I have 4 hens (2 Barred Rock and 2 Dom's). They will be a full year old in May this year, they took FOREVER to begin laying (I think they were a full 26-28 weeks before we began to get eggs. They are now good little layers! We do supplement light in the "run" area as they are fully enclosed (too many predators to free range). They have a coop with one plastic nesting box, a roost made out of 2x4 that is about 10 inches higher than entrance to nesting box, but only about 6 inches in front. There really isn't any other way to configure it. They have NEVER used the roost. The coop then has a ramp that leads to an outside semi-enclosed area that then leads into the "Run" ..... where food and water is hung, treats are given, the light is up in a top corner so they can't access. There are no roosting options in this area. The light is on a timer as we loose day light here around 445-5pm... they "go to bed" then! :) The timer comes on at 3 am... to be honest, I have no idea when they actually "wake up" or come out of the coop... I'm sleeping. I check coop before I leave for work at 830 am as we are below freezing this time of year. Usually then I have 2 eggs... sometimes warm, sometimes starting to get very cold. (Have already had 3 eggs freeze/crack, example to kids to help check after school). The coop is checked again after school/early evening/before hen bed time around 3-430ish? Most always another 2 eggs. Some times not. I have noticed my hens tend to have a pattern of laying usually every day for 3 days, then take a day off. They also seem to usually lay before 10 am (which is why I make sure the kids check as soon as getting home from school). I've checked some mornings and had 7 eggs there! hahaha... I thought WOW LADIES... you have been busy... when in reality, they clearly laid late in the day and then again early in the morning. Those days, I don't usually get another 4 eggs.
OK... so... onto my questions... when we first did this set up... oh... the coop is covered in a soft pine shaving bedding (bought at farm supply store, actually says it's for equine, hens love it)... anyways, they gathered in the corner where the nesting box was at.
In reading other posts, my mistake, I never should have allowed the nesting box in there until they were about to lay.
Next, they lay so close together that it looks more like only 2 hens, not 4. I figured it was a sisterly thing to do! :) And... it's cold... they are doing fine with that. There was poop OUTSIDE the nesting box, sort of near the roost, so I had hope they were using it, but I never caught them doing so. Their poop was also much runnier... more like what you'd imagine pigeon poop to be, if it were slightly thickened?
Over the past few weeks, I've noticed more and more poop INSIDE the nesting box (I use a hand rake to scoop out as I don't want the hens laying in it) AND the poop is getting MUCH thicker... almost like those bouncy balls you get for a quarter in front of the grocery store. BIG, round... ??? I haven't noticed any of the hens appearing injured or in duress (like constipation) and in reality, it makes for cleaning out the nesting box easier.
HOWEVER... this morning I noticed there was also FRESH urine... they are clearly using their nesting boxes for EVERYTHING!
In the Spring I want to add 4 more different breeds (I have plans to build a different coop for the new ones and I don't think I will ever integrate the two groups?) There are things I have learned from this first group.....
But now I'm worried I'm going to have to deal with poppy eggs forever. It was something I prided myself on... NOT having poppy eggs, keeping a very clean coop.
What can I do??????