How to build external nest boxes for your chicken coop

Instructions to add external nesting boxes to your chicken coopWhether you’re building The Garden Coop, The Garden LoftThe Garden Ark, The Basic Coop, or pretty much any other chicken coop, the instructions that follow will show you in detail how to add external nesting boxes to your coop.

First, a little background. I designed our chicken coops to make efficient use of space, be easy to build, and to have everything under one roof — including the nesting boxes. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of having the boxes in the henhouse, and it has worked well for us and many others for years.

So if you’re new to chicken keeping or coop building, please do not feel as though you have to add exterior nest boxes to your coop.

That said, there’s something about external nesting boxes that just captures the fancy of backyard chicken keepers. . . .

Why build external nesting boxes?

Looks. Some folks really, really like the look of outboard nest boxes. They can make your coop look more functional by directing more attention to the egg-laying enterprise. They can also add visual interest, introducing new angles to the coop design and giving you another area to paint or decorate as you like.

Extra room. This is the reason that compelled us to add exterior boxes to our coop as we grew our flock from 8 to 10. It’s also the reason I hear most often from other chicken keepers. It’s not that you’re adding that much extra space (3.82 square feet to be exact), but it may be just enough to do the trick.

A few caveats before getting started

Assess your skill level. If you’ve used our coop plans to build your backyard chicken coop, this project should be no sweat. Some of the angled cuts involved make it slightly more challenging than what’s in our coop plans (but only slightly).

Time. If you’re building these boxes along with your coop, they will add time to your overall coop project. Figure an extra couple of days to account for the additional construction and painting.

Measurements. Take your own measurements. Do not rely solely on what I give you here. While these measurements *should* work in any Garden Coop built according to plan, they are still a retrofit to a do-it-yourself coop. The more important part to take away from this tutorial is the process (especially if you’re looking to add something similar, but sized differently, to The Garden Loft, The Garden Ark, The Basic Coop, or another coop design).

Metric units appear in green.

Safety. Read our disclaimer. Follow all manufacturers’ instructions when using tools, materials, or equipment. Protect your eyes, ears, and limbs. Build safe, and have fun!

Materials List

  • 1 sheet 4′ x 8′ (2400 x 1200 mm) exterior plywood. I used 3/4″ (19 mm) thickness. Anything 1/2″ (12 mm) or thicker should work, or thinner only if you’re adjusting the overall size much smaller.
  • 1 piece of one-by-two lumber. You’ll need about 6 feet (1800 mm) total.
  • Exterior screws, assorted sizes. I used 3″, 2.5″, 1.25″, and 1″ (75, 65, 30, and 25 mm).
  • Couple of hinges
  • Latch or two
  • Primer and exterior paint. Or stain and wood sealer.
  • Roofing felt and roofing material of your choice. Or you could just paint the top really well.
  • Caulk, optional
  • Any recycled materials you want to incorporate, like doors, hardware, roofing

Tools List

  • Circular saw and two sawhorses, or table saw
  • Power driver with assorted drill and driver bits
  • Two clamps, with at least a 2″ (50 mm) capacity
  • Tape measurer
  • Handsaw (helpful with a few finish cuts)
  • Speed square
  • Pencil
  • Paintbrush


If this is a retrofit, remove the old siding from the side of the henhouse that you want to attach the external nest boxes to. Remove the short center stud from the side of the henhouse (or figure out a way to cut/work around it). Remove the henhouse floor and set it aside to reattach later. If this is a new build, omit the short stud in the center of the left wall called for in The Garden Coop plan. (Note: photos will appear below the corresponding text.)

Recycled cedar fence boards for chicken coop siding

Add 2 two-by-four studs spaced 42-1/4″ (1073 mm) apart, or at the width you want your nesting boxes to be. Toe-screw (drive screw at 45-degree angle) these in at the top and bottom, both sides. Make sure they’re flush to the edge on both the inside and outside. And make sure they’re square (perpendicular to the outer edge of the coop, not twisted).

New studs provide support for external nest boxes

Measure and cut two side pieces from your plywood. 14″ (355 mm) wide, 18″ (457 mm) high on the tall end, and 12″ (305 mm) high on the short end. Attach side pieces to the studs, flush to the back, driving screws through the plywood into the studs.

Plywood nest box sides attach to the new studs on the outer henhouse wall

Measure and cut floor piece. 40-3/4″ (1035 mm) wide, 14″ deep (355 mm). Attach it between the side pieces, driving screws from the side. It should fit flush to the front, back, and bottom.

The floor to your hens' nest box fits between the sides.

Measure and cut two side supports from your one-by-two lumber, each 11″ (280 mm) long. Attach to inner front edge of side pieces. These supports will be useful in later steps and will help block light coming into the finished nesting boxes when the door is closed.

The side supports will help you attach the door to the nesting box.

Measure and cut the door, 8-3/8″ (213 mm) high, 42-1/4″ (1073 mm) wide. Clamp it to the side supports. It should sit flush to the edges and bottom of the box.

Clamp the door piece to the side supports of the hen box.

Secure the door piece to the side supports before attaching to the nesting box with hinges.

Attach hinges to the bottom of the door section. While pressing the door section flush to the bottom of the box, attach the other side of the hinges to the bottom of the box.

Attach the door to the nesting box with hinges underneath.

Measure and cut the top front piece, 3-1/8″ (80 mm) high, 42-1/4″ (1073 mm) wide. If you can angle the foot plate on your circular saw, set it at about 30 degrees so that the top cut will match the angle of the side pieces and roof. Line up the bottom edge of the top front piece so that there’s an even gap of about 1/8″ to 1/4″ between the closed door and the top piece. Attach the top front piece to the sides.

