Making Cheap and Practical Chicken Nesting Boxes with a Bucket
This past Spring we were presented with a dilemma. Our hen house was in desperate need of new nesting boxes, as the old boxes were in a sad state of disrepair. We also needed to increase the number of boxes because we were planning on doubling the size of our flock. The problem was we couldn't justify the cost of the commercial nesting boxes, especially in the size we'd need. So, we set about building nesting boxes out of mostly scrap lumber. The boxes we created were more of a nesting tray with an open top and removable bottoms for easy cleaning. These trays did the job until our new young hens got old enough to roost. The new hens decided to roost directly on the nesting trays, not above, but directly on. For anyone that knows chickens, you already know why this is a problem. You see chickens, like any bird, aren't at all picky about where they go to the bathroom. This means that anything that happens to be under the bird when the urge strikes, is cannon fodder. Our new hens were fouling the nesting trays on a daily basis. We weren't sold on the idea of covering the top with wood, as this would likely just move the problem up about a foot. Clearly something had to be done. We needed something cheap, easily replaceable and easy to clean.
An image in an old homestead book provided the answer. The answer was an ordinary five gallon bucket.
Finding a dozen five gallon buckets that were clean enough to be used in holding eggs proved to be a challenge. Sure, we could have went out and purchased some for a few dollars each, but we needed a dozen. And buying something that someone else out there is throwing away isn't what homesteading is all about. After some searching we were able to locate some buckets that were used at one point for food, and incidentally the hen house smelled like chicken soup for two weeks after the buckets were put in place. We brought the buckets home, which made the car smell like chicken soup for several days, hosed the buckets out and laid them into the existing nesting trays. After filling the buckets with partially straw, they were perfect. Easy to clean and easy to replace, perfect for a hen house.
Shortly after placing the buckets into the hen house we learned of a company making a bucket lid with a perch molded directly into it, turning the bucket into a purpose built nesting box. Pure genius.
The bucket is an excellent tool for use around the homestead. The humble bucket has a number of uses around here. Anyone have any interesting uses for a bucket?
Buckets are Easy to Clean!
Perhaps one of the best aspects of using a bucket as a nesting box is the ability to remove the buckets from the coop and clean them. Buckets can be treated with a mild bleach solution and hosed out. If you obtain enough buckets they can be taken out of rotation and cleaned, eliminating the need to dry them right away. You won't want to leave the nesting buckets out of the coop for long, or you'll have some irritated hens waiting in line for their turn to use the buckets. No kidding.
Also, be sure to keep the bedding in the buckets clean. Clean nesting buckets and bedding equals clean eggs. Most of the time anyway...