I know, I know, I said I would post this quite a while ago. We’ve just been so busy, and I needed my husband’s help writing the post since he did the actual building of the trap nest boxes. So it took longer than planned. ALOT longer than planned. But here it is.
In order to carefully select for our chicken breeding program, we will need to utilize trap nests occasionally throughout the year. This will help us know which hens are laying, which are not, which layed which egg, and most importantly for us – which are laying even in our cold, dark winter months, which is one of the main things we are selecting for.
We researched trap nests and found precious little information on the internet that included pictures AND measurements AND instructions. We did find some information in books.
After looking over the designs we found (whether just pics or actual descriptions) we decided what would work best for the space we have and my husband and kids got to work building.
I am not big on the building part of things around here. We (hubby and I) plan it, they (hubby alone or with little helpers) build it. So for most of my posts referring to building things, if I say “we,” I really mean “he” or “they.” 😉 Although I am great at handing requested tools over, holding things, and cleaning up construction mess. 🙂 And I DID build those garden trellises myself, after my husband designed them and told me how to do it. 🙂
The plan we based our nest boxes off was found in the book “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow, though we improvised and didn’t follow hers exactly.
Here is how we (they) did it:
This plan makes 4 trap nests, two upper and two lower. First, he cut the two side pieces at 17 in. x 25 in.
Next, he added a 3/8 in. x 17 in. strip of wood to the center of each one, making sure it was 1/2 inch off-center to compensate for the thickness of the “floor” piece that would sit on it. He glued and nailed this piece on.
Then, he attached the back (25 in. x 25 in.) and the center shelf (24 in. x 17 in.) which sits on the strips of wood he added previously. The center shelf is the floor for the upper level boxes and the ceiling for the lower boxes. He glued and nailed these as well.
Next, he added the very bottom and the very top of the set-up (25 x 17 1/2). These make the floor of the bottom two nests and the ceiling of the top two nests. Then he put 3/8 inch strips of wood 1/4 inch off-center on each of the floor pieces (floor for upper and for lower nests). These strips sandwich the center walls which separate the right and left nests from each other. Again, he glued and nailed these in place.
The interior walls are set back 5/8 inch into the boxes to allow room for the front edge which is removable for easy cleaning.
Next, he added the side trim pieces (1 1/4 in x 26 in). Then cut the front lip edge for each set of nests (2 1/2 x 16 3/4) and slid them each into place (one for the top two nests and one for the bottom two). These pieces can be removed to easily clean out the nest boxes.
That finished up the main nest box structure. If you made these you can add some sort of slanted roof on top if you want to keep the chickens from roosting and being up on top of them. We didn’t care about them being on top so we left it with a flat top.
Next he built the trap doors. I will apologize at this point that we don’t have very good pictures of each and every step because my husband is a builder, not a writer of how-to blog posts and therefore didn’t take clear photos of each step. But I think if you are interested in building these and you stick with the instructions all the way through to the end and see the final pictures you will be able to figure out the in-between steps and the ones without the best photos when you go back to actually build them.
The hanging of the doors could be done in many different ways. This is how we did it with what materials we had lying around our farm.
He cut the 4 doors from 1/2 inch thickness wood and cut them each to 12 x 7 1/2 inches. Then he screwed a small eye hook 5/8 inch from each end of the 12 inch side of the door. I don’t have a picture of that part, but you can see it here in this picture with the door already in its place.
Next, he used wire cutters to strip the plastic off of the outside of some leftover 12-gauge copper wiring he had. Then he cut 8 pieces of wire approximately 6-8 inches long. He looped one piece of wire through each eye hook so the hook was about 1 inch from one end of the wire and then twisted the wire back on itself about three times tight against the hook so that it was securely held onto the hook. So the hook was now attached at the end of the length of wire.
He set aside the prepared doors and took 4 more small eye hooks and screwed each one into the ceiling of each nest box, 8 inches back from the front trim and centered left to right in the nest box. From this will hang the hooks that will prop the trap door open. He then cut more of the 12-gauge copper wiring to a length of 10 1/2 inches but did not strip the plastic off. He put one of the wires through each of the eye hooks that were attached to the ceiling and centered the wire, then bent it in half so it would dangle down like an upside-down V into the nest box from the ceiling.
Next, he hung the doors. To do this he drilled holes 1/2 inch back from the front edge and 5/8 inch in from the sides on each “ceiling” of each nest box with a 1/8 inch drill bit. He then fed the wire that was attached to each eye hook on the top of the doors through those holes, allowing the door to dangle just enough that it could swing loosely, but not more. He had to drill through the “sandwiching” trim on the sides that were on the interior wall side.
Then he took the wire, where it came up through the hole, and bent it over flat along the wood and stapled it several times to secure it in place. He cut off the excess wire longer than about 1.5 inches that was along the wood. Each door now hung, and swung in each nest box opening.
He then bent the bottom 2 ends of the upside-down V wire hanging from the ceiling of each nest to create hooks that would catch and hold the bottom edge of the door up. The door needs to be held up at about 7 – 7 1/2 inches from the floor of the nest in order for a standard sized hen to brush the door hard enough to unhook it so it will fall shut. So he bent the hooks just right so that the doors set at that height when propped on the hooks.
Here is a picture of the two wire hooks holding the door:
When we are not wanting to trap the hens my husband put the hooks up against the ceiling of each nest, then pushed the door up (so the door is holding the hooks up), and then put a screw into the side wall horizontally to hold the door up in place. When we want to use the traps he can just take each screw out and set the traps.
We have discussed cutting an upside-down V at the bottom center of each door, just big enough to let some light in to the hen and so she can peek out when she is in there. We haven’t done it yet, but we might. We would need to make sure that the hooks can still hold the door propped for trapping.
These same type of trap nests could be made with many different kinds of things to hook them up in trap position and to hold the doors in place and yet allow them to swing. We just used whatever scraps we had around, which happened to be eye hooks and copper wiring.
I am looking forward to having this “tool” to use this winter as we select hens for our breeding program. I’m sure these will come in very handy over the years.