Egg Laying with Truly Free Ranging Hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lisamairey, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. Lisamairey

    Lisamairey Out Of The Brooder

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    My flock has freedom to roam over our property during the day. Naturally, they have a coop and a run as well, but they are outside of this from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are just now at the egg-laying stage. Will they return to their nesting boxes to lay? Should I change up the routine, keep them penned longer in the morning, put them to bed earlier in the day? I am looking forward to eggs, but also want the ladies to be happy and active. Any words of wisdom?
     
  2. mortie

    mortie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They don't know you want them to lay in the boxes. They will lay in places they think are good places. Under the deck, in the bushes, etc. I had mine free ranging most of the day as well, but when I could tell they were getting really close, I kept them in the run most of the day and let them out in the evening. The nest boxes are, after all, the best places to lay within my run/coop. Right now, after they're done laying I've been letting them out. Just today I see that maybe another one is getting close so I've been keeping them in longer.

    Once they are laying regularly, I'll have to see what they do. Hopefully they'll be in the habit of laying in the box but I know if they find a better spot, they won't hesitate to start a rouge nest in the bushes or under the deck where I won't find them...I'm not to that point yet.

    If you're not as uptight as I am, maybe try just keeping them penned up in the morning and let them out in the afternoon. You could just keep letting them range and see what they do, but they don't automatically lay in the provided box...there are probably some that free range and manage to lay in the box from day one but I know mine would probably view some alternative places outside the run as MUCH better nesting sites, just to spite me :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  3. Lisamairey

    Lisamairey Out Of The Brooder

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    Okay. Got it. But, how do you know when "they are really close" to laying? Another thread said that the chickens won't lay at the same time of day. I'd hate to keep them locked up all day. They will hate it.
     
  4. mortie

    mortie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They don't necessarily lay the same time each day. So far mine has been before 8 every day, but that doesn't mean it always will, or that as the others start they won't lay at odd hours.

    The first clue I had was one of them started squatting. When I knew she was really close, though, was when she started making nests and singing the eggsong. It was only a couple of days after she started singing the egg song.

    Mine are quite used to being out all day long but they were also fine with being kept in the run most of the day. Anyway, who is driving this train, me or the chickens?? ;) They are completely spoiled so I didn't think a little extra confinement would kill them.

    Until I am reasonably sure they are really in the habit of putting the eggs in the box, what I will probably do is check around noon or so. I have 6 birds. If there are 4 or more eggs in the box, they may be done for the day and if one lays an egg somewhere in the yard it's not the end of the world so I will let them out then.

    But I have barely enough birds to keep my egg loving family in eggs at peak production, so every egg is important to me. Maybe you have more birds or just are more laid back than me. In which case, a few eggs in the yard aren't a big deal. If you know where they're laying them then all you have to do is pick them up from wherever that is. The point is they won't automatically put them in the next box if there is somewhere else more appealing to them. My problem is I have a HUGE deck that is less than 2 feet off the ground and I am POSITIVE they would see that as a SUPER DUPER place to lay and if they did, not only would I not ever see the eggs, but I would certainly never get any. Although I am sure they would rather range all day, getting out in the afternoon works for them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  5. Lisamairey

    Lisamairey Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you SO much! Very informative! I'll keep them penned a little longer in the morning and see what happens.

    I also have a flock of six: two buff orpingtons, two rhode island reds and two barred rock. The buffs are the absolute BEST!

    What's an egg song? I'm learning chicken speak, but don't think I've heard that one yet. I can translate: "I'm lost," "I want out," "Here comes dinner," "I want more sunflower seeds, give 'em to me NOW," and "I love mealy worms." But I haven't heard an egg song.

    I had a baby 28 years ago...so I imagine an egg song is something like a deep and mournful monk chant that is chicken speak for "I am suffering, I am suffering. I am suffering." Am I close?
     
  6. mortie

    mortie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No. It's more like

    HEY! EVERYONE! NEIGHBORS! PEOPLE A MILE AWAY! GUESSSSS WHAT!!!!!! I LAID AN EGG!!!!!

    It goes like this:
    BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK BUH GOK! Repeat several times, at the top of her lungs.


    [​IMG]
     
  7. Lisamairey

    Lisamairey Out Of The Brooder

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    Wow! LOL! I will keep my ears open! Amazing egg songs! Thanks so much for sharing!

    And they sing after laying, right, not before?
     
  8. mortie

    mortie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    mine practiced for a couple days before she laid an egg. Usually they sing it after but the can also sing it before, durring...you name it. There are no absolutes with chickens, it seems.
     
  9. Lisamairey

    Lisamairey Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you, Mortie! I've learned a lot! This is a great forum and I'm happy to have found it! There is honestly nothing that compares to the voice of experience. I appreciate your time and your thoughtful comments and advice.
     
  10. ShockValue

    ShockValue Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I free range my chickens too. They aren't laying yet, but they're getting close. I've placed golf balls in the nesting boxes to try and lure them in. Apparently if they see an egg someplace, they assume it's a decent place to lay and will follow suit. We'll see how that goes.

    Every few days I'll take a hen and physically put her in the box. Typically they stay there just long enough to see that I'm not holding them anymore and they can safely escape, which is fine. I just want to make sure they know it's OK to go in there. :)

    I know all of their typical hang-outs though, so just as long as they don't get sneaky (which I'm sure they will.....) I hope I can find them if the boxes don't work.
     

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