Frantic behavior in hen

AshleySGM

Songster
Jun 26, 2018
204
496
136
Easley, SC
I have a hen who started laying a couple weeks ago and she had no problem using the next box. However I recently added one of my other roosters to this laying flock and decided to go ahead and add the 4 pullets who were penned next to them since it had been close to a month. Well after I removed the divider and took down the nest box in that pen, Speck (short for Speckles) decided she no longer wants to lay in the old nest box. She promptly laid an egg on the floor in a nest she made. So I put down boards on the floor in that spot to try to curb this. Well her next egg was in the nest box. Third however was on the other side of the board in the floor again. So I blocked the floor off in the whole end of the run now so she can't do that. So now she paces relentlessly along the fence EAGER to get into the main barn. (Their coop is what use to be the milk parlor 8x10 on the back of the barn, their run is the 9x28 lean-to off one side of the barn.) So they can see the rest of the barn. Day before yesterday I screwed up and forgot to clip the gate closed and with her frantic hopping and poking her head through the fence, she managed to open the door letting herself and the other hens out into the barn. I sent my daughter down ahead of me to collect the chickens and she got everyone except Speck who it took her a while to locate. She'd managed to get in behind the 4 rolls of 330' fence and was nesting preparing to lay her egg. It took my daughter getting her by the tail while I went under her hands and got her legs to lift her straight up and get her out from back there. She resumed the frantic behavior as soon as she was back in the run. She FINALLY got in the nest box that night and laid her egg, I had to put her on the roost after dark since she was laying at dusk. Today she's been frantic again and occasionally does go to the nest box. But mostly she acts crazy in the run, even fluttering flapping up the fence. So I guess my question is, will this pass soon you think or should I possibly remove her and the other Speckled Sussex to another pen with a different rooster so she has less options or what. Do you think she's just wanting to lay elsewhere or do you think she may want to go broody? I'd love ideas and suggestions. Thanks :)
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
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Do you keep fake eggs in your nestboxes? A hen wants to feel safe when laying because they are in an extremely vulnerable position during laying, as well as wanting to protect their future offspring. Your hen obviously isn't thinking this but her instincts drive her. Hence the frantic pacing. When you added new birds she didn't feel as safe, so she looked elsewhere.

Hopefully keeping fake eggs in your nestboxes will show her they are a safe place as other hens already laid there.

New layers can be prone weird behaviors, probably because of hormone surges and instinctual urges are all new to them.
 

AshleySGM

Songster
Jun 26, 2018
204
496
136
Easley, SC
I hadn't thought of that, thank you. :) Yes we actually did originally have a fake egg in either end nest boxes. (Metal 6 hole). However one of the fake eggs disappeared (from the 6th nest which she's never used before). I have a camera on the nests and never saw a snake or evidence of one and I did collect 3 real eggs at the exact time I noticed the fake one was missing and I have been keeping tabs on who's laying so nothing was unaccounted for except the fake egg. So I've yet to locate the fake egg but the first box does still have one. I think she might be getting down to business now finally. She got back in the 2nd box and has been in there a few minutes. She's seriously done this frantic behavior all day long. She's also our friendliest hen and sees me and trys to get me to let her out, but I don't want to smell a rotten egg when it goes bad down the road either.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
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I like the ceramic eggs they sell at the Tractor supply. They have decent weight and look real. I always load my boxes with them when I'm expecting new layers. I put faces on them with a marker so I know which are fake. Sometimes they get scratched out of the boxes and lost in the bedding. They can also get stuck to a hens bottom and travel a bit that way.

What breed is your hen? Some breeds are a bit more flighty and prone to hysteria. Mostly the lighter breed. Those always fly out of the boxes when I approach, the chubbier breeds often can't be pried up.
 

AshleySGM

Songster
Jun 26, 2018
204
496
136
Easley, SC
That's the kind I use too. I checked the boxes, the floor, even outside the coop and the run. No trace of it.

She's a Speckled Sussex. She's definitely dominant to the 4 new girls. She's not even slightly flighty. I can pick her up, pet her. She comes running and always pecks my shoes.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
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Oh a speckled Sussex. :rolleyes: That explains everything. I find them to be weird birds. I'm only on my second one of the breed but never again. They aren't my cup of tea personally.

I would continue to block her wants as far as laying. She should eventually go back to the boxes hopefully.
 

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