Grass Fed Eggs: Try DIY Grazing Boxes 42


Feed your chickens for free

By Loriel, contributing writer

I wrote a post awhile back titled “Raising Chickens in an Urban Setting is Hard Work,” and now I regret deciding on that title. Raising chickens really isn’t that hard; the hardest part (and the point of that post) is figuring out ways to raise chickens less expensively. Access to forage can help cut costs but raising grass fed hens on a small lot can be challenging.

DIY grazing boxes make for happy grass fed hens.  They're a great way to save on the cost of raising backyard chickens (and other poultry), too! Here's how to make your own.

 

In light of our continuous efforts to save money and still enjoy fresh grass fed eggs, we decided to implement grazing boxes as part of our backyard chicken adventure. Since we extended our chicken run with free pallets, we have extra room for these grazing boxes.

DIY grazing boxes make for happy grass fed hens.  They're a great way to save on the cost of raising backyard chickens (and other poultry), too! Here's how to make your own.

What are grazing boxes?

Just what they sound like: boxes that chickens graze on. The boxes are essentially planters protected with hardware cloth. The seeds—grains and greens—sprout, eventually growing taller than the hardware cloth which allows the chickens to peck at the fresh buffet.

Voila — a salad bar that is protected from ferocious scratchy claws that tear up everything.

Happy chickens. Happy chicken people.

Grazing boxes for grass fed hens

Materials (makes one 3′ x 5′ box):

  • 2 – 2′ x 6′ x 10′ (if you don’t want to use pressure treated wood, use southern yellow pine)
  • 1/2 inch hardware cloth (3′ x 10′ roll)
  • galvanized poultry staples
  • screws; 2-1/2″ (we used Primeguard Exterior Screws by Grip Rite)
  • hammer
  • screw gun
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • speed square, optional (used to make sure your line is straight before cutting)
  • circular saw (to cut your lumber)
  • metal snips (for cutting the hardware cloth)
  • dirt/compost to fill box
  • grains/grass seeds

DIY grazing boxes make for happy hens. They're a great way to save on the cost of raising backyard chickens (and other poultry), too!

 

Put together your grazing box

To make the box, cut both boards in half. This will leave you with two 5′ lengths and two 3′ lengths.

Take one 3′ length and one 5’length and screw the ends together to start your DIY grazing box. Butt the end of the 5′ piece against the 3′ piece. This ensures your hardware cloth will fit over the top of your box. Once you have attached the 3′ length to the 5′ length, it should look like an L. Now attach the second 5′ section to your first 3′ section and screw it together .

Attach the final 3′ section. While putting the box together, it’s always nice to have an extra set of hands to help push against the wood while another person is screwing.

Now that your box is complete, fill it with dirt/compost to within an inch of the top of the box. Liberally spread your grains/seeds on the soil and lightly rake them in.

Lay the hardware cloth on top of the box. Please note on the ends of the hardware cloth there is a smooth side and rough side. Make sure the rough side is faced down so your chickens can’t scrape their feet on it.

Starting at one end, tap in staples with your hammer. Continue to roll the hardware cloth down the length of the box, stapling as you go. Keep the hardware cloth centered and tight so it fits evenly.

Once you have secured your staples on the hardware cloth, cut the end of the hardware cloth using metal snips. Try to cut the end so it stays flush with the end of the wood instead of draping over.

If there is any overlap of hardware cloth down the sides, use your hammer to tap the hardware cloth into the wood so it’s not sticking out.

Give your seeds a good watering twice a day and within a week you’ll start to see growth!

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42 thoughts on “Grass Fed Eggs: Try DIY Grazing Boxes

  • Candi

    I’m sure your girls love their boxes. I wonder if the seeds will have a chance to sprout before they get eaten! Haha

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      That’s exactly why the wire is there – to protect the seeds from scratching feet.

      • Loriel

        Haha! Right? We kept them away from the box for about a week and a half and now they go out every day on it. They’ve basically “mowed” it down to hardware cloth level but it keeps them busy as they try and get their beaks in the small square for a snack.

  • Joanne Tipler

    What’s funny is, as I was leaving the pen a few minutes ago, I said to the girls “I’m going to plant some seeds for you to have your very own buffet in a few weeks”. I opened facebook and here is your article. Thank you for that.

    • Loriel

      Great timing then! It’s really so easy that I’m not sure why my husband and I waited so long to do it.

