It has been a very warm Fall here in Ohio and this week Gizmo, our silver lacewing, started laying in the new nesting boxes. All the girls went through their molting process at the same time, and she is the first to start finally laying again. This was exciting because the new nesting boxes had not been tested yet and we were not sure if the girls would use them or not.
The move to the new coop was abrupt, and for the first few months, the nesting boxes were just sitting on the floor of the coop. This was a problem because it required going into the coop to collect the eggs. The nesting boxes have had quite a few little tweaks since then, and it looks like are finally finished.
We mounted the nesting boxes to the outside of the coop, in the same way, we attached everything else to the new coop. Using long bolts, large fender washers, and plywood. The plywood acts as a backing and support for the bolts supporting the weight of the boxes. We were afraid that something this size hanging on the outside of the plastic wall would bow and stress the plastic of the wall. With the plywood strip along the top and bottom of the holes to enter the boxes, everything is very sturdy.
We used some scrap 2 X 4 wood and two rungs from an old playset ladder to create a perch to make it easier for the birds to get into the boxes. The two verticle pieces of plywood are what we used to screw the hinges for the lid of the nesting box to. The plywood gave us enough material to support the weight of the lid and enough height to create a slope so water would run away from the hinges.
The big issue we had with this design was water penetration. There was no real good way to seal the hinge side of the nesting box roof. Our first attempt was a small piece of wood running above the seam. The thought was water would run down the wall and out away from the hinge side. This did not work and the bedding kept getting wet in the boxes. The final solution was to build a little roof over the entire thing. This worked quite well water from the roof runs onto the overhang and the amount of water that makes it to the hinge side of the lid is now very minimal.
We learned from our chicken tractors that cleaning the nesting boxes can be a royal pain. With these boxes, the back wall also folds down. This way the contents can be scraped straight out of the boxes. This is a vast improvement from the other design. The back wall is held in place with three small hook and eye clasps. One on each end and one on the inside in the center to keep the back from bowing.
The lid of the nesting box also works very well as a surface to sit the feed bucket when filling the feeder. We are very pleased with how it turned out.