Chicken Nest Boxes With Outside Access

Chicken coop with outside access to the nest box.

The external nest box makes collecting eggs easy.

If you are keeping a flock of laying hens, nest box design is a crucial factor in your success. I have used internal nest boxes and external nest boxes. I prefer nest boxes with outside access by far.

This post will discuss design considerations of chicken nest boxes. It will also give enough construction detail that you should be able to build your own external nest box if you want to.

Three hens in a nest box.

The hens feel safe in the nest box as long as they pay no attention to the egg collector.

One reason I prefer outside access is that it makes collecting the eggs so much easier. Collecting eggs is something that must be done at least once a day. Another reason is that I find the hens use the nest box more consistently. My hens have been laying for the past five months, and in that time I have only found four eggs that were not in the nest box. The third reason I prefer the external nest box design is that even though the internal nest boxes had a pitched roof, the chickens still manage to get on top of them and soil them. This hasn’t been an issue with my current nest box design.

Chicken Nest Box Design Considerations

Entrance to the external nest box.

This 10×10″ entrance is on a dark wall of the coop and is elevated 12″ from the floor.

There are several considerations that go into the design of a good nest box. First, the nest box should be dark to provide a sense of security and safety to the hens. Secondly, the 10×10″ entrance should be elevated above the floor of the coop (in this case 12″). Again, this helps the hens perceive the nest box as a good hiding spot for their eggs.

Outside Access to the Nest Box

There is plenty of litter in the nest box.

The third goal of nest box design is to provide be enough litter in the bottom of the nest box to allow the hens to make a depression (at least four inches of litter.) Finally, be sure to provide enough space for the number of hens in the flock. This means about one nest box space for every three or four hens.

The communal nest box in this post is 41.5 inches long and is mounted on a 48 inch wall of the coop. As shown above, I have seen up to three hens in the nest box at one time. Ten hens used this nest box without an incident.

(click any image for larger view)

Chicken Nest Box With Outside Access Construction Details

2D Drawing shows the dimensions of an external chicken nest box.

The dimensions of the short side of the nest box.

Corner of a nest box with a hen in the box.

The corner is made using 3/4 inch plywood and is attached to the coop by a 2×2.

The nest box is built with half inch plywood for the long side and the bottom. Three quarter inch plywood was used for the short sides to allow easier nailing.

Underside of external nest box.

Additional bottom support for the nest box is provided by a 1×2. This nest box is 41.5 inches long.

There is dimensional lumber to support the nest box on the sides and bottom of the box. The roof of the coop overhangs the roof of the nest box, preventing water from entering the nest box.

Chicken coop with outside access to the nest box.

The coop roof overhang keeps water out of the nest box.

In order to mount the chicken nest box, a 2×2 was nailed to the side of the chicken coop. A 1×2 was fastened underneath the nest box. Then the nest box was fastened to the 2×2.

Two three  inch hinges allow the roof of the nest box to be raised and lowered. A hinge hasp and snap link are used to keep the nest box securely closed.

(click any image for larger view)

Let me know if you have any questions about the design or construction of this external nest box in the comments below.

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9 Responses to Chicken Nest Boxes With Outside Access

  1. James says:

    How high did you elevate off the floor? Does that need to be done?

    • RDG says:

      James,

      Thanks for the question. I meant mention in the post that this nest box entrance is 12 inches from the floor of the coop. I try use 4 inches of litter so that means the birds have to hop up 8 inches. (I updated the post to include this information.)

      When I had internal nest boxes, they were not elevated. So I don’t think it is strictly necessary to elevate the nest box. However, this nest box has worked very well for me. It is also at a very convenient height to access from the outside. I wouldn’t want it any lower than it is.

      Finally, keep in mind that it is very important to make sure the perch is higher than the nest box.

      -RDG

  2. James says:

    Thanks for the great info!

    Do you have a pic of what your perch looks like and where it is in relation to your nesting boxes?

    What kind of litter do you use? in your nesting box? and how much do you put in your nesting box?

    Thanks again for your information.

  3. RDG says:

    James,
    Thanks for the feedback.

    My chicken perches are made from chamfered 2x2s. See the pictures under bullet point two in the following article.

    DIY Chicken Perches

    The best pictures I have right now showing the relation ship of the perches to the nest box are under headings 5 and 6 of the following article.

    Chicken Coop 2.0

    You can click any image to see a larger version. The perches are on the opposite wall from the nest box. The perches are 21″ off the coop floor.

    I use pine shavings for chicken litter throughout the coop because the high carbon of the wood shavings absorbs the high nitrogen from the chicken manure. The nest box has four inches of pine shavings. The manure eventually gets composted along with leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps to be used in my garden.

    Let me know if those pictures help you or if you have any more questions.

    -RDG

  4. James says:

    You have provided some great info. I am gonna make my perches this weekend, but I dont have a router or a chamfer bit. Do you think a plan 2×2 will work? I have seen some people use a 2×4, but do you think that would be too big? I have a table saw, but not real sure how I should rip a 2×2 to mimic your chamfered 2×2…Thoughts.

    Thanks again for all the help!!

    • RDG says:

      James,

      I think the plain 2×2 will work. I think the chamfer is a nice finishing touch.

      I do think that a 2×4 would be too big. I have used a 2×3 in the past where I eased the edge.

      Good luck with your construction project, sounds like you will be getting your own flock of chickens soon.

      -RDG

  5. James says:

    You have been so great and timely on your responses.

    We have 3 hens currently, but when I built the coop I had no idea home much roosting space they need. Right now they are fighting over a small area. And now they are close to 14 weeks so I HAVE to get that nesting box on this weekend.

    Thanks again, and I hope I can come back if I run into more questions!

  6. kekaha says:

    What you showed here was very helpful. It helped me decide that it was not a good idea for me to try this because I am construction challenged but after seeing the designs because I saw a well constructed, light weight ratproof feeder I found online from “thecarpentershop.net” and was able to get it shipped in and since it was made from galvanized sheet metal I was able to attach it to the coop and the rest is history, haha