Getting my newly laying hens to use nest box

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by TimM, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. TimM

    TimM Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 8, 2010
    Hi all. I have two dozen pullets just beginning to lay (and one suspected roo). The first egg appeared a week ago, and I've had about 8 since then. To keep them from sleeping/pooping in their nest boxes, I refrained from putting them up until the first egg appeared. I put up three (I have three more ready to put up later). Two of them are side by side, about a foot off the floor, and the third is above them. These are pretty expensive plastic models from Miller Manufacturing... many of you probably know what I mean. Overkill, perhaps. I could have built my own I suppose.

    Anyhow, they are totally unused. The pine shavings in them is undisturbed, so nobody is even going inside. I find eggs on the floor, on top of the feed can, and everywhere except the nest boxes. Any thoughts or hints? Thanks!

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Tim, try putting some hay or straw in the nest boxes and shaping it in the form of a nest. To this add some golf balls or fake eggs to serve as 'nest eggs'.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    It’s too late for my first suggestion, open the nests up before they start to lay so you can handle the problem if they start sleeping in the nests before they start to lay. I know what you did is often recommended on here but it’s one that I personally don’t agree with. What you are seeing is why.

    That’s water under the bridge. You can only do something going forward from where you are now. They are creatures of habit. Once they get used to laying in a certain place they want to keep laying there. You have to break that habit.

    Sometimes when they first start to lay, they just drop an egg wherever they happen to be. It’s like they don’t know what is happening. Once they learn to control it they will then start laying in the same place every day. It’s sometimes amazing how many get it right the first time.

    Try putting fake eggs in the nests you want them to use. They tend to want to lay where other chickens are laying. I use golf balls but about any egg-shaped or sized thing will work.

    Don’t leave any eggs in those nests any longer than you have to. That will just encourage others to lay there. If you’re not down there a lot, that can be difficult.

    Disrupt where they are laying. They want to lay in a “safe” place. Make it appear less safe. Move things around or put something where they are laying so they have to move their nest. When I try that they usually just lay next to it but it is a passive way to try. Shadows will often make a place seem more secure. If you have shadows forming a “spot”, can you change the light to change the shadows? They normally like to lay in darker places (yeah, I know. Normally does not mean always). If it is a dark spot, can you set a light up to shine in there?

    Set one of those nests where they are laying. Get them used to laying in one of them, then gradually move the nest to where you want it.

    I made some of my nests so I could lock a chicken in there if I wished. When I can catch a hen on her nest on the floor instead of where I want her to lay, I catch her and lock her in the nest until she lays that egg. That normally takes a half hour but I had one that took 3 hours. When I’ve done this I’ve only had to do it once for most of them, but occasionally I have to do it two consecutive days.

    I happened to be in the coop when a pullet was laying her second egg where she had laid her egg the day before. I went to grab her and lock her in a nest but she took off. That evidently frightened her enough that she started laying in a regular nest.

    This is not always an easy thing to correct, especially when you are not at home a lot during the day. Hope you get something out of this that helps.
  4. TimM

    TimM Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 8, 2010
    Wow, thanks folks for all the useful information. I'll dig out some old golf balls and put them in the boxes. I intuitively anticipated one of these suggestions: disruption. Every time I've found an egg in a bad place, I've done something to that location to make it inhospitable for future laying. But it's a big coop, 250 square feet, with just 22 chickens, so they have a lot of territory to choose from. I'll keep at it.

    Luckily I'm retired and hence at home most of the time. Also, the coop is just a few steps from my house, so I go out there often.

  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    If you only put up the nest boxes a week ago, they may well not be used to them yet, may be even kind of afraid of them.

    The perches on the front of those look kind of small, maybe attach a flat side up 2x4 to them to make them easier to check out?

    Time, observation and a little persuasion/manipulation will get them sorted out.

    Good Luck!
  6. TimM

    TimM Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 8, 2010
    Good idea about the perch. One comment on Amazon also said that the perches were small, but most people loved these boxes. Rather than a heavy 2x4, I may fasten a 1x6 to them if they aren't using the boxes in a week or so. Thanks!


BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by