouse, I planned which side I was going to attach the nesting box. This will be a bit different for each henhouse. I did use L-brackets on the bottom to help hold it in place. I also screwed a 2x4 to the top in the front of the nesting box that screwed to my henhouse. Make sure you plan what side you will be attaching your nesting box to before building. Most of your own measurements will be based on that decision.
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