Getting close to our first egg...I have some questions!


May 2, 2016
Huntingdon County, PA
Okay so, our first ever chickens are getting close to laying. We have 1 about 20 weeks (a hen without question), 4 about 17 weeks (all are suspected cockerels), and 6 about 14 weeks (1 possible cockerel, the rest hens).

Some of the hens are getting red in the face, though their combs aren't growing much yet.
The 20 week old looks to be a RIR or something similar. The 14 week hens are black sex links.

So here are my questions:
Our chickens free range (no enclosure or fencing at all). How do I know when they start laying? What if they don't lay in the coop but in the flower beds, gardens or woods? is there a way to convince them to lay in the coop?

Our permanent nesting boxes aren't built yet, but I put a bin in the corner of the coop with some bedding in it.

Thanks for all the help.
When your hens start squatting for you within that week to week in a half they will lay their first eggs. Mine started squatting close to a week ago. Daily i look for my eggs. The longest ive had to wait after squatting is a week in s half. What i mean by squatting is litteral, they will squat down when you approach or pet them. First their combs become very red. Then they squat . Then you get your eggs. Hope this helps you out. Best wishes.
Do you live in a world without predators? We too are new at this. We have six hens @ 19 weeks, 1 BR, 2 BSLs and 3 Buff Brahmas. The largest BSL began laying a week or so ago and they are perfect (albeit small) eggs. They have all been placed in the provided nest box next to the ceramic eggs. She began singing the egg song several days b4 actually laying. When the day finally arrived she i stinctivly sought out the clean and safe nest box leaving her egg next to the fake ones. She has produced an egg about every day and seems very pleased with herself. We expect the BR or the smaller BSL eill be next to produce but neither has begun practicing the egg song.

Put some golf balls or ceramic eggs in the nest box and your girls should figure it out.
If they free range all day, likely they will find somewhere else to lay - and may be difficult to get them to relocate to the nests?

They lay on a cycle of early am, later each laying day until quite late in the afternoon, skip a day or so and start early they can lay anytime ( not just in the mornings). If you are home and can see/hear them, most will announce a laid egg with the egg laying song and move away from the nest spot.

IMO you may already have some laying at 20 weeks of age.

To get more opines, you may try posting the question of how to get free rangers to lay in the coop nests under the Chicken Behaviors and Egg Laying Forum.

Mine live in confinement, so haven't dealt with this issue, but have read other's suggestions to confine the pullets until they get used to laying in the nests and then resume free ranging.
thanks for the info. I didn't know about the egg song, so now I do.

I only have 1 at 20ish weeks and the rest of my hens are 14 weeks, but the 14 weekers are black sex links and I know that they can lay early (in the 16-18 week range) so I want to be prepared.

I will be listening for the song.

Don't their combs/ waddles grow a bit too when they get ready to lay? the hens have almost no combs and waddles still.
I've never heard of a Black sexlink laying that early. Anything is possible but 20-24 weeks is more the mark. ISA Brown, Red Sexlink and Leghorn are some of the birds that can lay earlier - 18 weeks.
I am going off what the seller told me. A few days here and there then we are @ 20 weeks. I should add the smaller BSL has been doing the squat n shuffle.
Our Small BSL, we call them Big & Lil Sexy respectively.....was witnessed singing the egg song this AM with great enthusiasm. I suspect by Monday she will join Big Sexy in the coop laying.
Pullets raised with roosters often never squat for humans.

My first piece of advice would be to build a run. You don't need to necessarily use it all the time, but it will come in handy for things like this---teaching them to lay in a specific area. Or, if you have to go out of town and need someone else to look after the birds, etc. Predators are also an issue.....

but apart from that.

Place bait in the nest boxes. Lots of folks use golf balls. Ceramic, wood or plastic eggs also work well. Anything round that vaguely resembles an egg will work. The sight of them triggers something in the hen's brain "this is a safe place to lay an egg", and they often use that same spot.

Make the nest box cozy and secluded feeling.

You'll probably have to go on an egg hunt daily, if they're totally free range. They like close, secluded spaces. Under bushes, behind garbage cans, under parked machinery, under porches, in hay barns, the list is endless. When my birds free ranged and I found a nest, I collected the eggs and placed bait there. I found if I emptied the nest completely, they'd just move to a different spot
and I was then chasing new nesting places.

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