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2 questions . . .

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

It may be that my hens have either drastically slowed down their laying, or else they've taken to laying outside of their boxes. I know how to retrain them if I need to, but what I'd like to do first is to coop them for the minimum amount of time necessary to get a reliable baseline for how many hens are currently laying.

 

How long is the minimum time necessary to establish that baseline? I had them cooped for about 36 hours and only got 1 egg from 9 hens in that time, but I'm pretty sure that 36 hours is probably too short for a reliable sample.

 

I have about 1/2 of my hens who refuse to roost and prefer to sleep on top of the nest boxes (and poop on them all night too). This half represents the younger chickens that were introduced a couple of months back. I'm afraid that all the poop ON TOP of the boxes is discouraging the hens from laying IN them during the day. Is this a possibility?

 

How do I train these hens to roost rather than sleeping ON TOP of the nest boxes?

post #2 of 6

As long as your coop is large enough, you might try cooping them for 3 days.

 

Are your roosts higher than the top of your nest boxes?  If not raise the roosts or lower the nest boxes.  Birds like to roost at the highest point available.

 

Angle a piece of wood/plywood across the top of the nests so that it is impossible to roost there.

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Friends are the family you make for yourself.
There are no coincidences- only providences.
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post #3 of 6

Depends on the type of chickens you have. If they are heavy layers they should lay one a day if not then every other day so approximately 4 eggs a day. Depending on where you are the shorter hours maybe causing a drop you can set a light up on timer to help encourage them to lay more if it has to do with light hours.

 Not sure of your set up can you block off the top of the boxes with anything for awhile to make it harder for them to sleep on top of them. Are the roosts higher then the boxes? If not they will sometimes sleep inside the boxes or on top of them. 

Hopefully someone else will chime in as I am new to chickens as well but those are my thoughts

post #4 of 6
I’ll assume you are in Kentucky. This time of year for you the main reason they stop laying is the molt. Pullets might or might not lay through the winter their first winter but after that they are pretty much assured to molt and quit laying unless you provide lights. Even then you can have problems.

There are several other reasons they might have stopped laying. Usually it’s because they are hiding a nest. Another real possibility is that something is getting the eggs. If you lock them in the coop or coop and run so they have to lay where you can find the egg or you lock the egg eaters out, you at least know they are laying. So your plan is good.

Different hens lay at different rates. A whole lot of the ones we have that aren’t very old typically lay at least every other day, many more often than that. Your 36 hours should have been long enough to cover most of them. You can try again and hold them for 60 hours if you want. That should be real definitive but I’d have thought 36 hours would have given a pretty good clue. They are probably not laying.

There are different ways to tell if they might be laying but none are definite that they are certain laying, comb and wattle color or width between pelvic bones for example. One way to tell that they are definitely not laying is to look at the vent. If it is large, soft, and moist they might be laying or might be close to laying. If it is small, hard, and dry they are not laying, period.

What you are describing with the young chickens sleeping on top of the nests isn’t unusual, I see that type of stuff all the time when I’m integrating younger chickens. Each brood is different but normally until they reach a maturity level where they can force their way into the pecking order the younger ones are afraid of the older chickens. The older ones can be quite brutal about enforcing the pecking order on the roosts. The younger ones are just looking for a safer place to sleep. If they could not sleep on top of your nests they’d probably be in the nests. I solved that problem by installing an additional roost, lower than the main roosts but higher than the nests and separated from the main roosts horizontally by a few feet. I have 9 juveniles using that roost right now although there is plenty of space on the main roosts. There’s just not enough room on the main roosts for them to not be afraid of the adults.

That intermediate roost is actually right over my nests. I use the top of those nests as a droppings board, which I scrape maybe once a week or maybe once every three weeks, depending on how often I need to. That has not prevented my hens from laying eggs in those nests. I don’t think that is your problem.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sourland View Post
 

As long as your coop is large enough, you might try cooping them for 3 days.

 

Are your roosts higher than the top of your nest boxes?  If not raise the roosts or lower the nest boxes.  Birds like to roost at the highest point available.

 

Angle a piece of wood/plywood across the top of the nests so that it is impossible to roost there.

I may need to raise the roost. Right now it is the same height as the entrance to the nesting boxes. The tops of said boxes are higher than the roost.

 

But I think it's more of a pecking order problem, TBH. The other hens and roo sleep on that lower roost just fine, and there is plenty of room on the roost for 5 more.

 

I have read that it's possible to train the hens to roost by simply moving them after dark. It may take a couple weeks (or maybe longer), but that's not a problem. These hens didn't really roost even when there was no competition with older hens, They've always preferred sitting to sleep.

 

If poop on top of the boxes isn't a problem, I'm not really gonna concern myself with them roosting or not.

 

Thanks for all of the input.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridgerunner View Post

I’ll assume you are in Kentucky. This time of year for you the main reason they stop laying is the molt. Pullets might or might not lay through the winter their first winter but after that they are pretty much assured to molt and quit laying unless you provide lights. Even then you can have problems.

There are several other reasons they might have stopped laying. Usually it’s because they are hiding a nest. Another real possibility is that something is getting the eggs. If you lock them in the coop or coop and run so they have to lay where you can find the egg or you lock the egg eaters out, you at least know they are laying. So your plan is good.

Different hens lay at different rates. A whole lot of the ones we have that aren’t very old typically lay at least every other day, many more often than that. Your 36 hours should have been long enough to cover most of them. You can try again and hold them for 60 hours if you want. That should be real definitive but I’d have thought 36 hours would have given a pretty good clue. They are probably not laying.

There are different ways to tell if they might be laying but none are definite that they are certain laying, comb and wattle color or width between pelvic bones for example. One way to tell that they are definitely not laying is to look at the vent. If it is large, soft, and moist they might be laying or might be close to laying. If it is small, hard, and dry they are not laying, period.

What you are describing with the young chickens sleeping on top of the nests isn’t unusual, I see that type of stuff all the time when I’m integrating younger chickens. Each brood is different but normally until they reach a maturity level where they can force their way into the pecking order the younger ones are afraid of the older chickens. The older ones can be quite brutal about enforcing the pecking order on the roosts. The younger ones are just looking for a safer place to sleep. If they could not sleep on top of your nests they’d probably be in the nests. I solved that problem by installing an additional roost, lower than the main roosts but higher than the nests and separated from the main roosts horizontally by a few feet. I have 9 juveniles using that roost right now although there is plenty of space on the main roosts. There’s just not enough room on the main roosts for them to not be afraid of the adults.

That intermediate roost is actually right over my nests. I use the top of those nests as a droppings board, which I scrape maybe once a week or maybe once every three weeks, depending on how often I need to. That has not prevented my hens from laying eggs in those nests. I don’t think that is your problem.

Thanks!

 

I didn't THINK that poop on top of the boxes would be a problem, but I wasn't sure.

 

I'm fairly confident that molting is a likely issue, at least with the 4 older hens. It was a pretty sudden stop. But the older hens have been known to lay elsewhere. I've had to retrain them 2 or 3 times in 3 years. I haven't seen what I can positively identify as an egg from one of the first year chickens in days. I'm afraid they are nesting elsewhere. I just can't seem to find out where. I'd like to coop them up so I can get a reliable count as to who is doing what.

 

I need to figure out a run. Right now it's possible for a critter to get in and steal eggs, but I just don't think it's the case. I haven't seen any evidence of it. But I would definitely like a way to keep them confined without keeping them locked in the coop. Our old coop had a great run. Our new coop doesn't have one at all. And keeping the food and water in the coop (particularly the water) makes a HUGE mess.

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