DIY roll-away nest box April 16, 2013

We have had mixed success with our egg-eating hen Isa that I talked about in this blog post. I appreciated all the feedback and suggestions you offered on that post—it’s good to know that I’m not the only one dealing with this problem! I tried one of your suggestions, and I also went ahead with my plans to create a simple DIY roll-away nest box.

IMG_1839

With the egg door down protecting the egg from my bad chicken.

I looked at a number of designs and worked out a plan for a DIY roll-away nest box using the materials I had in the garage to work with: plastic cat litter buckets. Isa was still in her temporary coop in our garage, and the nesting box she had been using is a modified bucket that we access from the front. I wanted to make sure the new DIY roll-away nest would be something she’d recognize as a nest box.

My plan was to make the nesting box so that it tilted forward, with a compartment in the front to catch the egg. I lined it with plastic door mat material so the egg would roll, but it would still be cushioned from breakage. Into the coop went the new nest box for testing.

The next morning Isa’s egg was in the compartment waiting for me: success! And that success continued. The only morning I found a broken egg was when one of the zip ties broke—it had been holding the egg door. I fixed that problem, washed the egg yolk out of the doormat, and the next morning it worked perfectly again. Feeling that we had fixed the problem, I was ready to move her out to the real coop with her sisters.

DIY roll-away nest box, version 1.0

The egg door on my DIY roll-away nest box came undone and slid to the side, resulting in a broken egg. Once secured better, this design was a success!

When it came time to do that, we ran into a problem. The nesting box she was using in her temporary coop wouldn’t fit in the regular coop in a way we could retrieve the eggs! In other words, I had to alter my design so it would fit in my coop and I could retrieve the eggs from the rear of the box.

In the meantime, I still wanted to move her; I really didn’t want to wait the additional time it would take to redesign and construct the DIY roll-away box! I decided I would move her and try one of the reader-suggested tips in the meantime, which would give me time to get a new box designed.

The first advice received from the blog post comments was to give her raw milk! Raw milk can be hard to come by, and in my state it’s illegal to sell raw milk. However, you can get raw milk here legally if you own a cow or cow share and pay boarding fees to the farmer, which is actually what we do. As it turned out, this was a suggestion that would be simple for me to try out. Even though my family drinks raw milk, I’d never heard this suggestion for egg eaters and hadn’t even considered using raw milk with chickens. Because chickens aren’t mammals they can’t digest milk sugars so it can cause diarrhea. Still, I was willing to try it.

Would raw milk work better than my DIY roll-away nest box?

Isa tries the raw milk

I poured some raw milk in a dish for the chickens and sat it in the coop. Isa went right to it and sipped away. The other two drank some, too, and seemed to like it. I left it in the coop and by evening the dish was empty. I didn’t want to give them too much for fear of giving her diarrhea, so I waited until the next day to offer more.

On the second day, I gave her a dish of milk first thing in the morning, and she drank it up. When I went to the coop  in the afternoon to get the dish, it was empty… and there was also a broken egg in the nesting box.

Dang, I’d really been hoping this would be an overnight fix! Still, I continued the milk for three days. In that time, I did get one egg from her, but only because she had just laid it and I was in the coop immediately. Since she was in the process of pecking at it as I retrieved it, I consider the raw milk solution a fail—certainly less successful than the DIY roll-away nest.

We still believe raw milk is better for our family’s consumption, but it didn’t help modify the misbehavior of our hen. I was ready to go back to my DIY roll-away nest box that had worked the week before, but my design needed to be modified so it would work in our coop.

The new DIY roll-away nest design tilted towards the back so I could retrieve the egg from the rear of the nesting box. The plan was slightly different, but still used the same materials, so it would still look like the box she was used to in her temporary coop.

The next morning I checked and found no egg—but someone had slept in the box and filled it with poop! I cleaned that out told them, “This is where you lay eggs;  it’s not for sleeping!” (I’m sure they understood everything I told them!)

Well, I did find eggs a couple days that week, but on the days I didn’t get an egg, I worried that she was laying somewhere else, not in the DIY roll-away nest box, and eating them. I couldn’t find evidence of that, but what else could it be? When we went four days with no egg, I was beginning to think this design was another fail… but then I noticed all the fallen feathers in the coop: Isa was molting! We were approaching the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), so it made sense that she would stop laying. Chickens need light to lay and we have not been adding artificial light to force them to lay year round.

I don’t have a solution—not yet! But this new design is promising. I’ll just have to wait and see if my latest DIY roll-away nest box works, when the sun comes back and Isa starts laying again. If it does work, I’ll share a how-to blog post with lots of photos and instructions so you can build one yourself. In the meantime, tell me what you think–I need some encouraging words! Do you think this new design will solve the problem?

13 Comments
Anne Tipton April 16th, 2013

I tapped a small hole in an egg, shook out the contents, and filled it with mustard! Took care of our hen over night!!! Never ate another eg 🙂 Just an idea 🙂

Heather April 16th, 2013

I have a lot of bad egg eating hens. They cackle joyfully as they eat their eggs. Oh, how it is not music to my ears! We bought an expensive stainless steel roll away nestbox. Well thankfully the box works pretty well but a few of the hens have figured out how to stick their head into where the eggs are and pull them back out to eat them! One nice feature is that these nests have a stiff vinyl coated wire floor so when they do eat an egg very few of the rest of the eggs are covered with grossness. I am working on a design that incorporates things we have laying around and has a nice long area in the back for the eggs to roll away and be safe!

