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Cut Feed Costs with DIY Grazing Boxes for your Hens

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

And think about planting a chicken garden for your girls, too!

green grass in a wooden grazing box

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.

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.

Related: Chicken Supplies: Must-Have Chicken Gear to Keep in the Coop

mixed flock of hens in front of a newly built grazing box

Related: Feeding Your Chickens on the Cheap

DIY grazing boxes for happy 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
man building a grazing box, using a hammer

Related: Do You Need Supplemental Light in the Chicken Coop?

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.

toddler planting seeds in grazing boxes

Planting the grazing boxes

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. You can use regular grass seeds, oat, wheat, barley… pretty much any grain that you’d sprout for yourself.

Lay the hardware cloth on top of the box. Please note that 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!

wooden box with grass growing in it

Originally published in March 2015; this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Loriel Adams

Loriel is on a journey to a more natural life and hopes to inspire those around her by writing about her stories on her blog Naturally Loriel. She lives an abundant life with her husband Scott, toddler Andrew, a crazy little Lilly cat and a flock of 8 chickens. She’s a dreamer of self-sufficiency, a lover of all things sweet, and has a knack for story-telling.

66 comments… add one
  • Candi Mar 4, 2015, 3:12 pm

    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 Mar 6, 2015, 7:24 am

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

      • Loriel Mar 11, 2015, 9:56 am

        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 Mar 7, 2015, 9:28 am

    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.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 7, 2015, 10:37 am

      Serendipity!

    • Loriel Mar 11, 2015, 9:55 am

      Awesome! They are going to love it.

      • Marie Mar 23, 2020, 12:10 pm

        Do you have to re seed bed. How much seed do you use.
        I plan on doing this during warm months but keep a tray or 2 going inside. My girls will love it. They wont have to wait for me to bring it to them. Thanks

        • Kris Bordessa Mar 29, 2020, 1:21 pm

          Yes, you’d need to reseed the bed after a time, scattering the seed close together. (1/2″-1″ apart, maybe?)

  • Janet Garman Mar 10, 2015, 11:38 am

    I have been wanting to plant these boxes for my chickens. Thanks for posting a great how to!

    • Loriel Mar 11, 2015, 9:57 am

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

      • Carla Homan Jun 10, 2020, 7:21 am

        What types of seeds do you like to use for your boxes? This is such a great idea!

  • A Taylor Mar 11, 2015, 1:12 am

    Could use pallets for this too!

    • Loriel Mar 11, 2015, 9:54 am

      You definitely could, and that’s a smart idea!

    • Diana Thornton Aug 18, 2019, 4:04 am

      Pallet wood is often treated with toxic stuff, and also tends to disintegrate quickly, leaving even more toxins in the soil. I do not recommend pallet wood.

      • Kris Bordessa Aug 23, 2019, 2:39 pm

        This is handy info for people who wish to find *safe pallets. https://www.universalpallets.com/2018/01/ultimate-guide-pallet-markings/

      • Ashlie Jun 10, 2020, 5:58 pm

        It’s ok to use heat treated and kiln treated pallets. There are markings on pallets that tell you how they’re treated. A quick google search or search on Pinterest will guide you in selecting safe pallets.

  • Mary Pendleton Mar 11, 2015, 2:18 am

    Thank you for the great info!

  • Loriel Mar 11, 2015, 9:54 am

    You’re welcome! 🙂

  • I am so adding this to my hubby’s to do list…he thanks you…I am sure!!! LOL

    • Loriel Mar 15, 2015, 6:33 am

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

    • Jane Lambert Mar 20, 2017, 5:02 am

      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.

  • Parker Mar 17, 2015, 2:18 am

    Good idea!

  • Anna Mar 30, 2015, 4:29 pm

    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 Apr 19, 2015, 6:07 pm

    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 Apr 20, 2015, 3:10 am

      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.

      • Jason May 17, 2015, 7:10 am

        I was thinking that you could attach the hardware cloth to a frame made with 2X2’s, which is the same size of the box, then place on it on top and secure with a couple screws. This way you can remove the screws, lift the frame and replant, then secure the frame back in place.

        • Kris Bordessa May 19, 2015, 9:36 am

          Good idea!