Attach the top front piece to the nesting box sides, aligning it with a slight gap above the door.

Measure and cut the roof piece, 45-1/4″ (1150 mm) wide, 17-1/2″ (445 mm) deep. Measure the dimensions of your studs, and cut out notches from the upper corners of the roof so that the piece will fit around the studs. Attach the roof piece to the side pieces.

Attach the roof section to the nesting box sides, notching it in the corners to fit around the studs.

Measure and cut the nesting box dividers, 14″ (355 mm) wide, 17-1/4″ (438 mm) high on the tall end, and 11-1/4″ (286 mm) high on the short end. Space them where you want them, making sure they fit between the floor and the roof and sit flush with the edge of the floor (on the henhouse side). Use a square to get everything straight, trace with a pencil on the floor and roof where the dividers will go, then remove them.

For each divider, pre-drill a couple holes between the pencil marks all the way through the floor and again through the roof. Reinsert the dividers, then attach them from above and below, driving through the holes you just made. (Note, the positioning of the hen house floor support on my Garden Coop differs from what’s in the plans, so yours may be in a different place.)

Install the nest box dividers from inside the chicken coop.

Measure and cut the three door stops from your one-by-two, 12-1/4″ (311 mm) for the left and right stops, 13-1/4″ (337 mm) for the center stop. Attach them from inside the henhouse so that they overlap the outer door opening by 1/2″ (13 mm) or so. These stops will help keep light and drafts out of the boxes. TIP: If your plywood door has a slight inward bow to it, and it runs into the stops before closing flush, loosen the stops a bit until you get good closure.

Attach door stops inside each nest box cavity to seal the gap above the door.

Prime and paint or stain/seal the wood. Do a couple coats of a durable glossy paint on the inside of the boxes for the best protection. We went with white to make it easy to see when they’re clean, but any color should be fine (see comments). Or consider using linoleum (see post on using a durable flooring material in your hen house). If you’re not going to add any additional roofing material, add a third coat of paint/sealer to the nesting box roof. TIP: If you like, you can caulk any gaps before you paint. I used a clear silicone caulk and did this step later, after reattaching the siding.

You can paint your boxes or stain and seal them to match the look of your chicken coop.

Additional roofing. This is optional. Cover the nest box roof with roofing felt and attach a piece to the henhouse wall to overlap the nesting box roof at the top. You will attach siding over this. (I reused some pretty old fence boards as siding, so I opted to cover the entire wall with roofing felt for moisture protection.) Then attach cedar shakes, shingles, roll asphalt — or, as I did, a remnant of the same SunTuf polycarbonate roofing I used on The Garden Coop.

Roofing felt will help you create a waterproof barrier from the henhouse wall over the seam of the external boxes.

Put the siding (back) on your henhouse, trimming it around the nesting boxes.

Attach your siding to the wall of your henhouse, cutting it around your nesting boxes.

Add latches. Preferably something predator proof. You may need a couple. In our case, because the door had a slight bow, the tension created by the latch at one end was more than enough to keep it secure.

Add a latch or two to your external box to secure your chickens from predators.

Replace the hen house floor. On The Garden Coop, you’ll have to notch the floor differently than is indicated in the plans to fit it around the nesting boxes and the newly placed studs. To provide support for the floor on the outer wall side, you need to attach a one-by-two or two-by-two to the existing horizontal two-by-four.

Attaching a one-by-two to the outer horizontal two-by-four creates a lip to support your henhouse floor.

Finally, you might want to wall in the outer wall of the henhouse from the inside with thin plywood or OSB. And fashion a front lip about 4″ high to the nesting boxes to keep the bedding and eggs tucked inside. If you haven’t already, seal up any small gaps with caulk.

Inner wall to the henhouse provides the finishing touch.

And one final final tip. To keep the bedding in your nest boxes from falling out as you open the door, cut a two-by-four (or ideally a two-by-three) to the widths of each nesting box opening. Then simply place these stops in there to hold the bedding in place — no need to attach. When it’s time to clean out your nesting box, just lift the blocks out to brush out the bedding. In the picture below, you can see the stops in the far two boxes. I removed the one from the nearest box to show you how well it holds the bedding in place.

Make a removable stop to hold bedding in chickens'  nest box.

External nest boxes complete!

Now you’ve got an extra few square feet of space in your henhouse and three comfy nooks for your hens to choose from at laying time.

Finished picture of external nest boxes on a chicken coop.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful. If you want a do-it-yourself coop to go with your fancy external boxes, check out our chicken coop plans, available in either U.S. standard/imperial units and metric units.

I should also mention that, unlike with our coop plans, we do not offer email support for this free nesting box design. But if you have any questions, comments, success stories, or tips to share, please leave a comment below, and we’ll do our best to respond.

Finally, subscribe to Coop Thoughts. We’ll email you the latest posts as they happen. It’s free, ad-free, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to add your name to the list.



154 thoughts on “How to build external nest boxes for your chicken coop”

  1. This was a very helpful tutorial. I didn’t use the exact dimensions, but did use the design and process to make an external nest box with two spaces for a smaller coop. The process was clear and well done for minimum difficulty. Thanks!

  2. I’m just trying to figure out if you still need to create the egg door if you do the external boxes? Not sure what the purpose of egg door is? I see it on the last picture along with the external nesting boxes.

