Do I Need to Set Up a Nest for My Free-Ranging Chickens?

greytgrey

Chirping
Jul 25, 2019
27
123
79
Jonestown, TX
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My Coop
Our chickens could start laying soon, and they've started ranging out in our very forested, unkempt, past-the-fence back yard. If they lay their eggs out there, we'll never find them because we'd need to bushwhack almost an entire acre, and there's no way we'll do that every day.

So.

Do we need to make a place inside the fenced area where it's overt that we'd prefer they lay or are they just going to drop them where they want? As far as I've seen, they don't roost/rest out back; they do that in our fenced yard of about 1/3 of an acre, which is easily accessible. Then again, I can't always see them when they're out back, so they might be lounging out there, too.

Should we do something, or just wait and see?

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greytgrey

Chirping
Jul 25, 2019
27
123
79
Jonestown, TX
My Coop
My Coop
Do they have a coop for nighttime? People usually just put the nesting boxes in the coop. You can add a few golf balls to encourage them to lay there. :)

They do! And I have several nesting boxes up high and on the ground in there. They just never spend time in there during the day, so I wasn't sure whether they'd lay in there or not. Will definitely get some "eggs" out there ASAP. :) Thanks!
 

greytgrey

Chirping
Jul 25, 2019
27
123
79
Jonestown, TX
My Coop
My Coop
Do they return to the coop at night?
Be glad they don't hang out in the nest boxes during the day ... Put some golf balls in the nest. How "high" is high? How many layers vs nest boxes?

They do return to the coop at night.

We have eight 12 x 12 nesting boxes, stacked (like 4 boxes on top of 4 other boxes) about 5 feet in the air, because the "coop" was initially a pigeon loft. I've added a ramp (that they've used) and a kind of "running board" since I don't know whether they could fly up into the boxes from the ground. Then I got 3 wooden "box crates" from Walmart to put on the ground with straw in them. We have 6 hens.
 

Mimi13

fuhgettaboutit
Premium Feather Member
Jan 6, 2018
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I would block off the upper two rows of nest boxes. They are too high and probably won’t be used, for laying anyway. As your pullets reach egg laying age you will need to keep them cooped for the majority of the day for a week or two. This will not only “force” them to lay in the nest boxes, but it will “teach” them this is where they should lay. Birds left to their own devices will find nesting spots you don’t approve of, especially if they have a rooster showing them every nook and cranny. Most birds are through laying by mid-afternoon if you want to let them out to free range after that. Good luck.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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Should we do something, or just wait and see?
If you want to be able to find the eggs, do this...
As your pullets reach egg laying age you will need to keep them cooped for the majority of the day for a week or two. This will not only “force” them to lay in the nest boxes, but it will “teach” them this is where they should lay. Birds left to their own devices will find nesting spots you don’t approve of, especially if they have a rooster showing them every nook and cranny. Most birds are through laying by mid-afternoon if you want to let them out to free range after that. Good luck.

Here's some tips on how to tell....
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/who-is-laying-and-who-is-not-butt-check.73309/


I would block off the upper two rows of nest boxes. They are too high and probably won’t be used, for laying anyway.
I was wondering about this too... @greytgrey are they sleeping in these high nests?
 

greytgrey

Chirping
Jul 25, 2019
27
123
79
Jonestown, TX
My Coop
My Coop
@greytgrey are they sleeping in these high nests?

They aren't. They sleep out on the "flight deck" we had for the pigeons; it's about 4 feet off of the ground. It's "outside" and cooler, so great for Austin summer but I think they'll likely move inside during the winter. And, actually, before it got really hot, two of them did sleep in a couple of the boxes on the lower level. So we'll see when it gets cooler.

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I'll go check out the laying readiness post now! Thanks, everyone.
 

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