        • Lisa Nov 4, 2016, 8:27 am

          I make these for my chickens with a hinged lid so they’re easy to replant. https://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2012/05/diy-chicken-salad-bar-giveaway-from-my.html

        • Erin in AK Jun 10, 2017, 9:03 pm

          Attach it with hinges on one side and a latch on the other. Unlatch, lift, reseed & close. 🙂

        • Cindy Aug 31, 2018, 8:11 am

          Why couldn’t you just let the seeds fall between the grid of the hardware cloth??

          • Kris Bordessa Sep 7, 2018, 7:36 am

            Sure. You might want to sprinkle a bit of soil over the top of them, though.

          • Elizabeth O'Hagan Sep 17, 2018, 9:17 pm

            I was wondering the same thing 🙂

          • Christina Apr 26, 2020, 1:07 pm

            I made one of these for my girls by using a hard case suitcase which had a broken wheel. I took all the wheels off. Cut through the join so I had two halves drilled a few holes through the suitcase. 3/4 filled it with soil. Literally covered the entire surface with seeds. Raked it a bit and watered. It. Once the seeds had sprouted and grown to about 4 inches I covered it with an old wire basket from an ikea cupboard that I had lying around. It was a perfect fit. The chickens love pecking through the gaps and eating the wheat grass.

          • Kris Bordessa Apr 28, 2020, 7:01 am

            Clever!

    • Andrea Feb 14, 2016, 5:33 am

      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 Mar 9, 2017, 4:38 pm

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

  • Laura May 18, 2015, 10:38 am

    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 Dec 11, 2015, 7:01 pm

    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 Jan 23, 2016, 5:48 pm

    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 Mar 12, 2017, 2:36 am

      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 Feb 10, 2016, 4:42 am

    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.

    • Nancy Aug 24, 2018, 5:33 pm

      Just make sure that some areas are available with dirt for dust baths.

      • Kris Bordessa Aug 27, 2018, 7:57 am

        Yes!

  • Keith Feb 14, 2016, 8:41 am

    It does not say what is planted….

  • Mimi Feb 15, 2016, 6:20 am

    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 Feb 18, 2016, 3:00 pm

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

  • Cathy Mar 6, 2016, 11:39 am

    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 Mar 30, 2016, 2:49 am

    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.

  • b Jun 24, 2016, 7:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing this excellent idea!

  • Amy Jan 15, 2017, 12:16 pm

    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

  • Carlos Feb 5, 2017, 11:33 am

    What kind of grain seeds did you use?

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2017, 9:02 am

      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 Mar 9, 2017, 4:25 pm

    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!!

  • Steve Apr 11, 2017, 2:20 pm

    What is a good seed(s) to plant for the Texas Hill Country?

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 27, 2017, 5:36 pm

      Check with your local cooperative extension office or nursery.

  • Monica Jul 13, 2017, 6:42 pm

    What kind of seeds have you used successfully?

  • Deven Kriegl Jul 18, 2017, 8:55 am

    i have a raised bed grazing box with grass but it seems the hens poop will burn it and it does not grow well . i have tried with seed and then growing it first, then allowing the hens access with the hardware cloth top with no luck. what do you suggest?

  • Loretta Welch Jul 27, 2017, 2:34 pm

    I’ve also looked for seed to do this project with and all the seed that is available to me is chemically treated so that it is weed free. I am wondering where you get your seed?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 4, 2017, 8:16 am

      If you can’t find grass seed that you’re happy with, you could try sprouting oats in it.

  • nancy Dec 17, 2017, 6:54 am

    what kind of seeds do you use?

  • Donna Lineberry Feb 25, 2018, 4:38 am

    Good idea. I will build it and see how it works for us.

  • Lilly skinkle Jun 25, 2018, 10:42 am

    Great idea

  • Allyson May 13, 2020, 4:03 pm

    I can’t wait to use this idea for my rabbits! They’re going to love it!!

  • Cindy Dodd Jun 19, 2020, 8:37 pm

    What is the best type of seed to get. Type of grass.

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 21, 2020, 3:26 pm

      You can use regular grass seeds, oat, wheat, barley… pretty much any grain that you’d sprout for yourself.

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