    • Matthew, if you add external boxes, you would not need to keep the egg door on the front of the henhouse. That’s just for collecting eggs when the nest boxes are inside. It’s in the photo because I added the external boxes to my coop as a retrofit (already had the little egg door).

  3. Love my Garden Coop and love these plans! I’ll be putting my nesting boxes in this week, but I was wondering: any reason why you recommend white paint for the interior? My understanding was that chickens like dark, cozy places for laying their eggs.

    • Doug, we painted our nest boxes white to make it easy to see when they’re clean, to spot mites, etc. But really, any light color would do the same thing. The white paint hasn’t discouraged them from using the boxes or laying. I can’t imagine they’d lay any better (or worse) with a darker color.

  4. Hello!
    I’m looking to execute a two-tiered option of this (as mentioned above by another poster) and have almost this exact amount of space (43″ between studs on the inside of our coop). Our birds are all full-sized. Could these plans be modified slightly to arrange four nesting boxes (~10″ wide by 12″ tall) or would that be too narrow for most birds?

    Also, has anyone considered sheathing the boxes in HDPE as a washable possibility?


    • Jager, a 10″ width would be fine for bantams. I’d stick to 12″ to 14″ for standard breeds. Not sure what you have in mind with the HDPE, maybe gluing it to the wood? If you create a perfect seal, that might could work — or if you did a single sheet just over the bottom board and not the walls/dividers. Otherwise, I’d stick with glossy paint, that way you avoid creating additional crevices that could harbor mites.

      • Sounds good, thanks. I was thinking to glue the HDPE to the floors and side walls, and then re-engineer the dividers with HDPE that could slide in and out. I hadn’t considered the mite problem, though, so we’ll stick w/ paint. Thanks again for your quick response and super-helpful site!

  5. Hello!

    I am looking into purchasing the loft plans. I have bantams which means I could actually fit 30+ chickens, this also means extra nesting boxes. Could I, in theory, build these nesting boxes as a two-story option? Or would that make more modifications than an amateur builder is capable of?
    Alternatively, would it be easier to just find a way to add size boxes inside rather than externally?


    • Sarah, you have a few options. You could do a two-level version of these external boxes (instead or in addition to the internal boxes). You could build a second set of the internal nest boxes from the plans and set them against the back wall or the other side wall in the henhouse (and reposition the ladder). And either way you go, you could make the cubbies smaller for bantams and maybe get more into each column/row. We’re just keeping bantams for the first time right now, so I haven’t built boxes sized specifically for them. Maybe check on the forums at for guidance on size. I think once you review The Garden Loft Large Walk-in Chicken Coop Plans, you won’t have any problem modifying the boxes to your needs.

  6. Hello! First let me say thank you so much for this detailed description. This is incredibly helpful. My husband and I are converting our shed into a coop, and this is our first real building project. Since we are converting the shed, our situation is obviously a little different. I want the drop down hatch like you’ve described because of water in the nesting boxes. However, if I put it very low to the ground it will be hard to check the eggs. I’m just not sure how high off the ground I can make the nesting boxes. And if it’s three feet or so, should I put a ladder to them?

    • Shannon, if you have the option, I’d put the nest boxes at whatever height is convenient for you, yet still lower than any perches you have in the coop — otherwise you might find the hens hanging out in the boxes instead of on the perches (they like to be up high). Give the hens some way to get up to the boxes. It could be a ladder and/or a little perch placed about 6″ in front of the boxes (this can be at or slightly lower than the box floor). They can hop up onto the little perch then on into the nest boxes from there.

  7. Just wanted to say thank you so much for posting this! I just finished my nest box using your plans on my coop I’m designing and building myself, and even as someone with pretty basic beginner building skills I found your directions easy to follow and it turned out great ?

  8. Hi There!

    We’re just starting the Garden Loft Coop. We’d like to add exterior nesting boxes, but I noticed that the plans you’ve offered don’t mention adding these to the Loft. Do you have any suggestions how to add the exterior nesting boxes to this plan? The plans for the Loft are easy to follow so far, and we’re very grateful for the support.

    • Karla, thank you for your comment. I’ve only built these boxes on The Garden Coop Plans. But the process is going to be similar for any coop design. For The Garden Loft Walk-In Chicken Coop Plans, a couple things are different:

      First, the studs that you attach the side pieces to are positioned wide side out on The Garden Loft, as is the horizontal support at the base of the henhouse. This shouldn’t change anything but the depth of the notches you make on the roof piece.

      Second, the studs on The Garden Loft are closer together than the ones on the side of The Garden Coop are. So you probably want to limit the width of your external box to fit between those. That would be enough width for two boxes instead of three. You could add multiple boxes to get the number of cubbies you want. Or add one set and keep the four internal boxes as well (already enough for 16-20 hens).

      The dimensions of the side pieces, side supports, and dividers should stay the same. You would only need to adjust the width of the roof, floor, door, top front piece, and door stops to fit the new width of the overall box.

      Hope this helps!

  9. Wow this post/info was a lifesaver!!! Very awesome and easy to follow instructions on cutting the angles!! Thank you so much!

  10. These instructions are amazing for external nesting box. Anybody can follow these with success. I made it with six boxes and added it to a used shed. I love the front door instead of roof lift. I have one like that and always tends to leak alittle no matter what I do. I also attached the wood chunks that keep bedding in to the inside of door, so when opening they come out too
    Thank you so much for these detailed instructions

  11. Great step-by-step. I made for one nesting box to an already built coop that has true 1″ 5/4 cedar for siding. I widened the side walls to 15″, keeping the 12–18″ slope at top. On the bottom of the 18″ side, I jigsawed in a notch 1″ wide and about 4″ deep and it allowed me to “slip” the board over the “wall” of the coop. This created plenty of space to secure the boards to the side of the coop into the 1″ cedar planks — gave me stability and decreased the risk of leaks. Rest of it followed step by step. The rooftop slipped in under the upper cedar plank. Again I notched the cedar side board where the roof board jutted out to the sides — so when reapplying the final cedar siding plank back into place, I fit it like a puzzle piece on the roof of the nesting box, slid it up and popped it into place. No leaks after a big storm. Great and stable.

