I promised you, like 100 years ago or something, when we moved to our farm that I'd show you the easiest nesting boxes ever that we set up for our chickens. As with all things in this lifestyle, knowledge is achieved through many mistakes – and Lord knows, we've made 'em. Even with regard to chicken coop designs.
In our defense, the chicken coop at our last farm was already built when we arrived. We stumbled into it, like so many other things, and just dealt with it as-is. I loved the mustard color we painted it and the honey suckle that grew up it's wire. But cleaning that beast out was a nightmare.
For starters, you couldn't stand upright in it. Huge design flaw. But the nesting boxes in particular are what I hated most. Unless you had a good pair of gloves, a gas-mask, and a hand shovel, you couldn't clean the stupid things out. Scoop by scoop, you'd stand in that coop, hunched over, trying to not die from chicken-dust-inhalation, and have to reach deep and scrap hard in each nesting box to clean out the old bedding and poo. It was stupid.
I hated it. That's why I made Georgia do it. Shh. Don't tell.
Fast forward to The Cottage, the new farm to which we moved this winter. The chickens have to go somewhere, so until we can/could/will? build a proper coop, we've been keeping them in one of the 5 bays in our large, outdoor ‘barn'. It's a large area and the ceilings are about 15 feet tall. Yay for being able to stand up!
Anyway, let me get to the point here. The bay obviously didn't come with any pre-fabricated chicken boxes. And since we had to move all the animals quickly, we couldn't take the time to fabricate something ourselves really. Plan C. The easiest nesting boxes ever.
Oh look! An old table was left in the shop from the previous owner!
Oh look! Old wooden apple boxes at a local thrift store for $3 each!
Oh look! Straw from the local feed store for $8 a bale!
Ladies and gentlemen: I am pleased to present the easiest (and easiest to clean!) nesting boxes ever.
Because see what happens when you need to clean the boxes? You lift them up:
Grab/dump out the old bedding.
And put fresh bedding in:
The old bedding can serve a second-life on the floor of your coop (if you're into the deep litter method!) or can be easily scooped into a wheelbarrow and put in your compost pile or garden.
Cleaning the nesting boxes takes me approximately 1.183 minutes. And that's if I have to chase the goose away with a rake a few times.
It may seem like a silly little thing to get excited about, but the truth is, when your farm chores are spilling out your eyeballs and the to-do list is roughly 3 pages long, any victory like this is a big victory. And you've gotta learn to take it and celebrate it!
Cedar chips, straw hay, wood chips, yard trimmings, or even old hay are all great options for nesting box bedding. I was feeling guilty that our ladies had to deal with moldy hay last time so I splurged on a bag of cedar chips. I'm a total sucker for the way they freshen the place up – both in their aesthetic and their fragrance. I looove the smell of cedar chips. Guilty as charged!
Anyway. Plans are in the works to built up an outdoor run from their current home, complete with vintage door, honeysuckle, hand-planked cedar posts, and a little ladder to climb through the current window (which will take them outside). But their nesting boxes will remain here – I simply love this design too much to stray! They could stand a coat of paint or a little pizazz, but considering it's the trenches of March and I'm approximately 21 days away from a brand new baby, I think the pizazz will have to wait until summer.
Sir Isaac, our Lavender Orpington rooster, doesn't seem to mind too much. He just hangs out up there and does his thing.
Sir Henry, on the other hand, seemed to mind very much. He's a French Copper Maran and is slightly more opinionated than the rest. But still a sweetheart. I'm hoping the roosters stay kind so they can stick around. So far so good (and they're over a year old now!).
Lastly, so we can pretend like we're dear friends sipping a velvety homemade, organic, maple-syrup sweetened latte, calmly hanging out with the animals together, and enjoying this beautiful weather – here's a little video of the coop in action. Sigh. Welcome to The Cottage, my friends: