Clarification please...poopy nesting boxes...not sleeping in them

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by leanna1120, Jan 7, 2015.

  1. leanna1120

    leanna1120 Out Of The Brooder

    46
    2
    36
    Sep 18, 2014
    Wisconsin
    I am a first time chicken Mommy and I need some clarification. I have seven 22 week old pullets and four 14 week old pullets. They are integrated into my 8 X 8 coop nicely and all of them sleep on the roosts. I recently opened up the nesting boxes because, in my inexperienced eye, a few of my older girls are starting to look like they're getting ready to lay. I was under the impression that if the girls aren't sleeping in the nest boxes they should remain relatively poop free...but that has not been the case at all for me. I have sand on my coop floor and initially used pine shavings in the nest boxes so they had something soft to fluff up and lay eggs on. I've switched to sand in the nest boxes hoping it wouldn't be as inviting for them to hang out in during the day. I have checked them almost every evening to assure they are not sleeping in the nest boxes..and they are not. So why are the nest boxes so poopy??? Will that change once a few of them start laying eggs?
     
  2. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    10,774
    4,204
    501
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Your 22 week olds are "playing house " in the nest boxes, exploring them getting ready to lay, and pooping in them is normal. Once this exploratory phase has passed, you shouldn't have the poop problem, although occasionally poop can slip out with the egg.

    I question sand for the laying boxes. It may not cushion the egg adequately, resulting in broken eggs. I would return to wood shavings in the nests. It shouldn't invite them to poop any more than other nest materials, and if a hen steps on the egg, it should just get pushed harmlessly into the shavings. Sand isn't that resilient.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,627
    4,130
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Azygous I’m not sure about that. I think the 14 week olds are so much lower in the pecking order that they are hiding from the older pullets in the nest boxes. Until the 14-week-olds mature enough to make their way in the pecking order they will continue to avoid the older pullets. That has nothing to do with integration, it’s just one of the problems of having younger chickens in the flock.

    I don’t know how to solve that one Leanna if I’m right. A lot of it is a matter of space but also a safe place for the younger to get away from the older. When mine are stuck in the coop, either when I’m late letting them out in the morning or with the cold wind like I have today, mine will often hide under the nests. That space is pretty tight so they can get away from the older hens that way. The younger are also usually up on the roosts while the older are on the floor. Anything they can do to stay away from the older hens. They don’t hide in the nests but I think that’s because I have several laying and those run the younger ones out. Usually if the weather is decent the younger ones just stay out in the run. With your climate the run may not always be a good place for them to go.

    What can you do other than wait another two or three months and the young ones mature? Try to create as much space for them as you can. That may mean blocking off part of the run to keep wind and snow out of it. Maybe put up another roost if you can to give them more space away from the older ones. Make sure it is high enough the older cannot peck the young one’s feet from the floor. Create spaces they can hide in or behind, maybe by purring boxes on the floor or building a wall they can hide behind. And go to the coop during the day if you can and not too gently toss them out of the nests where they are hiding unless they are of laying age.

    If I’m right you have a challenging problem. Good luck!
     
  4. leanna1120

    leanna1120 Out Of The Brooder

    46
    2
    36
    Sep 18, 2014
    Wisconsin
    Ridgerunner I think you may be right. Because of the bitter -9 temperatures and windchill the girls have been pretty much confined to the coop. I do find the youngsters hiding behind a bin I have on the floor and they are certainly continuing to avoid the older ladies. If it is a matter of maturity...I don't mind that too much. I'm fine cleaning out the nesting boxes regularly at this point if it isn't likely a long term issue. Hopefully this polar vortex and nasty windchill will dissipate by the end of the week and they can wander outside again. I've given them plenty of hiding spaces out there.

    Azygous I agree with you about sand in the boxes and I will add shavings back for them today. In my inexperience I thought maybe they gravitated to the shavings because they found them more comfortable.

    Thank you both so much for your input!! This is why I love the BYC community!! [​IMG]
     
  5. pdirt

    pdirt Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,612
    197
    198
    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    I think both may be right.

    It is normal have some poop in the nest boxes. A little, not a lot. It may be a combo of the younger ones hiding from the older ones and the older ones testing out the boxes.

    We have 20 hens/pullets and 4 nest boxes. Not all are presently laying. I clean a few turds out of each box perhaps once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less.
     
  6. leanna1120

    leanna1120 Out Of The Brooder

    46
    2
    36
    Sep 18, 2014
    Wisconsin
    When I cleaned out the nesting boxes tonight it was obvious that both the older and younger ladies had been in there. There is a distinct difference in the size of the droppings between the 2 groups:) Looks like a combination of both theories is right! Lets hope they mature out of this habit. I worked so hard to make sure they aren't sleeping in there to avoid this issue!!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    36,702
    10,445
    686
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I too find the occasional turn in the nests, my birds range from 11 months and 3 years old.

    I like straw for the nests as it holds together better against scratching, especially once they form a nice 'bowl' in it....
    ...and it's different materiel from the shavings on the floor and the sand/pdz on the roost boards.
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    20,919
    10,356
    636
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    Leanna, you have a nice sized coop. can you get 3 bales of hay and set them up so that there are 2 on the bottom, with one on the top, and some nice space between the 2 lower ones. they'll have the lower space for a hidey spot, and they'll have no end of fun exploring those bales and picking at them.
     
  9. leanna1120

    leanna1120 Out Of The Brooder

    46
    2
    36
    Sep 18, 2014
    Wisconsin
    I like that idea! Thanks!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by