Want to know how to build chicken nesting boxes? This easy method uses recycled and scrap materials. If you don’t want to blow your budget, you’ll love this simple DIY project; perfect for any weekend!
DIY Nesting Boxes | Budget Homesteading Project
Where will the hens lay their eggs? If left to their own devices they will find a place on their own, but chances are you won’t like it. Searching for hidden eggs in dark inaccessible nooks and crannies can be frustrating. You can build your own even if you are not a professional carpenter, recycled materials or left over from other projects. This specific DIY nesting boxes tutorial makes enough for 5 chickens, but yours may vary depending on the size of your coop. Make adjustments as necessary!
What You’ll Need:
- Empty kitty litter buckets (one per chicken)
- 5 2x4s (the amount varies, you will need at least 5, see details below)
- Materials for a steep roof (optional, see below)
- Insulation (optional)
TOOLS: You will basic carpentry tools:
- Screw Driver
- Tape Measure
- (We use cordless electric tools, but you can use whatever is most comfortable for you)
Chicken Nesting Boxes Tutorial
Step 1: Assemble the Materials
Here is a detailed assessment of all the materials you’ll need, to align with the list above.
For the nest boxes themselves, we use kitty litter buckets. They are the perfect size and shape, are free, and we feel good about reusing things instead of throwing them out (keyword: upcycling).
We clean them thoroughly and allow them to air dry for as long as possible—sometimes even months—in order to mitigate any odor that could be off-putting to poultry.
You will also need lumber, primarily 2x4s. I will not give an exact shopping list because the amount you need will depend on how many you are making and how they are set up in your birds’ space. You can get away with using a lot of small pieces and scraps, even substituting some of the 2×4 studs for boards of other sizes.
You will need some full-length 2x4s, however. A good estimate is to measure the width of all your nest boxes put together, and buy five 2x4s of that length.
You may also want to add a steep roof over the top of the boxes. A roof serves two functions, both of which are a nice plus but neither completely necessary. The roof can be extended over the front of the nest boxes like a visor, making it a little darker inside and making the hens happy.
The other good thing about a roof is that it keeps the birds from sitting on top of the boxes. Chickens eliminate often, and anywhere they spend time gets messy quickly. Keeping them off the top in the first place is easier than frequent cleaning.
Another optional step is to cover and insulate the space between the nest boxes and the floor. If you do, you will need additional flat sturdy material for that too, plus insulation.
Tip: Insulate below your nesting boxes for additional warmth, if you live in the colder regions.
We also added a side panel for a nice finished look and it helps keep out dirt.
We made our roof, bottom cover, and side panel all out of leftover composite material from the house itself, but you can use whatever materials you have on hand or are able to acquire. Plywood, pressboard, lauan underlayment, oriented strand board, metal roofing, or even kitchen countertop materials will work.
Just remember that if you use something super heavy, you will need to shore it up with a few extra 2×4 braces. You will also want to make sure that your walls and floors are sturdy enough to support whatever you use.
We used screws for assembly. It is possible to use nails if that’s what you have, but screws are faster, easier, and more secure. Also by using screws, you can also more easily take the structure apart later if it needs modification.
You will need a few washers also, just one per nest box, to keep the back of the box from breaking. We used a type called “fender washers,” which are large in diameter with a small hole in the center.
Next, gather your tools. You will need a drill, a screwdriver, a saw, a level, a tape measure, a straight edge, and a marker. We use cordless electric tools, but you can use whatever is most comfortable for you.
Now you’ve gathered your materials. You’re ready to start building your DIY nesting boxes.
How To Build Chicken Nesting Boxes
Get a visual of where you want your nesting boxes to lie before you begin.
Before beginning the actual building process, we find it helpful to get a visual feel for the space in which the nest boxes will exist. Measuring is important, but it also helps to just hold the nest box components up and take a look.
It is important to keep in mind that this isn’t brain surgery. If your end result isn’t perfect, the hens are not likely to mind.
We built ours with one end in the corner against a side wall and the other end opens into the room. This is probably the setup that works best in most houses, but you can easily adapt these directions to fit your own needs.
