Deter Nesting Box Sleep w/out Blocking Off - Nearing POL

Dreammaker

Chirping
Mar 21, 2021
53
117
91
Massachusetts
Hello!

Has anyone had success training a pullet (4-5 months old) to sleep on the roost instead of the nesting box without blocking off the nesting box?

Here's our setup for context:
Flock: 6 pullets 16-20 weeks old (approximately), mixed breeds. Pullet in question is an ISA Brown. None laying just yet.
Henhouse: 5x6 house with two-tier roosting bars. Roost space is approx. 9 linear feet. Made of 2x4s with broad side facing up.
Nesting Boxes: At or below level of lowest roosting bar, across from roost (so, on opposite side of coop). 4 12" cubes, filled with straw.
Door: Automatic door set to open at 7 AM, close at 7 PM.

Situation: ISA Brown is near top of pecking order and is becoming redder and more outgoing and vocal, but not laying yet. I suspect that's maybe 2-4 weeks away, possibly longer because of shortening days. She is the only one who favors sleeping in the box. The others all roost in the same position every night. ISA Brown was doing great after a couple weeks training (physically nudging her out of the box after dusk and she'd then roost on her own). She was at the point where I'd just knock on the nesting box or undo the carabiner and she'd know the drill... haha Within the last few days, she has started hopping up to roost and at some point during the night or early AM, makes her way back to the nesting box. I check at about 10 AM each day to find several droppings. I'm not sure how she'd get there once it's dark. Little bugger probably waits until I've walked back to the house after "tucking her in..." 😆 I would be thrilled if this was a sign of impending eggs! I'd rather not block off the nesting boxes, since it'd be a bit of inconvenience and because I'm not sure if/when any of them will lay. I wouldn't want to block it off and ta da, they've laid an egg outside the box and have started a new bad habit I'd have to break. But, I admit that cleaning the boxes is a pain...

Questions: Do I suck it up and block off the nesting boxes? If so, how do I know when to remove the barrier? Can I use cardboard or do I need to use wood, as they could peck and eat cardboard? Do fake eggs deter sleeping in nesting boxes?
 

Dreammaker

Chirping
Mar 21, 2021
53
117
91
Massachusetts
This is their roost. The one thing that may help is if I cut off the little piece in the middle of the top bar. It's there for added support but may not be needed. For the last week or two, the remaining 5 girls sleep on the top right "quadrant." For a while, ISA Brown would be on the left next to that top middle piece, still able to touch/snuggle somewhat with the girl next to her. Perhaps she's getting cooler at night now and the nesting box gives her necessary warmth? This has been happening in warm weather too though.
20211019_112233.jpg
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 3, 2016
17,896
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WA, Pac NW
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I'd block the nests at night, and yes cardboard is fine. I currently have 1 chicken that loves the nest boxes even though she has no issues roosting if she can't get in, so we put up a couple piece of cardboard in the evening, and then uncover it hours later (we have a schedule when we let out the dogs so it's just timed that way). Some chickens are just... jerks, and even with roost space prefer the confines of a nest box.

If that works for a while (few weeks, a month) you can try leaving it uncovered again and see if she's broken the habit.
 

Dreammaker

Chirping
Mar 21, 2021
53
117
91
Massachusetts
I'd block the nests at night, and yes cardboard is fine. I currently have 1 chicken that loves the nest boxes even though she has no issues roosting if she can't get in, so we put up a couple piece of cardboard in the evening, and then uncover it hours later (we have a schedule when we let out the dogs so it's just timed that way). Some chickens are just... jerks, and even with roost space prefer the confines of a nest box.

If that works for a while (few weeks, a month) you can try leaving it uncovered again and see if she's broken the habit.
Thanks! Glad to hear cardboard is ok to use, since we have plenty of it! *Shhh* I do kind of enjoy getting to pet her fluffy bum when I nudge her out of the box. ;-)
 

Dreammaker

Chirping
Mar 21, 2021
53
117
91
Massachusetts
Thought I'd share a quick update. Our dear Ginny managed to bust down the cardboard barricades to not one but both blocked off boxes! 🤦‍♀️ She is persistent! I will have to try taping them; I only had them leaning against the opening and thought that was enough.

There's another one that I left open because we have a new layer whose 2 eggs have been found after dark and first thing I'm the AM, so I want for her to have it available to lay in rather than seeing it's blocked and laying on the coop floor.

I'll keep at Ms. Ginny... Thanks as always for the input. Love BYC!

Do you think maybe she'll change her ways when she's older and laying?
 

Sally PB

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Aug 7, 2020
8,425
36,936
933
Belding, MI
Questions: Do I suck it up and block off the nesting boxes? If so, how do I know when to remove the barrier? Can I use cardboard or do I need to use wood, as they could peck and eat cardboard? Do fake eggs deter sleeping in nesting boxes?
I had problems with the pullets sleeping in the nest box. I blocked them off. They found another spot. I left them unblocked. They stayed in their new spot. Problem solved!

Nope. They started doing it again. Yes, there is plenty of roost space, and they have their own roost, so they don't have to deal with the adult birds.

I finally had to use pieces of board to block off the nests again. I have to unblock one in the morning for the one laying hen, then block it off an hour or so before dusk.

I have a fake egg in each nest box, and that didn't dissuade them at all. Silly birds.
 

Dreammaker

Chirping
Mar 21, 2021
53
117
91
Massachusetts
I had problems with the pullets sleeping in the nest box. I blocked them off. They found another spot. I left them unblocked. They stayed in their new spot. Problem solved!

Nope. They started doing it again. Yes, there is plenty of roost space, and they have their own roost, so they don't have to deal with the adult birds.

I finally had to use pieces of board to block off the nests again. I have to unblock one in the morning for the one laying hen, then block it off an hour or so before dusk.

I have a fake egg in each nest box, and that didn't dissuade them at all. Silly birds.
Oh man... I really hope I don't need to unblock it early in the AM. With a 4, 3, and 1 year old my ability to stay in bed past 7 is a treasure! I may seriously need to have my husband build an automatic sliding door to cover them that we can set on a timer.

I'm hoping this is pullet immaturity and she'll wisen up when she starts laying (hopefully) in the box(es).
 

jennifside

In the Brooder
Nov 9, 2021
3
17
21
I have a question regarding the box, if they sleep in there, what is the potential problem? yes, I am a new chicken mom and my girls are just encroaching on the 18 week mark, no eggs yet. will not having a clear place to lay, deter them from laying?
 

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