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Nest Box Overcrowding.

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I have four chickens and three nesting boxes.  My girls aren't laying yet but have started taking an interest in the nesting boxes.  They sleep in them.  I've read people say to not let them sleep in the nesting box, but short of sleeping out there with them (no thanks), I can't keep them out of them once they're put up for the night.  The perch is right below the boxes, too.

 

Anyway, the overcrowding is three chickens taking claim to one nest.  The fourth chicken (my dominant girl) has her own box and one sits unused.  They've just started doing this less than a week ago.  Even with a flashlight the other night I could only count three in the coop and was looking around the run for a straggler.  Then I opened the lid to the nesting box and physically touched three bodies in the one nest to know they were all in the coop.  And in the morning when I open the coop and let them out for breakfast it sounds like the Three Stooges inside the coop with all three untangling themselves and getting out of the one nest.  

 

Is there anyway to lure them to another nesting box or is this just something they'll have to figure out for themselves?  BTW-it's not for warmth sake they're snuggled up together.  I'm in Florida and the lows have been in the low 60's this week.

post #2 of 4

I'd suggest that you either block off your nest boxes after they have laid or ensure that the roost is higher than the nests - nothing worse than having to clean nest boxes out, not to mention eggs covered in poo. 

 

Hens always seem to favour certain nest boxes, so don't worry about that - its got nothing to do with keeping warm together  - its just what they do. You could try putting fake eggs, golf balls in the other nests to try and encourage them to use the other nests if you wish.

CT

Nairobi, Kenya
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Nairobi, Kenya
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post #3 of 4
The reason most people prefer them to not sleep in the nests is that they poop a lot when they sleep. Most people prefer to not have poopy eggs. Other than the poopy eggs I don’t know of any real problems with them sleeping in the nests. I also don’t know why you are concerned about spreading them out? Chickens are social animals and like to be close to others. You are right, it has nothing to do with them being cold.

Where they sleep has nothing to do with where they lay their eggs. You might get lucky and they will use the empty one. It’s really normal for all or most of the hens to all lay in the same nest anyway.

Chickens normally like to sleep on the highest place available. Some of that depends on the pecking order, the chickens highest in the pecking order get to sleep wherever they want, and the rest have to make do. Since you mention that the perch (or roost) is below the nests it is natural that they sleep in the nests.

I don’t know what your coop looks like. I’m guessing with just four chickens it will be one of those little prefab ones. A lot of people use them but most are not really designed that well for chickens. Your roost is too low. You have three nests which is more than you need for four hens. I don’t know how many chickens the advertising said that coop would hold, but the real number is usually about half of what they say at the most.

If you have room, I suggest raising that perch or installing a new one higher than the nests. They might move up to it, but they are probably in the habit of sleeping in the nests so you might need to intervene. You don’t have to sleep out there with them to do that. There are a couple of different approaches.

You say they are not laying yet but I’m not sure how close they are to laying. You can try blocking the nests in the late afternoon so they can’t go in the nests to sleep and force them to find a new spot. With a higher roost they will probably move to it. Just open the nests back up early the next morning so if they do start to lay they have a chance to learn to lay in the nests or you will have another habit to break.

Another approach is to wait until they go to bed and it’s too dark out there for them to see. Take them out of the nests and set them on that higher roost. If it’s too dark for them to see they should stay there and soon get in the habit of sleeping up there.

I don’t know of any way you can force them to not sleep together. They are living animals and will do what they want. You can train and influence them as to where they sleep, but some really like to sleep close together.

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 #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the information.  No, the coop isn't a prefab, store bought one.  We repurposed a large machine shipping crate for the coop.  The roost is going to have to stay where it is because it can't go higher because of the construction of the nesting boxes.  And since they roost at the highest spot, the nesting boxes it is.  I'm fine with them in nests.  Just was wondering.

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