Chickens hiding!!!


Aug 16, 2016
I am new to this forum and to raising chickens. I got 6 baby Rhode Island Reds back in April and and picked up some Buff Orpingtons around the same time that were 3 months old. I have been patiently waiting for just one egg since mid july. I put the RIR with the Buffs around late june because they were big enough. I kept all the chickens in their coop until late June and let them free range. I find them going into the woods alot and I thought it was just to look for bugs or to beat the heat in the shade. Well today I looked in the coop to clean it out and found 5 eggs. 2 large and 3 small eggs, but they were on the coop floor all together, not in the laying boxes I have for them. I have been reading up on this behavior, going in the woods and suspect maybe there is a hidden nest out there. I have 12 hens and 2 roosters. Tonite, I re arranged the nest boxes for easier acces and put 1 egg in each box to help them get the idea about the box. After doing a head count I am missing 2 Hens.???? Maybe they are in the woods on an illegal nest? I locked the rest of the crew down in the coop, and not gonna let them out for a day or 2 to see who is laying and how many.
Like I said I am new trying to figure out how to help them learn about where to lay/nest. I let them out around 6 and they make thier way back around dark. So I think maybe in a couple days I will let them out in the late afternoon, keep an eye on them until dark. Any suggestions about the illegal nest and the missing 2 hens? Dont want any bad habits starting .


7 Years
Jul 29, 2013
Southern Illinois
Welcome to BYC! I would've done the same thing by putting the eggs in the nest boxes. They usually catch on after a while. Their natural instinct is to find a darker, cozier spot to nest. If your hens haven't been laying very long, I doubt they will stay with a nest. That's not saying they don't have a nest somewhere in the woods, but I haven't seen many young pullets go have the urge to hatch babies (go broody), which is usually the only reason they'll sit on a nest for extended periods of time. However, with animals anything is possible. It also very possible that your two birds fell prey to a predator in the woods, or maybe got turned around and couldn't find their way back. I'd take a thorough walk through the woods and look for nests and/or feathers, especially in the areas you've seen your birds ranging. Big clumps of feathers is typically not a good sign. Hopefully that's not the case. Best of luck and I hope you find them. Keep the thread updated if you wish.

drumstick diva

Still crazy after all these years.
Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Aug 26, 2009
Out to pasture
I don't think chickens would consider it an illegal nest and no chicken police would incarcerate them over it. They just aren't laying where you want them to. When you free range, they probably just drop eggs whenever and where ever they happen to be. Add predators to the picture and that can be another reason for missing birds.

You could try keeping them cooped longer in the morning till they have a chance to lay eggs, But some hens prefer to lay in the evening. If you really want to know if they are laying and how many are laying, set up an enclosed run with top (to keep predators out) . Forget about free ranging for now - then can be in the coop or run. Eggs will have to be laid somewhere you can find them. Maybe they will get in the habit of laying first, free ranging later.


Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
If the missing 2 don't came back for several nights running, they may have been eaten.

If they come back during the day to eat/drink,
then don't come back at night I would suspect someone has gone broody out in the range area

Free range birds sometimes need to be 'trained'(or re-trained) to lay in the coop nests, especially new layers. Leaving them locked in the coop for 3-4 days can help 'home' them to lay in the coop nests. Fake eggs/golf balls in the nests can help 'show' them were to lay. They can be confined to coop 24/7 for a few days to a week, or confine them at least until mid to late afternoon. You help them create a new habit and they will usually stick with it. least for a good while, then repeat as necessary.
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chickens really

Crazy Mother of Goats
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Sep 8, 2015
The Funny Farm....Alberta, Canada
Easier method....Do not let them out to free range. Keep them in the coop and run till they get the hang of using the nest boxes.
As you stated, it will become a bad habit.
In a week they will settle in and use the nests you provided.

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