Monday, 5 December 2016

Thinking inside the box


Over the last couple of weeks I've noticed that the chickens have been queuing. A little like humans queue, they have been patiently and not-so-patiently waiting in line. But they haven't been queuing for rations, for the sales to start or for a food in short supply, they've been waiting to have access to the nesting boxes.

It seems to me that it's not a good idea for the girls to have to wait to lay their eggs, it must be a difficult enough process to go through without having the stress of waiting for a quiet space. So Mr J and I have been mulling over the best options for adding nesting boxes to the chicken shed. We thought about buying some lovely new plastic nesting boxes which we can attach to the shed wall either on the inside of it or externally, we thought about just putting some plastic boxes on the floor of the shed, but in the end we had a much smarter idea.

The chickens in the field with the chicken shed have access to the stable which we've converted into the chicken condo. It's a double size stable with a smaller section at the back and earlier in the year we had a couple of plastic containers in the back section in which the girls laid their eggs. Then one day I discovered a small rat in one of the containers and we decided to move their nest boxes. Since then we've found a way to keep the rodent population to a minimum (with a highly effective electric rat zapper) and so we could put nest boxes back into that cosy small section at the back of the stables.

We had a look around at what we had available to make some nesting boxes from. I was keen to use plastic containers to minimise the risk of mites finding a safe haven and we also needed something to secure the nest boxes in place. 

We had an old set of shelves made from melamine type boards, so we turned it on its side, secured the shelves back into place to accommodate some plastic boxes between them. Rather than have the shelf unit resting on the floor we put some concrete blocks on the floor to raise the shelf unit about eight inches off the floor.

We found three plastic boxes that fitted very neatly into the available spaces and made do with one smaller stacking box. I prefer the deeper boxes as I think the higher sides will give the girls more privacy while laying, but as I don't want to buy yet more plastic boxes, the stacker box will have to do until we can find either a matching box or something similar. I put some straw into each nest box and placed them into the shelves.

It looked great and certainly Big Red thought this would be a highly suitable place for his girls to lay their eggs. He hopped into one the boxes and started making his lovely little clucking, ticking noise that he does to encourage the girls to lay. Then he tried to jump out of the box and that's when we realised the flaw in our planning. The box tipped forward under his weight and landed upside down on the floor in front of the shelf unit. 

We needed a bar or something to hold the boxes in place. I found some bungee cords in a drawer and some cup hooks and fitted a makeshift holding cord. This didn't stop the boxes tipping forward a little bit as the birds got out of the nesting boxes, but it did stop them falling on to the floor.

The girls were very interested in what we'd made for them, but seemed wary of the wobbly box situation, so we were back to hunting around for a solution. We found the answer in two long heavy wood off-cuts that were in one of the piggeries when we moved in and put them in front of the boxes. This barrier not only stopped the boxes from tipping forward, but gave the girls a step to jump onto to give them easier access to the nesting boxes and to make it even more accessible to the smaller girls, I put this small log as an initial step.
This morning the girls have inspected the nesting boxes, but then returned to their old box in the chicken shed to lay. I am sure that it will only take a few days or so for the girls to start using the new nest boxes, so I have placed a rubber egg in each box as an encouragement.

Mr J and I visited a DIY superstore today, although it wasn't really that super, to buy a few tools that we need. I wanted a new axe and secateurs, ones that I could keep separate from every day use and keep clean for hygiene reasons and they will be added to my bird processing tool box.

We also had a good wander around and looked for things we wanted, like a pair of tongs to use to turn wood in the wood burning stoves although they didn't have any. But they did have the ceramic sink draining boards that I have quietly (and fairly vocally) liked for so long. Mr J and I stood in front of the drainers for a few minutes wishing that they weren't so expensive and then, to my delight, he added one to the trolley and headed for the tills.

 If you like the look of this drainer, here's a similar ceramic sink drainer or this one CERAMIC BELFAST DRAINER (these are affiliate links, please see the small print & disclosure tab above).
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