  12. Question, would you recommend pressure treated plywood? My concern is that if you don’t, the plywood (even when painted) may not last as long.

    • It’s your call. Once primed and painted, the chemical treatment in the PT plywood would be sealed in, so shouldn’t leach out into the soil. We built our boxes with untreated plywood, primed and painted, and they’ve held up really well (5+ years now). They’re also well protected beneath their own little roof and the eaves of the coop.

      • Thanks! By the way, your plans were fantastic! I modified a bit to create 5 boxes, but they turned out really well! I ended up using non-treated, and we primed them really well, and are using a high quality exterior paint, so agree that it should hold up well over time.

  13. Another reason why external nesting boxes are nice: young children can gather eggs without going inside the coop. My 3 yr old loves to gather eggs but she cannot latch the coop door. Therefore when she attempts to gather eggs all by herself she let’s the chickens out.

  14. Thank you for this design! It was just the inspiration I needed for my boxes. I love the front flip opening. I recessed my hinges and had to cut into an existing shelter so it’s framed a bit different but otherwise your design. Thanks again!

  15. Hi
    we bought a coop a local man built, it has a very large nesting box on the outside, 7 to 8 feet long, he didn’t use dividers it is just a long open row. The top lifts up, but what I find is there are gaps, it doesn’t lay down perfectly. he said the wood was a little green, he also said he would come and fix anything we needed, as a single mom. My 21 yr old son can help too, question, should we just nail down the top part, and cut out and make a door like yours that opens down? or somehow seal the top door that opens up?
    On the other side he put a roosting ladder, but right behind that is another outside door that lifts up, behind where they roost is a few inches of open space where you can see where again the top part of the storage door that lifts up doesn’t seal, so behind the roosts are some open drafts. We are new to chickens, any suggestions really would help,

    • Sheri, I can’t speak to the particular construction of your coop, but in general you want to limit openings to about 1/2″ (the size of the openings in hardware cloth) to keep pests and predators out. The longer the boards on the nest box lid or door, the more likely you’ll get those gaps if the wood has any warp to it. Whether you have the box open at the lid or the front is up to you. I prefer having the nest box open at the front for the reasons explained in this post, but hinged lids work too if you weatherproof them right.

      As for the hen house, it does not need to be air tight, but you do want to minimize drafts going up through the chickens’ feathers when they roost. So if that gap by the roosting ladder is positioned below them such that the air would flow upwards to a vent above them, you’d want to seal it up better.

  16. Thanks so much for the easy to follow step by step. Ours was a retrofit of a coop built by a friend. With a few new girls we needed a bit more room.

  17. A brilliantly designed and described external nesting box. I like the idea of having a drop-down flap instead of a lift up roof to the nest box to make it easier to keep the rain out.

    And thanks for tip about the use of 2×3 inch blocks at the rear of the nesting boxes, and the fact that they don’t need to be secured. I might prefer a darker paint inside the nesting box to make it feel more cosy. Light brown or grey perhaps. A top project. Well Done!

  18. Hello,
    I came across your site when Googling roof felt. I want to add some rainproof to an exisiting Blue tit nest box lid, which has no overhang. I went to a builders merchant and I was given a couple of off cut pieces, taken from their skip. It has some moss and lichen growing, which is an added nice extra. I’ve cut it to the size I want to leave some overhang, but I’m not sure how to fix it to the birch lid. If I use tacks that’ll make holes. Glues may not be recommended for wild birds.
    Can anyone help please? Thanks.

    • The hen house floor of The Garden Coop is intended to be removable, so having the nest box overlap that floor would make it difficult to remove (for cleaning, replacement, and the like). But if the hen house floor in your chicken coop is in place permanently, you can certainly build the nest boxes so that the floor panel overlaps your existing floor, and you would not have to remove your flooring in the process.

  19. I’m debating adding this to a building of the Basic Coop to increase the capacity some to accommodate 5-6 chickens. I would ultimately have a chicken run outside the coop as well (at least that’s the plan). Has anyone done this and made a how-to or anything?

  20. Here’s my take on this. Having had chickens for years, a few things I’ve learned. 22 inches up from the floor. Keep nests lower than roost to keep hens from roosting and pooping in the nests. They do most of that at night. On the door side of the nest box, put the brace board toward the bottom and the door towards the top. This gives easier line of sight into nest and a place to latch the bottom. I always hinge the bottom so that to clean it out, just let it swing down and scrape with putty knife. Also a ceiling nine inches above the floor of the nesting box discourages pecking of the eggs by the hens,

  21. I believe this will work very well for me. I’ve been trying to decide how to build the nesting box for my new coop. One question, though. Does it not need any bracing to help support the weight of itself and chickens?

    • Jack, since the side pieces attach to the inner faces of the studs, then the floor attaches to those, it’s plenty strong. I haven’t found the need for additional bracing.

  22. Thanks for this easy to follow tutorial! I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for nesting boxes but this worked perfectly! I really appreciate you going through the trouble to put this information out there! I couldn’t be happier!

