Rollout Nest Boxes

28 Apr

Well, it’s spring and we’ve got 120 chickens laying eggs like it’s going out of style.
The little 8-hole nest box we built almost two years ago was in dire need of replacement.  The chickens were not kind to it’s finicky rollout mechanism, and it quickly became a dirty mess.

I tried to go back and find the plans I scrached out last year for our 16-hole nest box, but it appears that I’ve long since lost them.

This time I just went ahead and made the plans digital.  Now they can live on the internet where it’ll be easier for me to find them next time.

16-Hole Rollout Nest Box Plans
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I use 1/2″ OSB for the nest boxes, 2 sheets ought to get pretty close.  After measuring and cutting all the 1/2″ notches, most of the parts just slide right together.
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Of course the remaining parts, such as these end panels are what add all the rigidity.  Use plenty of staples.
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I didn’t include measurements for all the little strips of OSB (or 2/4″ boards) that you’ll need to finish out the nest boxes, they’re pretty self-explanatory.
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Just make sure it looks something like this when you’re all done.
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We have found that the best mats for use in the nest boxes are these cut-up doormats from Ikea.

Small dirt particles fall through, and you can pressure wash them if they get any other gunk (like broken egg) built up on them.
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Speaking of broken eggs, I have found that without some way of obfuscating the eggs, chickens will start eating eggs.  I staple up a strip of poly feedsack along the egg-door.
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This is the chicken-eye view from inside the nest.  That feed sack is enough to keep them from paying much attention to the eggs that collect in the bottom of the nest.

11 Responses to “Rollout Nest Boxes”

  1. Tim Pohlar August 17, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Looks Great! I have a flock of 400 layers on pasture in mobile coops, and I need a new nest box design for my new coop before the pullets start to lay, I think I have found it. What angle did you use for the slope? Any other changes you would make to the design now that you have in use? Thanks for the pictures!

    • Andrew August 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      Hi Tim,
      I think the slope is something like 4″ of rise for a 16″ run. That seems to work pretty well for us, I’m unsure if we’re going to use them in an eggmobile as the chassis of the eggmobile would have to be pretty level for the rollout nests to work right. Around here we have hardly a single level spot on the whole farm, so I’m afraid they won’t work out.

      • Tim Pohlar October 7, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        I am finishing my new coop to hold about 300 birds, and am in the process now of building the nest boxes based off your design. We live on a ridge top so I know what you mean about not having a single level spot, sometimes the coops sit on quite a slope. I will be building 4 nest box units, 16 holes each, and I am almost finished with the first one. I will be suspending them from the ceiling, so that no matter my slope, they will always hang level. I will let you know how it goes, I am modifying the design to be strong enough to hang, but it should work, I hope 🙂

  2. Jerica Cadman February 23, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    I was pretty thrilled to find your blog via the APPPA member forum. We’re in the process of changing to rollaway nests for our flock of 800 pastured hens. We bought a couple of prefab sets from Kuhl, which work ok, but boy are they pricey! It’s no fun to reinvent the wheel, so I did a search on APPPA and found these plans. We’ve got the first set almost built and hope to get them out today, in spite of the icy weather. Only modifications were that we made them a little smaller but made the rollaway area longer to be able to collect more eggs. We had trouble finding a local source of the door mat, and were hesitant to spend upwards of $4-5 per box, since we have to make around 60 boxes or more. We bought $60 worth of Astroturf at Lowe’s and so far it works like a charm and will cost us about $1 per nest, and we think it will be easy enough to spray/shake off as needed. Pro tip: orient the turf grain so that it aggressively slows the egg down–the direction does matter! Anyway, thanks for the plans and the cool blog! I’m going to try your baby monitor hack as well!