With a plan in place, it is time to begin the fun!
Step 1: Prepare Your Boxes
First, prepare your boxes. You’ve already aired them out. Now you can cut off the part of the lid that folds so you’re left with the smaller portion. This will create a short wall for your chickens to nest behind.
Step 2: Cut Your 2x4s
Next, cut two pieces of 2×4 the length of the total boxes you plan to use.
Mark off. Use a square if you have one. Cut. You will use one of the cut 2x4s now and set the other one aside for later.
Step 3: Attach 2×4 To Wall
Screw one of the 2x4s onto the wall along the bottom edge of where the nest boxes will go. This will help support them. Make sure it is level.
Step 4: Add boxes
The boxes go in next. It is easy enough to install the boxes and build the supports around them. Real carpenters might do it the other way around, but this way works too.
Drill a hole in the bottom of each box, somewhere near the center. Rest the back of the nest box on top of the 2×4 you just installed. Screw it into place on the wall, using the washer. Repeat with another nest box next to it until they are all in place.
Step 5: Build The Front Support
Next, build the supports along the front. Measure the distance between the floor and the bottom front of the boxes and cut a 2×4 to that length. Attach it to the end of the other long 2×4, the one you can cut and set aside earlier.
Screw the short piece to the side wall and secure your 2×4. Measure another 2×4 at least as tall as the top of the nest boxes. You don’t have to be precise at this point because you’re going to trim off the top later anyway. Attach it vertically to the front corner on the other end of the nest boxes.
Add a center beam across the front of your nesting boxes. Your project should look like a real nesting area by now!
Step 6: Floor Brace
If you are going to cover the space between the nest boxes and the floor, it’s a good idea to place a brace on the floor to keep it from curving in the middle. Choose a leftover piece of 2×4 or any board about a foot long. If you have a knotty or otherwise imperfect one, this is a great use for it.
Step 7: Build Your Sidewall Wall And Roof
If you are putting a roof on the boxes, now is the time to build the braces to hold it up. Use the marks you made on the wall when you were doing a visual. If you haven’t done so already, draw an angled line from the marks on the back wall where the top of your roof is going to the front upper edge of your nest boxes.
The next steps can be a little tricky, and you will need to measure and cut your angles carefully.
Measure a 45-degree angle from the front lip of the nest boxes to the wall. You can do this using carpentry tools, a plastic protractor, or just a level and a straight edge. Mark it with a level line along the wall the length of the nest boxes.
Cut a short piece of 2×4 or board and screw it into the side wall on the corner end. You can angle the ends, but you don’t need to.
Measure twice, cut once. Getting the angle just right is tricky; get it as flush to the wall as possible.
Now for the other end. Cut one end of a 2×4 at a 45-degree angle. Leave the other end long enough to reach past the vertical 2×4 on the front corner. Attach it to the wall. Trim the end to fit flush with the vertical, and trim off the end of the vertical as well. This will be a brace to hold up your roof on the open non-cornered end.
Fit a small floor brace on the open end for added support and to hold up the side wall if you are using one. Cut your flat material to size and fit it onto the end. Cut your flat material to size and fit it onto the end.
Keep your chickens out from behind the boxes by blocking it off with a sidewall. Measure the area for the roof, adding at least four inches of overhang, and cut out flat material.
Measure out your roof, this will be a basic rectangle fitted atop. Attach to the angled braces.
Step 8: Bottom Cover
Get the measurement, cut, and attach the bottom cover. Add shavings, hay and the boxes are ready!
We add fake eggs because we find that hens prefer to lay where another bird has already laid. Fake eggs also tell the chicken this is a safe place to nest.
Want to know if it is really worth it raising backyard chickens? Check out this video from SSLFamilyDad:
Congratulations! You have built nest boxes easily and inexpensively, used recycled materials, and your hens will enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come. And with any luck, they will thank you for the daily gifts of fresh delicious eggs.
What do think of this DIY nesting boxes? Will you build it for your flock? Let us know in the comments section below.
Want to take you favorite chicken for a walk? Train your chicken how to use a harness and take it for a fun walk!
This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.