  23. Great nesting box plans–and they are FREE! Thank you very much.

    I built two sets of nesting boxes today and really like the way they turned out. I made a couple of modifications that others may want to consider: 1) I mounted the end pieces on top of the floor so that the end pieces and the dividers are now the same dimensions, 2) I installed a piece of 1″ X 3″ across the entry side of the nests to prevent bedding from slipping into the coop, and 3) I installed six inches from the entry side of the nests a section of wooden closet rod the length of the nests to make nest entry easier on my chickens because my chicken pen does not have a floor and the nesting boxes are mounted 4 feet from the ground (this height makes it easier to gather the eggs without having to stoop).

    FYI–I used a table saw to cut the angles on the dividers as well as on the front edge of the roof and the top of the piece that is mounted above the door. Using a Speed Square I determined that the angle for the dividers is 67 degrees, and the angles for the front edge of the roof and the piece mounted above the door is 23 degrees.

    Thanks again.

    • Hi Kendra!

      I bought OSB to make this awesome nest box and I was wondering what did you do about screwing into the soft end wood? I’m attaching the bottom as instructed but the screws aren’t holding very well. What type or size of screw did you use?

      I’m thinking of putting supports on the top and bottom like the side supports to have something to screw in to.

  24. This plan became an excellent simplification for my usually complicated nesting boxes. The idea of a lowering door on the end rather than a top opener made so much sense, and I realized that by building a wedge shaped coop from the onset would allow this design to fit directly at the far end of the coop. So the roof of the coop at its narrowest 24 inches became the roof of the nesting box, and the door opening is then the rear wall of the coop. The front of the coop is 48 inches tall. This allowed the entire construction to be accomplished with only 3 sheets of plywood, with floor space of 4×6. I built 4 12 inch nesting boxes at the far end with a top panel over the boxes, this allows for nighttime roosting of my silkies who are unable to fly to perch rails.

    Your idea was the catalyst for the entire design! Thank you.

  25. I used OSB to make mine, but I’m worried about them getting splinters. What’s the best paint/sealer to use? I’ve got a gallon of white cabinet paint would that be thick enough? Also mine are inside the coop. 🙂

    • Kendra, a few coats of a quality exterior latex will work to seal up the OSB. Another option would be to cut small pieces of linoleum to line the bottom. Or astroturf. You’ll also want to keep a layer of bedding in there. I wouldn’t worry too much about splinters. In my experience, as OSB gets worked over by chickens’ claws, it kinda flakes up rather than splinters.

  26. I am a very accomplished carpenter by trade. I found your instructions very helpful to add nest boxes to a coup I built several years ago. I used a lot of your dimensions to make the boxes on a set of saw horses. Easiest build is to make it as a unit and install as one piece and then side around it. I made mine 6 nest boxes to accommodate more hens, and it turned out awesome. I just finished install and my chickens are showing interest. Great design thanks. PS. Bottom hinging works very well.

  27. I love how you’ve done the nesting boxes and am in the midst of making it just like yours. I am, however, having an extremely hard time getting the dividers cut exactly the same. This is my first big build, and even though it’s a chicken coop, I sure would like the cuts to be fairly straight. Any tips on how to get the dividers and both ends cut to have the same angle? I plan on having the floor in first, pocket-holing the 4 uprights to the floor, and securing each of the ends to the studs. BUT be darned if they aren’t crooked. I cut the angled tops off with a jig saw and, frankly, the cuts are rather sucky. Any suggestions would really, really be appreciated. I did just get a table saw the other day.

    • Debora, you might try cutting the first side piece, then using that to trace out the shape for the other three pieces. You’d then have to trim 3/4″ (or whatever the thickness of your plywood) off the bottom of the two dividers. A circular saw or table saw should give you more control than a jig saw to keep the cuts straight. Also know that once you screw everything tightly together, small gaps or warping may just disappear. Hope this helps.

      • Thank you, that totally helps. One of the boards I cut was a pretty old piece of 3/4″, and I’m not sure any amount of screwing it down will fix it. I will get a new piece and am sure I’ll get better results. Thank you again!!

        • Hi Debora,

          I’m just stopping by to say we have the same spelling of our first names. I’ve only seen a handful of others spelled like that! I did, however, see some graffiti on the side of a train underpass in Alaska with that spelling LOL!

          We just got 4 chickens and are about to inherit 5 more. We love it so much and I hope we never take it for granted. I just get giddy every time I see those lovely little eggs in their nests! I do spoil them a bit but they deserve it!

          Just thought I said Hi from one Debora to another.

  28. I have two pullets, my husband made a 4 x 8 coop. I want to add a nesting box on the side then out a roosting area in front. I will just put one on each side of the 2×4 wall brace. Thank you for the plans.

  29. I love your chicken coop design. Is there any reason that we can’t hinge the roof of the nesting box instead of the side wall. My wife would rather reach down into the boxes to collect eggs.

    Thanks for the great designs.

    • Thanks, Brian. I have the door at the front of the boxes for two reasons: easier cleaning and less chance of rainwater getting in. With the hinges at the top, you’ll need to cover or seal the gap where the top is hinged. It’s certainly doable. I’ve seen where people have used an old bicycle tire inner tube to create a flexible seal there. Hope this helps.

  30. Holy Cow, thank you! I bought the garden coop plans almost three years ago and my mom and I built it (Ok I let my husband help a little with attaching four walls, digging the trench, and hardware cloth installation as it was heavy haha). We LOVE it, as do our friends and chickens. We moved last summer and took it apart enough to take with us and I am in the process of putting it back together now, going smoothly and quickly =) I really wanted to add external nesting boxes I saw other people doing on your website and I was about to email you for help, but TADA here are the free plans! Thank you soooo much! I’ll let you know how it turns out! Our coop may even star in a friend’s wedding she is considering having in our backyard in the fall!

  31. Ahhh, thank you for these instructions! We have a small coop and a medium coop. We want to add the boxes to the medium coop (so there’s also room for roosting) and save the small coop for possibly raising chicks. Your instructions are very clear, and it makes me want to get started today despite the snow! Hahaha!

    • Update: My son and I built the nesting box today! It turned out great and tomorrow I plan to paint it. Thanks again for the instructions. I plan to share this with my YouTube viewers and blog subscribers. 🙂

  32. Is there a reason you it is shown hinged at the bottom of the panel? Seems that they’d want to rip out of the panel over time. I was thinking to hinge it at the top instead. The door would swing up instead. Did anyone try it this way?

    Thanks for the design.

    • Glen, I put the hinges at the bottom to allow for one-handed access. When you unlatch the door, you can just let it fall open, rather than having to hook it or hold it as you would have to do if it were hinged at the top. This frees up a hand or two for holding the egg basket, retrieving the eggs, and re-latching the door. Of course, hinging it at the top should work too. I think you’d simply develop a different habit. It’d be nice to hear from others who’ve built it that way. By the way, the hinges on ours have held up well over the years. Hope this helps.

        • Glen, the first coop we built has nesting box doors that hinge at the top, and what a pain in the rear, especially when the kids are working with them. When we add boxes to our larger coop, we’ll be hinging at the bottom. 🙂 Good luck with your build!

  33. Wonderfully clear plans for external nest boxes!!! I have so very little skill, but pulled it off with not too much trouble. The directions are fabulous. Hubby was skeptical at first and impressed when I finished.

    My first nest box was a big success with my full-sized hens and I will be building a second nest box today for my flock of bantams. Thank you so very much for sharing 🙂

  34. I am a novice at gardening and sustainability. This year I want to try meat birds as well as layers. I want to limit my work and create a truck style coop so that I can move it around when I have my meat birds and also come winter my layers have a permanent home, that I will keep in my garage.

    Is this too much to want?
    Can these types of birds live together?

    Is a good rule of thumb 1 1/2 sq feet per bird as far as figuring out there sleep/nesting area?

    Thanks for your time and efforts, Great Job on explaining and pictures speak a thousand words

    Northern Vermont

    • Tom, thanks for your comment. My personal experience is with keeping laying hens, so I don’t want to risk steering you wrong by offering advice. Hopefully, another reader will come along with something better to share. I consider 2 sq. ft. of henhouse space per bird is a minimum for backyard hens, but the more space you can offer, the better. For sleeping, you want 10-12 inches of roost per bird for them to perch on at night. The nest boxes are just for the layers to lay their eggs in, of course, and 4-5 hens can share each box. Hope this helps. Good luck with it!

  35. Hello there,

    I would like to thank you for your nesting box plan, it works like a charm.
    I had a few designs in mind but this takes least wood and is very firm.


    A Dutch Man

  36. Your nest box plans worked out great! We are building The Garden Coop but wanted to add the external nesting area… our skill level was being tested trying to figure out the details. We had some bad weather so we built the nest box, left the roof off, did all the painting etc. and on a good day installed it on the studs then just attached the roof. Easy as homemade pie! Thank you so much!

  37. Hi I live in France, I was having trouble building an external egg box for my coop. Your plans and explanations have saved me a lot of time and money. Thank you very much, they are super.

  38. Hey,
    I have 3 of my ladies ladies in a shed that I converted into a coop a few few years back. I’ve been wanting to add an an external nest box for around a year now but I dont know how high off the ground to place it. Also, when I had my first set of chickens, they got eaten by foxes but now I’ve upgraded the coop security so I was wondering if the external nest boxes could be a place for predators to enter.
    Great guide btw

    • Also I am expecting around 5 chicks to be added to the coop aswell, they’re in the incubator right now (2 weeks to go).
      So my other question is should I make 2 or 3 compartments to the structure?

    • If you use lockable latches and lock them, the boxes should be secure against predators. I’ve seen some coops with external boxes fairly low, say, a foot or so off the ground. So I think as long as they are locked, the height off the ground won’t matter.

    • Dorothy, I would think placing the bottom at about 36″ from the ground should make the nest boxes accessible from a wheelchair. As for how many boxes for 30 hens, I think 6 or 7 should do.

  39. Thanks for posting this. I have been looking for plans to add exterior nest boxes as well as make our coop bigger. This is the ticket.


  40. That’s exactly what I needed to know. Thanks for the quick reply! I am so excited about building this coop and raising chickens!!!

  41. Question: I’m about to make The Garden Coop and am planning to build on the exterior egg boxes from the start. I’m planning to have 8-10 hens. If I add the ext. boxes to the plan, should I also include the egg boxes already built into the original plan or is that overkill? Are they necessary with that many hens? That would be 5 hen boxes (2 interior, 3 exterior). I know from your notes that the exterior boxes would add needed square footage for that many hens, but am I removing needed square footage by leaving in the extra boxes? Also, I’m planning to have the ladder leading to the front of the pen, instead of up the middle of it, so that should add floor space. Thanks for your help!

    • Ashley, three nest boxes is plenty for ten hens. Five boxes would be overkill. So I would leave out the removable boxes indicated in the plans. You also won’t need the egg door, though you could leave it or add a window or something else in that spot. Hope this helps.

  42. Hi, I have built the nesting box, but I just realised that I didn’t put some 19 x 38 mm down the sides of the flip-down hatch. I guess that you put that on yours to stop any drafts. I DID put it where the flip door closes at the top of the flip door, but not on the sides. I made mine from 12 mm plywood. 19 mm would have been better, but 12 mm was what I already had. My flip door does close nice and snug — no gaps — so I hope it will be okay this winter. I hope that all makes sense. Thanks.

    • Robert, thanks for your notes and tips. I have the two one-by-two (19 x 38 mm) side supports near the edge of the opening, though they are attached to the box part and not to the door itself. Then there are the one-by-two door stops at the top of each box. Though it’s not a perfect seal, these do fairly well to limit drafts and light into the boxes.

    • Shelly, we have 9 in ours, and they do just fine. But I would recommend giving them regular access to a larger outside run if you can. If not, you might want to consider building The Garden Coop to be larger. There are a few ways to go about this. Please email me if you’d like more details.

  43. I am converting a large doghouse to a hen house and I like and will use your plans. I read somewhere that you can ensure that your hens do not become egg eaters if they do not have room to stand in the nesting boxes. With that in mind how much would you recomend cutting down on the heights.

    • I’m not sure, Sam. It already looks rather cozy in there as is — my hens seem to have just enough room to stand up to get in and out of the box. Maybe someone who has tried this approach can chime in with a better response about how much to lower the height.

  44. I’m building my first chicken coop, and I will be using your model for my external nesting boxes. I went to other websites, but your explanations, pics are right on…. thanks.

  45. We are getting the materials for building your coop. We have instead of the 1/2 inch hardware cloth. 1/2 x 1 inch hardware cloth. Will this work to keep out rodents? We do not have snakes, but rats live in the city. Thank you.

    • Joan, thanks for posting. I also replied to your similar comment here. Basically, 1/2″ x 1/2″ is the largest opening I’d recommend if you want to deter rats. Of course, I welcome other comments from anyone who has had success with the size Joan is talking about!

  46. Have the Garden Ark plans and am cutting wood, etc. Like to add the external box, but not sure where to place it. Replace the egg door on the side or put on the back? Just not sure if I place on the back what I would use the egg door for.

    • Nick, I haven’t seen anyone put the external boxes on the side of The Garden Ark. I think it could look cool, but if you plan on moving the ark around much, it might be a little unwieldy. If you add the external boxes to the back, the side egg door is no longer essential, though you might consider keeping it in the design anyway. It’s a nice quick way to access the henhouse (say, if you put a small feeder in there) or to reach in to open and close the sliding door between the henhouse and run (if you do this). Or you could convert it to a window.

    • Billy, I’ve used both straw and pine shavings. I don’t have a recommendation, but I personally prefer the shavings. They seem to fit in there neatly and provide good cushion for the eggs.

  47. I plan on adding these nesting to my hen house. How high should I put the boxes of the ground? Thanks for any info.

    • Billy, both of my coop designs are integrated, so the henhouse is positioned above a part of the run. With this type of design the henhouse and nest boxes would sit at least 18 inches (460 mm) off the ground, allowing space for your chickens to graze beneath it. If you have a stand-alone coop, you still want it raised at least high enough that rodents and other predators won’t make a home beneath it. I’d say a foot or so (300 mm) would be good.

  48. Just wanted to drop a thank-you note for these plans. We finished the nest box this weekend, and it turned out great. Here’s a link with some pictures. I plan on sending you a full review of the plans and summary of our customizations when we’re finished (chicks arrive this week, so the pressure’s on 🙂

  49. Hi! I found these plans while looking for my very 1st wood working project. My husband built our chicken coop a few years ago from scrap and I really wanted to add an exterior nesting box, but I have no carpentry experience. The plans here are easy enough for a beginner. It took me all day, but I finished the building part and I am very happy and impressed with myself and the results! The step by step pictures really helped. Thanks so much for posting these plans!
    ~Steph and the birds.

  50. Hi John, I was wondering if you could give us some measurements for making just two outboarded nest boxes, and modify them for use with The Garden Ark. We bought the plans a couple of weeks ago, and have been diligently gathering supplies. =) But we really love the idea of using external nest boxes and would like to place them on the “back” end of The Garden Ark.
    ~Tamera & Dan

    • Tamera, I haven’t built exterior boxes for The Garden Ark yet, so I don’t have all the dimensions for that, but the process will be exactly the same. You might want to shorten the side pieces and divider by about 1.5 to 2 inches (on both the high and low ends) for a better fit. This will still allow enough height in the boxes for your hens. Keep the depth of the side pieces at 14 inches.

      You can attach the side pieces directly to the existing frame of the ark, or you can bring them in some. To do that, add a couple of 2×2 studs, about 1.5 inches in from either side of the existing frame (just clearing the brackets at the top). That will give you an outer dimension for the exterior boxes (width) of 28 inches, which is perfect for two boxes.

      I would keep the door the same height, so if you do shorten the box sides, you’ll want to take that same amount off the top front piece (the part that’s cut 3 1/8″ tall above). The roof piece should be the same depth as above, just adjust the width and the notching (since you’re inserting around 2x2s).

      Best to measure the rest of the pieces as you go, but this should give you a framework for most of it. Let me know how it goes!

  51. Just wanted to say thank you! Building my first coop and run 5×10. I like the exterior nesting box design and have added it to the coop. Really nice pictures and details allowed me to replicate very easily.