  3. Tim Pohlar February 26, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Jerica, I have had similar results to yours. I have a flock of about 400 layers in mobile coops. I extended the nest box area, also. I also used astroturf, otherwise the nest pads are just too pricey. I had a problem with them scratching the turf to pieces in some of the end holes, but only in about 8 out of 64 holes. Also modified it to hang in the middle of my coops, so that when I am on a hillside, it will still hang level and the eggs will roll out properly. Biggest problem I am having is hens that sleep in the nest box and poop all over inside. They were used to it in there previous nest boxes with bedding. I couldn’t break the habit then, and still can’t with the roll out. It is just not realistic for me to go out to the coops both first thing in the morning and last thing at night, particularly in the winter, when their lights come on at 3 am.
    Any thoughts on preventing the habit from starting, or design modifications to deal with this??
    Also, having a problem with the feed bag strips staying in place. I stapled it on, but just gets pulled off in places. Any suggestions?
    Anyways, loved the online plans, saved a lot of R&D (wasted time and money also!)

    • Jerica Cadman February 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

      Tim, I think it would be neat to try hanging the nests, but we’re not there yet. Doing good to get the newly built boxes deployed, period! 🙂

      We do use the close-out perches and open and close them manually. Beats washing eggs and cleaning out boxes. There is such a thing as an automatic coop closure, but again, we’re not there yet. There’s never enough time to “perfect” farm infrastructure, is there?

      Matt stapled in strips of astroturf to cover the egg collection area. No tips at this point, as we only just started using these boxes!

      • Tim Pohlar February 27, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

        Jerica, I ended up making the top of the nest boxes flat instead of pointed, to accommodate hanging, although, depending on how high you hang them, and the height of your roof, it may not matter.

        To hang the boxes, I just screwed 2×4 to the ends of the boxes, then used two boltable eyelets per side to act as hangers. I then used cam straps to hook to the eyelets for hanging, it makes hanging and adjusting the height easy. I also attached a sheet of 3/8 plywood to the back to add stiffness needed to hang. Let me know if you ever figure out a way to automate nest box closures.

        Do your birds throw a fit if you are late to open the boxes and lay on the floor, or do they just “hold” their egg until you open the boxes, then jump in a go t
        o their laying?

        • Jerica Cadman February 27, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

          I mentioned your idea of hanging the boxes to my hubby, and he is going to try to implement it in our next egg-mobile (which we are due to build as our old ones are damaged from a couple of recent wind storms). He will probably implement a damper shaft to prevent swinging when the hens jump out. Do you have any thoughts on that? Would love to see photos of your operation if you have a website.

          We have a handful of hens that lay on the ground regardless of the time the boxes are opened, but for the most part, Matt makes it out right at dawn to open the boxes. He’s a firm believer in checking on everyone early. 🙂 “Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds;
          24 For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.” –Prov. 27:23-24

          • Tim Pohlar February 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

            I haven’t had any problems with swinging from hens jumping out, the boxes come out to be quite heavy, depending on the thickness of plywood you end up using. I suppose that the damper would’t hurt, if nothing else than to keep them more stable when moving the coops.

            Love the proverb! I will have to commit that to memory and live by it. I milk 40 organic holsteins also, so quite fitting.

            check out my facebook page, pohlar family farm. I don;t have any pics of the inside of my new coop with the nest boxes, but there is a video with my new coop on there, one of these days I will put a video or pics with my nest boxes.

          • Tim Pohlar March 1, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

            Another thing to keep in mind: The short flap that covers the egg catching area doesn’t stay open for me. When it is open, it is vertical and not obtuse enough to stay open, so if you adjust where you hinge it, so that it opens past 90 degrees, that should help it stay open. Otherwise you would need something to keep the lid open, or pick eggs with one hand and hold open with the other, but that is not as efficient.

  4. Walter Royal November 16, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I have found that using trailer jacks, like the one at the hitch, on the rear corners removes the engineering requirement of designing a floating nest box and having to level feed and water systems. Just lower the jack at the highest ground point and jack the other two up until the unit is level. I love the roll-out design and thanks for putting it out there.

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