Sharon April 17th, 2013

I have a cure for you–my hens have done this too, and I will not cull–I’m too soft hearted. Here’s the cure: get a few eggs, and poke pin holes in either end–then blow out the egg. You now have an empty, intact egg shell. Get a small syringe, fill it with YELLOW MUSTARD and gently fill the empty egg shell with the mustard. I put a tiny piece of athletic tape on the pin holes to hold the mustard in. Put the mustard eggs in the nest. Your hen will take a peck, or maybe a two, and will NOT go back for more. You may have to do this a couple of times, and have a refresher course every now and then, but my hens haven’t eaten their eggs in a couple of years. I caught one in the act of eating a mustard egg and the look on her face was priceless–she was totally horrified and trying desperately to rid her mouth of the horrible mustard! Good luck!

Lissa April 19th, 2013

Remember, folks, the mustard filled egg remedy we suggest on our website is on her list of things to try, as per what she says in the first blog post in this series: “Fake or filled eggs. A friend suggested a marble egg, with the theory that Isa would attempt to peck it open but it would hurt her beak so she would stop. Well, I didn’t find any marble eggs but did place a wooden egg in her nesting box. This combined with prompt gathering has seemed to help the most. We currently have about an 80% success rate—which means she is still eating one or two eggs a week… not perfect, but better than no eggs from her. Something I have yet to try are the mustard filled eggs. That was going to be my next step until I decided to try… Nesting box adjustments…”

Sarita Noel October 10th, 2013

Hi, could you email me some details on your diy rollaway nest box? I have the cat littler bucket, but I’m not quite sure what you’re using to catch the eggs and how you have everything arranged. Do you have a cushioning of some sort in the compartment that catches the eggs?

Thanks!

Rosa December 8th, 2014

My chickens r eating the p e egg she is laying.help

Monica Sanders May 26th, 2015

I bought 3 hens and a rooster from a single source. Peanut Butter, an Orpington cross, gives me an egg a day. The silkie has just started laying eggs. The black hen has never laid an egg. Then three weeks ago, I purchased Ana, a 17 week old red sex-linked chicken to have more eggs, while the baby chickens continued to grow. She is a very human friendly chicken having been raised in a large commercial operation. Not knowing you just can’t drop a new hen in, the group attacked the Ana, and not in a gentle way. So I took her out. She elected to party with the younger 3 month old chickens. To get her accepted by the adult chickens, I have been placing ANA in a nest box in “the big house” at night. Nailed chicken wire across the nest so they cannot hurt her. This week she laid her first egg in the nest box and broke it. No egg the second night. Double yolk this morning, which she also broke. I am going to try to do the mustard egg trick. My question is, could all this trauma be affecting her?

Lissa May 26th, 2015

Certainly, the trauma is probably affecting her. I’m not sure that shutting into a small nest at night is a good idea, not to mention the fact that you’re training her to sleep in the nest, which is not a good idea. You can see our advice for introducing a new chicken to the flock in the Chicken Help pages of our website. You might have better success if you change your approach a little. Best of luck!

Robin Brumfield September 29th, 2015

I’m having the same problem with 2 of my hens. My husband made a rolling nesting box with a lid so that they wouldn’t be able to get to the eggs. However, if I put any type of nesting material down, it stops the egg from rolling. If I don’t put anything in there, they lay on the coop floor. I am at my wits end with this. I have 14 hens and I’m lucky to get 6 eggs a day. I’ve put them in isolation for a week and it didn’t help so I’m going to try the mustard. It certainly couldn’t hurt. I don’t hold much hope on this since chickens taste differently than we do. I want it to stop before they teach the rest of the flock to do it. The 2 hens that are egg eaters are from last springs pullets. I’m trying to find any alternative to culling.

Lissa October 1st, 2015

Sorry to hear you’re having problems, Robin! You don’t mention what type of nesting material you’ve tried, but if you haven’t tried these options already, they might help. Materials like shavings or straw can get stirred up and prevent the eggs from rolling, so something like the Excelsior Nest Box Pads or Turf Nest Box Pads might help, as they provide a very even surface. I think in your position, I’d lean toward the turf pads, because they are more easily cleanable. That way if you do get a broken egg in there, you can clean and re-use the pad. The other suggestion I’d make is to try to increase the slope of the box a little more to encourage the egg to roll out of the way, even where the surface is a little uneven. We do wish you the best! Egg eaters are so frustrating.

Matt December 7th, 2015

I made a roll away egg box to go into my new coop. It took a bit to get them using it to be honest as they kept laying them everywhere but that box. However, now they are consistent.

My design uses the coop to form part of it. You just slide in the bottom and side and another small panel. So you can pull it all out for washing.

I lined the base with artificial grass. It’s easy to clean. I need to adjust the angle to make it roll better. The eggs just drop into a paint tray lined with more artificial turf for cushioning.

Regina August 16th, 2017

I placed peepers/blinders on my hens and not another egg was eaten.

David E. Coons February 24th, 2018

What is the angle of the floor in a roll out nesting box ? Is a 20 degree angle too steep ??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *