Raising free range hens requires little in the way of equipment, but one essential item they need is space to nest in. There are various ideas about the requirements of building nesting boxes for free range hens, but there are several things to keep in mind. First, the nesting box needs to be of an adequate size for the hen to build her nest in; secondly, it needs to be easily cleaned.
The first step to building your nesting boxes is to gather your materials. The sizes of different breeds of hens range from the smallest Cornish game hens to the larger breeds. If in doubt, make your nesting box a bit larger and allow space in front to so the hen can walk to the nest. A recommended size of twelve inches square is usually recommended when making free-range nesting boxes for your free range hens. The hens need space to feel secure in laying eggs, therefore a box with sides is a good idea.
Use exterior grade plywood while making your nesting box and be sure not to leave exposed ends of nails or screws where the hens could be hurt by brushing against them. Free range hens move around a lot so make sure the nesting boxes are located in the same area they range in and provide the proper exposure to air and light. The addition of a place for the hens to roost is a good idea.
Secondly, after building the number of nesting boxes for free range hens, (allowing one box per four hens), it is recommended that you provide an easy to clean area inside. Some people cut a small hole that can be covered in the back of the box to make gathering the eggs easier. This can be done by painting the inside and making the roof sloped so that the hens will not be as likely to roost there. Inside the nesting box, use something that will allow for easy cleaning of the nest and gathering of the eggs. Corrugated cardboard or old shingles left over from a roofing project are a good solution.
After adding the bottom layer to the inside of the box, add nesting material such as wood shavings or a combination of straw over wood shavings, making a depression in the material so the hen will lay her eggs inside.
When you make your nesting boxes for the free range hens that you are raising, you can ask the lumberyard to cut the plywood to size if you need, most will be glad to do so. For a more natural look, add branches to the front of the boxes and place the boxes between eighteen and twenty-four inches above ground. If you desire legs for your box, they can be made from two by four pieces of lumber.