Chickens won't use nesting box

Dizzylizzy0420

Hatching
Oct 21, 2018
2
5
6
Got my first egg today! It was a tiny little thing, but still exciting. One of my hens has been wondering around making this squawking sound all week. Now I'm thinking she was trying to tell us that she wanted to lay an egg but couldn't find a suitable spot. So, here's my question: Why won't she use the nesting box? My chickens mostly free range, so knowing that they are close to that egg laying age I've been checking out bushes for a while and nothing. Today I decided to keep em cooped up thinking that would encourage her to use the nesting box. Instead she laid the egg right on the coop floor! I set up two perfectly good (clean!) nesting boxes using milk crates (which I've heard from friends work just fine) and instead she lays right on the poopy floor. I elevated the nesting boxes after reading they prefer that, but it seems like all the spots she was checking out are on the floor. Should I lower the nesting boxes? Or are my hens divas that won't lay in a dressed up milk crate. I also put a little plastic ball in one of the boxes hearing that would encourage them only to find it on the coop floor one day.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
96,782
130,859
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SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Pics of nests might help us spot any problems.
Fake eggs are good.
But new layers can take some time to figure things out,
especially if there are no older birds to show them they way.
 

chickens really

Crazy Mother of Goats
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Sep 8, 2015
62,661
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The Funny Farm....Alberta, Canada
Hello..Keep them locked in till noon. Pullets generally start exploring nest boxes before they begin laying. She needed to lay so did On the floor. I personally have never used fake eggs. I just provide straw and pine shavings in my nests and keep them locked in till noon.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,532
20,841
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Southeast Louisiana
Different things could be going on. Many pullets go through a certain routine before and as they lay their first egg. About a week before they lay it, they start looking around for a good nesting site. That can involve scratching. Since you found that plastic ball on the coop floor it may mean one was checking out your nest and scratched it out. That may mean you need to raise the lip on the nest to make it harder to scratch out. Or it may mean that ball was so light it really went flying. I use golf balls, those wooden or ceramic eggs can work well as fake eggs too. If you use a lightweight plastic egg you might need to fill it with something like sand and seal it to weigh it down.

Fake eggs work with some pullets and hens, they don't with others. They improve your odds of getting a pullet to lay where you want her to but you don't get guarantees with any chicken behaviors. Sometimes they do what you would expect, sometimes they do not. I one had a mature hen regularly laying in a nest with a gold ball. That gold ball got scratched out onto the coop floor, that's where the hen laid that day's egg. When I moved the golf ball back to the nest and raised the lip she went back to laying in the nest. You could tell she had purposely laid on the floor because of the depression in the bedding.

Sometimes though you get a pullet that doesn't seem to understand that she is about to lay an egg. She does not look for a nest but just drops her first egg or eggs wherever she happens to be. That could be from the roosts at night or just walking around. Practically all of these catch on pretty quickly and do start laying in a nest. I do not find it a cause for concern to find a pullet's first eggs under the roost or on the floor as long as they are random. If they start showing up exactly in the same place then she has decided that spot is her nest and it can be challenging to change her mind.

Another possibility is that she had a hidden nest (they can be really hard to find) so when you locked her in the coop she could not get to her nest and just dropped it while pacing around, tying to get to that nest. Locking them up when you suspect they may be hiding a nest is a good strategy. At least you know they are laying. When they have a hidden nest and you lock them up they tend to pace the boundary, acting really nervous or even desperate to get out.

It sounds like you left them locked in the coop itself, not coop and run. I'm glad your coop is big enough you can do that. I don't know what is going on with her. One suggestion is to put a heavier fake egg in at least one nest, it might help, it might not. Photos of your nests would be interesting, we might spot something. But there are no real rules as to what a nest has to look like. There are a few threads on here showing what we use as nests. If you find one of those you can quickly see there are no rules. My nests are at two different levels. Some use the higher nests, some the lower. I've had some hens lay in a dark secluded spot. Others lay on top of something that is not dark at all. You can try different things of you wish, it might help, it might not. If that was one of her first eggs you might not even have a problem.

If you can I'd leave them locked in the coop or preferably coop and run until she is at least laying in the same spot each time. At least you will know where to look for the egg.

Reading you post I did not see anything that that screams you have a problem. It's pretty normal for me to find a pullet's first egg somewhere other than n a nest, even with older hens showing them where to lay. That happens a lot less often when you have older hens tutoring them but it still happens. Good luck and congratulations on that egg! And welcome to the forum.
 

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