Photo credit: Tracy Halladay

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nesting Boxes

One of the advantages of having chickens is that they give you eggs.  In making the hens feel more comfortable and making it more convenient to collect the eggs people make nesting boxes in which the hens lay.  There are many ideas for nesting boxes, from using old buckets or milk crates to building external additions to the hen house with shingled top and hinged access.

When I built our current hen house, I purchased a cheap 2 shelf book shelf and used it as the nest.  They say hens need about 12 inch square and 18 inch deep.  This was a little bigger but they have been happy enough with it.   It has had some problems that I wasn't happy with and with the use (and abuse) over the past couple years, I decided it was time to upgrade.

I have wanted one built on the outside with the hinged lid and the easy-access nests and had my self convinced to proceed in that direction.  There are pros and cons to having boxes on the outside.  Building them seems more complicated, keeping weather out becomes an issue.  I'm not a great builder and rely on the skills of a long time friend who has had a career in house construction.  On the Pro side, you have ease of access and added room inside the hen house. 

I have spent some time looking at what other people had done and I think I have found the best of both worlds.  That would be nest boxes that reside internally, with only an access hatch on the outside!  In my searching, I found a blog where someone had done just that.  I stumbled on foxhavenjournal's blog which had nice pictures and details about what they did.

So now I have an idea in mind, I need to come up with dimensions and a rough plan.  My 6 hens have had a hard time sharing 2 boxes, I think I'll expand to 3.  With a rough plan and a promise of exchanging some IT work with my contractor friend, I can see us getting some work done!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Its Easter time and many people end up with chicks.  This is sometimes unfortunate as the unwitting family ends up with a pet that they are not prepared to deal with.  Brooding is the process of raising a chick from just being hatched to one that can survive the elements on its own.  
Chicks in a brooder with heat lamp, food and water

I've only done this once, so I am not an expert.  That being said, by following some simple directions, raising chicks at home can be a fun experience for adults and children.  I will outline some advantages and disadvantages and then refer you to resources that will be able to give you proper instructions and things to watch out for in the process.

  • You pick out the chick and are involved in the process.  Different breeds have different characteristics; from egg laying ability to cold hardiness to personality or temperament.
  • The chick is dependent on you for its safety and health.  The first month of its life is critical. (This could also be seen as a disadvantage).
  • The chick gets to know you and recognize your voice and learn its name.  Granted, this gets harder if you are purchasing a flock.  Our one chick that was raised by us knows its name when we call it and comes to her name.  
  • Brooding (raising chicks from hatchling) gives you a deep-dive course in poultry.  You will develop an understanding of their needs and this will help you as they grow up.
  • They are so darn cute
  • A little knowledge is necessary before getting started.
  • Some equipment is necessary for chicks (heat lamp, special feed, brooder that can grow if you get a bunch of chicks etc.)
  • A little more time and effort intensive.
  • Mixing them in an existing flock can be problematic as a new pecking order is established.  Chicks will need to be safe and it may not be a pleasant experience for your family if you don't know what to expect.  New chicks or hens are not immediately accepted as members of the flock.  Yes, blood can be shed.  
  • There's a good chance some chicks will die.  Some don't get water or get walked on by the others or some don't get the right amount of heat.  You can regulate these to minimize your loss, but some just don't make it.

OK, on to the resources.  Utah State Extension has a great list of guide sheets for beginning your experience with raising backyard poultry.  Go to Poultry Fact Sheets for a list of guides that can help with a wide variety of subjects.  Brooding Fact sheet speaks specifically about raising chicks from scratch.  There are many reliable resources on the internet.  Take a look at the list to the right of this page or google "brooding chickens" for a list of resources