It is that time of year again to do the maintenance on the Woodiy Boxes and Mallard hen nests before the Snow season gets under way and while the ice is still safe. It is best to start getting out there pretty soon as they need yearly, and for sure every other year need maintenance. Do the simple repairs out in the field(bring appriate tools, like battery drill, screw, nails, small fence staples, galvanized wire, spare latch for door of woody box, etc. but if you find you need to rebuild, you may find it hander to take it back to your garage to work on. Some guys carry an extra Box or nest in the truck, just for in case there needs a rebuild, you just swap them out.
The Woody boxes you can use non fragrance wood shavings from pet supply stores. Clean out the old shavings and replace with new, about 4" deep should work. You may want to bring a small tuck pointing trowel or similar to dislodge any frozen old bedding. Repair any split wood, etc.. And remember the step ladder as often it is needed too. This is why yoiu want to mount boxes no higher than 9' high, as a safer step ladder can be used VS an extension ladder.
For the Mallard nest, some can be stuffed with out unrolling them. Use a piece of wood lath to push hay between the layers of wire through the outside ends. Remove the old duck nest (shells, etc) and stuff the center with new hay. Remember to use the softer and finer texturerd upland hay for them as the meadow grass (Canary) is too coarse of a stalk. Also Flax straw can be used too for the outer covering as it lasts much longer than regular hay.
But if too much of the old hay has rotted away, it is best to unroll the nest and remove the bad stuff (generally 2 years with reg hay) Add any good hay back, then add a layer of fresh hay, the entrance mat, another layer of hay and roll it back up and secure it. Then stuff the center with fresh hay as mentioned above. When unrolling them, it is easiest to have 2 guys, one holding the unrolled wire level across from the plank, while the other guy adds the layers of materials.
And bring a kid with, be it your own, a nephew, grand child or the neighbors kid, as they get to see the old eggs, etc.. and generally have lots of questions to ask, and a good way to educate them about waterfowl and conservation.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to email or PM me as I'd be glad to give you any guidance from my past experiences with the Nests and boxes.
Link to how Hen nest is made: http://www.duckhuntingchat.com/viewtopic.php?t=56421
Link to Woodie Boxes how to build: http://www.woodducksociety.com/duckhouse.htm