Low & No Cost Nest Boxes
If you’ve got birds for egg laying purposes, you may need to consider getting nest boxes. Chickens will lay in anything that seems cozy. Turkeys will typically use a nest box. Guinea hens tend to prefer open-topped boxes at floor level in a secluded corner. Quail can be encouraged to lay their eggs in an open nest box with a sand substrate. If you’ve got ducks… forget about it.
I have heard stories of ducks using nest boxes, but they must be some sort of urban legend. My ducks have created a fun game of laying in the oddest places and then changing locations when I finally figure out where. Some famous laying locations for my ducks:
- On top of the woodpile in a little dip in the tarp.
- On the BBQ grill shelf.
- Balanced on the top of the 5 gallon nipple waterer.
- On the roof of the little coop.
If those locations aren’t strange enough on their own, it’s worth mentioning that these are big, fat, non-flying birds. How they get to these locations is beyond me. I felt it was a colossal joke at my expense for a while. Then I realized that my husband wouldn’t get up before me and move eggs for this long of a time.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Nest boxes. You can buy a variety of nest boxes either online or at a farm supply store, but there are many cheap options you can get at your local Wal-Mart or Dollar Store. There are even some free options using materials or items you probably have kicking around.
“Cheep” and Free Nest Box Ideas
- Metal Washing Bins
- Plastic Storage Bins
- Storage Totes
- Kitty Litter Buckets
- Cardboard Boxes
- Single Dish Pans
- Two Dish Pans
- Upcycled Furniture
- Wine Crates
- Plywood Boxes
- Covered Litter Boxes
- Milkcrates on Their Sides
- Upright Milk Crates
- Drywall Buckets
- Dresser Drawers
Nest Box Tips
The Size of the Box
The general rule here is the bigger the bird, the bigger the box. A bantam hen could easily use a small 9″ x 9″ box. A turkey will need a large 18″ x 18″ box. The nesting area does not need to be a series of individual boxes. Some birds enjoy using communal boxes (others however do not). My setup includes one large communal box that is 30″ x 18″ x 18″ and three individual boxes that measure 18″ x 18″ x 18″. If I have a hen that goes broody, she gets put in the communal box and gated off so no one bothers her. This is a good amount of space for her to keep her chicks the first few days after hatch before she is released back to the general population.
How Many Boxes?
The general rule of thumb is one nest box for every 3-4 hens. This is a guideline and like any good guideline, it’s a number to get you started. I start on the low side and see how my bird interact. If they are forming a line and yelling at one another every morning it’s time more boxes. Crowded boxes mean I might want to consider adding another communal box. If I have 3 boxes on top that never get used, but three on the bottom that are stuffed with birds, I could take the top three and put them at floor level. Movable boxes are a great idea.
What to Put in the Boxes
You can line your nest boxes with just about anything. I enjoy giving my birds variety. Happy hens lay lots of eggs. Some options include:
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine shavings
- Hay or straw
- Pine needles
- Grass clippings
- Commercial liners
Think of the animal that will be using the box when considering what to line it with. You don’t want a wet duck nesting in shredded newspaper.
What do you use for your nest boxes? What do you line them with? Share in the comments below.
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