    • Loriel

      Haha! My husband feels the same way. “No honey, the honey-do list will never end.” 🙂

    • Jane Lambert

      Don’t wait for your hubby–make it yourself! I made one of these yesterday and it was super easy! You can have the hardware store (or lumber store where you get the wood) cut these to length for you, or (like me) you can cut them yourself. It only took about an hour (including nailing on the wire cloth) total. I’m super excited to have the grass start growing and watching my ladies graze.

  • Anna

    Wonderful, fantastic idea! I have to that chickens, especially ones that live in runs, would love this! A healthy and mentally stimulating activity that is also very useful, as basic regular garden beds can be also constructed this way, especially if you have a dog or cat that digs, or deer that eat plants down to the crowns. Fabulous!

  • Trista

    This is such a great idea. I was wondering what your plan is when you want to replant? Did you secure the hardware cloth in a way that will make it easy to remove for replanting?

    • Loriel

      Hey Trista, great question. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day and I think what we’ll do is lift the entire box, rescatter, and then place the box back on top. It’ll probably take some finagling but I think it’ll work. I’ll report back and let you know.

    • Andrea

      Why not just toss seed on top of wire mesh and then sprinkle dirt on top of seeds. No need to remove wire.

      • Clinton LeValley

        Andrea, you and I agree! Keep it Simple! these folks are over thinking and complicating stuff!

  • Laura

    Here’s a idea to make it easy to remove the hardware cloth for replanting.
    Build the frame normally, but get some 1″ x 2″ wood strips, and build a rectangle the same size as your growing box from them. Then attach the hardware cloth to this light weight frame.

    You could attach it to the grow box on one side with a hinge, then flip it open when it’s time to replant. You might want to add a hook on the opposite side to keep it down, or weigh it down with a couple rocks.

  • Steven Peirce

    What seeds do you plant in these boxes? Wonder if there is a grass, wheat, barely, buckwheat, or other that would continue to grow when the top is eaten off–like when you mow the grass, so that you wouldn’t necessarily have t replant all the time. I am growing buckwheat in indoors this Winter in trays and it works great. First year with chickens. They grow in empty trays with no soil at all. When the sprouts get about six inches tall the roots are root bound and all you have to do is pull a chunk of it apart like a piece of carpet and toss into the chickens. Wish I could insert a photo. Don’t know if seeds like this would continue to grow if nipped off through the mesh.

  • alex

    Just getting ready to have chickens for the first time. 3 to start. How much would a box this size supplement their diet? Quite a bit or just like a snack?

    • Lorrie Tannahill

      This would strictly be a snack since it would not contain close to the full nutrients needed to support egg production. You can also soak any laying mash you buy for 2-3 days (fill pail half full with grain, cover to the top with water) which will ferment, increase vitamins and health benefits of the feed, and the chickens don’t eat nearly as much as they do when it is dry. Throw in a squash or melon cut in half or lettuce for extra treats. 🙂

  • Craig

    This is a great idea and very useful for those of us who are just getting into having chickens. I’m presently building our coop/run in prep for chickens in a few months. The future run is in a very grassy part of our yard. I’m going to make the frame with hardware cloth and simply set it over a grassy part of the run in order to allow the grass that’s already growing there to make its way up through the screen. Thus saving time and labor on adding potting soil and seeds.

  • Mimi

    I looked on homedepot.com and they only have southern yellow pine plywood…no 2x6s. where do you get the southern yellow pine?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      That’s what Loriel used, but you can certainly use standard pine or Douglas fir.

  • Cathy

    Even cheaper- use pallets for this! Pull off most of the cross piece timbers, but keeping the frame in place, staple your hardware cloth over the top, and finished! Not as pretty, but still functional and easy to move around.

  • Lisa

    I do similar but have a hinged lid on mine. Probably easier to just make a box like yours that I can pick up when it’s grown. Great idea.

  • Amy

    Love the information it is greatly appreciated. Took me a few to figure out you need 1 2x6x6 and one 2x6x10 to get 2 2x6x3s and 2 2x6x5s. Thought that you might want to change. You have listed 2 2x6x10s listed. But still great. Love it when people figure things out, like hardware width to box size. NO WASTE of time or materials LOVE IT. Thanks again! Amy

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I’ll see if Loriel will chime in here, but you can use regular grass seeds, oat, wheat, barley… pretty much any grain that you’d sprout for yourself.

  • Clinton LeValley

    I love your idea, but the carpenter in me is screaming about the wasted 4 foot of 2×6; Simply buy another 2×6 that is 12 foot long and cut it into four 3 footers; you then have your four 5 footers and four 3 footers; your hardware cloth is 10 foot long: Voila!! TWO grazing boxes!!

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Check with your local cooperative extension office or nursery.