How to Build an External Nest Box on Your Chicken Coop

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have a chicken house with laying hens, building an external nesting box on to your chicken coop can make it easier to collect eggs and keep you from getting pecked. External nesting boxes are large boxes placed or built on traditional chicken coops to give hens a spot to lay their eggs. The boxes can be open to outside air, depending on the design. Most external nesting boxes have a door, so the farmer or owner can reach in to get the eggs.

Decide how many external nesting boxes you will need. You typically need one nesting box for approximately every 5 to 8 laying hens. Multiply 12 by the number of nesting boxes you're planning to build. Multiply 1 to 1.5 by the number of nesting boxes you're planning to build. Add the two figures together. Cut a hole in the side of your chicken coop approximately one-fourth to half way up the wall. Make the height of the hole 14 to 16 inches. Make the length equal to the sum you figured. Set the board you remove to make the hole aside.

Place a long 2-by-4 across the studs at the bottom of the hole. Nail the 2-by-4 to the studs. Create a frame around the rest of the "window" using 2-by-4s.

Use a circular saw to cut two 2-by-4s 16 to 18 inches long to create a single external nesting box. Each 2-by-4 should be the same length. Cut an additional 2-by-4 for each additional nesting box. For instance, if you're creating a row of nesting boxes with three boxes, you'll need to cut four 2-by-4s.

Use the circular saw to cut another set of the same number of 2-by-4s. Make each 2-by-4 14 inches long. Cut one end of each 2-by-4 at a 45-degree angle.

Place one of the 16- to 18-inches long 2-by-4s in the bottom corner of your window, 4-inch side down, flush with the side. Let 12 inches hang outside the window. The rest should hang inside. Nail the board to the 2-by-4 frame. Repeat the process in the other corner. Place and nail the rest of your 16- to 18-inch boards in a similar fashion at equal intervals from one end of the hole to the other.

Position one of your 14-inch boards against the end of one of the nailed into place 16- to 18-inch boards. Make sure the angled end is up and the angle is facing out. Make the flat bottom of the 14-inch board sit flush with the bottom of the 16- to 18-inch board. Nail the 14-inch board to the 16- to 18-inch board. Repeat the process for each of the remaining 16- to 18-inch boards.

Measure the distance from the outside and top of one of the 14 inch boards to the wall of the chicken coop on a 45-degree angle. The roof of your nesting boxes needs to create an angle to keep snow and other things from piling up on top of your nesting boxes.

Cut a 2-by-4 to length for each of the 2-by-4 brackets you've already made. Create a 45-degree angle cut at each end of the board, so it makes the ends parallel. Place the board on the top of the bracket, so the bracket, the board and the wall create a 4-sided figure. Nail the board to the bracket, then nail the board to the wall. Add additional nails from inside the chicken coop for extra security. Repeat the process with each of the brackets. Push down on each of the brackets gently once the board is installed to make sure it's secure.

Measure the length and width of the bottom of your bracketed area with a measuring tape. Cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to size with your circular saw. Place the plywood onto the brackets. Nail it into place. Make the head of each nail flush with the surface of the plywood.

Use a measuring tape to measure the roof of your external nesting boxes from the wall to the outside edge. Add two inches to the width measurement. Cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood treated for exterior use to size. Nail the roof to the brackets, placing the nails approximately 6 inches apart.

Measure from the bottom edge of your roof to where the top board meets the side board. Cut a thin strip of plywood the length of your nesting boxes to width. Nail it into each bracket. This strip must be long enough to hold the base of your hinges.

Measure from the bottom of the strip of plywood to the bottom of your boxes. Cut the piece of plywood you set aside from the outside of your chicken coop down to size. Place the board in place against the side of your nesting boxes. Use a pencil to mark where each bracket is.

Place the triangular side of a single hinge on the top of the plywood between the marks for the bracket place. Drill pilot holes in the correct place for the hinge screws. Screw each hinge to the plywood correctly.

Hold the door up to the nesting boxes with the help of an additional person. Have a third person hold each hinge up against the outside of the nesting box and drill pilot holes. Screw the hinges into the side of the nesting box. Let go. Your external nesting box door should hang correctly.

Measure the 4-sided figure at each end of the nesting box. Cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to size for each end of the nesting box. Nail it into place.


Do not position hinges more than 12 inches apart. Place boxes inside the nesting box for your chickens, or use plywood to create partitions between each nesting area. A traditional nesting box is approximately 12 inches wide.


Always wear protective gear, such as safety glasses, when using power tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Handsaw
  • 2-by-4s, amount depends on number of boxes
  • Circular saw
  • Nails
  • Measuring tape
  • 3/4-inch thick plywood
  • Drill
  • Hinges
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About the Author

Sienna Condy began writing professionally in 2001 while attending the University of Cincinnati, and she's been at it ever since. Since graduating, she's written everything from marketing materials to articles on removing stains. Today, she enjoys writing about weddings, legal issues, science, health and parenting.