  52. I have been looking into designing some coops with nest boxes and I like the design of yours but I think I would latch the roof to open, also Flex Seal which is a fairly new product may be the best thing to use for covering the roof on a small surface area as its 10-14 dollars a can and covers a decent area, more so than one nesting box attachment.

  53. We just bought plans for The Garden Coop and are very excited to build this coop! Very straightforward. Thank you for the addition of the external nesting box plans. I imagine we will modify the original design and add these. Thank you!

    Jodie Majerus, you mention that you modified the design and added a “grate and tray” for cleaning the roosting area. Can you please share photos or design? We might be interested in this as well.

  54. AWESOME… This has been extremely helpful!! Thank you so much for taking the time to take great pictures and provide us with detailed directions.

  55. Hey there John:

    We bought plans and built our coop about 2 yrs ago. I’m proud of how it turned out…so thanks 🙂 I should send pics b/c my husband came up with a great “grate and tray” combination for cleaning the bottom of the existing roosting area.

    We currently have 3 hens but are looking to get more; if we added two external boxes, how many more hens could it feasibly hold? We let them out every morning to free range on about a 3/4 acre fenced yard, so the coop is really just for sleeping and laying eggs. What think you?

    • Jodie, glad your coop has worked out for you! If you’re talking about The Garden Coop, up to 8 or 10 hens in that space should be fine. We have nine in ours now, and they’re all happy and well adjusted. If you’re talking about the smaller design, The Garden Ark, that space is intended for 3 hens. What limits you from adding more in TGA isn’t the number of laying boxes, but the smaller size of the roosts, henhouse, and run.

      As for how many nest boxes you need, a good general rule is 1 box for every 4 hens. That’s been my experience as well. Our first flock of 8 did great sharing a couple of nest boxes, mainly laying in just one of them. Our current flock of 9 even could have managed with two, but since I built the external laying boxes shown above, they have three to choose from. Often, they’ll still all lay in one box, though which box that is changes from day to day.

      BTW, I should mention for anyone new to chickens that hens don’t actually sleep in their nest boxes (usually). They use them as a place to lay their eggs and sit on them until hatched. I forgot to bring that up in the original post, but it’s worth knowing!

  56. Thank you! I need to add an external box so I can do some internal mods to my henhouse to make it easier to clean… These are instructions I can follow! Thanks for the excellent information!

  57. The dimensions and step-by-step pictures were excellent. I have built houses for people but never built a nesting box for chickens and was troubled until I viewed your documentation. Thanks for your effort.

  58. Thanks for answering my question so promptly. Do you think I would even need the original center 2×4 stud if i follow the plans above and add a 2×4 stud to either side of the nesting box?

    • JJ, as long as your siding pieces are long enough to attach to the 2x4s behind them, you don’t need the additional center stud. It’s there simply to provide another attachment point for siding, so you can do without it.

  59. Did you update The Garden Coop plans and omit the center vertical stud on the henhouse left side? I don’t see it in the pictures. Can you clarify please?

    • JJ, that center vertical stud is still in The Garden Coop plans, though it was not in my original build, which is what I’m modifying in the pictures above. I will add a mention in the post to remove that center stud before adding the external boxes. If you can’t remove the stud easily (which could be the case depending on how you attached it when you built the coop frame) — or if you need to keep the stud for attaching your siding — then you’ll need to do cut part of it away or cut your pieces to work around it. Thanks for calling attention to this.

  60. I really like the fact that external nest boxes give you more space in your coop. Nice instructions and love all the pictures.

  61. I love your portable design. Its great so it can be moved around easily. That gives the chicken new grass to forage in and allows the manure to decay often so cleaning the ground area is simpler.

  62. This is exactly what I needed! I’ve been looking for help so I didn’t have to start from scratch in designing my external nesting boxes. This gave me the information I needed and the step-by-step instructions with pictures are a fantastic touch. Thanks for making my life that much easier!

  63. Is there any structural reason why the external nest box construction couldn’t accommodate 4 nest boxes? It seems that there’s enough room along the left wall to allow for building 4 nest boxes.

    • David, you should be able to get four in, and can’t think of a structural problem that would cause. You might want to divide the door in two, though, so it’s not such a long piece to open.

    • Marjorie, a chicken ladder is a ramp or ladder leading from a run to a raised hen house. The chickens climb and descend it to get in and out of the hen house.

  64. I needed to learn how to install an exterior nest box for the coop I am building. Thank you so much for the instructions and pictures, they are just what I needed. Bravos to you!!

  65. Hi, We just bought the garden ark plans and want to add the external nesting boxes (for more room as we have more chickens). I noticed that the plans for the ark have only 2×2’s and the plans for the external nesting boxes use 2×4’s. Should I be building the ark out of 2×4 or the nesting boxes of 2×2? I’m wanting to purchase materials but am unclear. Any help you can provide would be great. Thank you. ~Karen

    • Karen, you’d still use two-by-twos to frame your ark. And modify the external nesting box plans here to use two-by-twos instead of two-by-fours.

  66. I love this mod. We thought about doing this as well. We were a little rushed so we didn’t, but this is a great option. Thanks for the wonderful pictures as well as the amazing plans. Money VERY well spent.

    Thanks, Travis, Tara & the 7 girls 🙂

  67. Hello,

    In this sentence at the very beginning of the Instructions where you say, “If this is a new build omit the short horizontal stud…” did you mean to say “vertical stud”? I’m having a hard time reconciling the instructions w/the pictures and w/the our Garden Coop Plans. Thanks for any clarification.

    We bought the Garden Coop plans last weekend and have been plugging away ever since…the external nest box plans came out just in time…thanks very much!


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