Has anyone changed nesting boxes before or after egg laying begins?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by PrplHartJarHead, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. PrplHartJarHead

    PrplHartJarHead In the Brooder

    Jul 3, 2014
    I struggled with where to put this, as it fits in coop design but could also be discussed in behaviors and egg laying....my apologies.

    My wife and I differed from the beginning on this, as we both saw two versions, me the half bucket design (i.e. 1 bucket = 2 nesting boxes) while she saw and favored the whole bucket design, (1 bucket = 1 bird).

    We opted for the 1/2 bucket route much to my wife's frustration. I liked it for the simplicity. However, our twenty birds utilized about 8 boxes as they have their little cliques and three or four of 'em would pile into one box. My wife and I were both concerned this would be an issue come laying age. So, today we changed all the 1/2 buckets out to twenty individual, whole buckets.

    Now, as most of you can imagine our little birds were quite unhappy with that change. Ours are not laying yet, although we expect that to begin in about another 4 weeks or so. That said, we figured that making this change now would have the least impact on their routine and allow them to "recover" before they begin laying. However, I'm somewhat at odds with my bride if it was even a good idea at all.

    Has anyone else ever made a drastic change to their chickens' environment and had problems with your flock adapting?
  2. RJSorensen

    RJSorensen Chicken George

    I've not changed nest boxes in a laying flock and as yours are not laying, I think they will adjust in short order. I have had to make major chances in coops and in moving bunches of birds to new and or different locations, you are right, they do not like change one bit. The good news is their memory is shorter than mine… they will be over it in short order, and it will be as nothing has happened at all. That is how it is and will always be, they grumble and make noise and protest… give them a treat and it will all be over by morning. I do not expect there to be any lingering issues nor trouble, it will be fine.

    You were smart to make the move now, things might not work out so well, were they laying. But even then the worst should be no more than a decrease in egg production for a short time.

    Best to you and your birds,

    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  3. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I'm afraid that after all of that work you won't be too happy with chicken reality. Each bird does not need her own nest - in fact they prefer sharing. The usual recommendation is one nest for 4 birds. They'll look in a box and if they see an egg laid by the previous visitor they'll hop right in and add theirs. That's why fake eggs and golf balls are recommended as the best way to show your girls where to lay - they feel more secure if they think that nest spot is safe. In the natural order of things, if the eggs are not gathered but allowed to accumulate, a chicken will figure there's enough eggs to raise a good sized family, go broody and sit on all of them whether they are hers or not. So I think what's going to happen is that they will pick out a few nests from that assortment of 20 and use them exclusively, ignoring the others. Too many nests won't ease congestion - but there'll be congestion in the coop from having things in there you don't need.

    I had 19 hens and a 3 nest roll out box on the wall and a basket on the floor. Most used the hanging nests and one used the basket. I had some that preferred to dig a crater in the litter on the floor and lay their eggs rather than use a nest at all and no amount of "persuasion" would convince them otherwise. In my perfect world I'd never have to go inside the coop to gather eggs. Well, some of my chickens were in their own little world and didn't care what my world had planned. Then a friend who decided chickens were way more work than she wanted to mess with gave me 4 nice plastic nest boxes. We were planning to redo ours anyway, so the timing was perfect. Ours were wooden ones that emptied into an outside access area but they were so small and cramped that sometimes their hineys would hang outside the nest and the eggs were, um, deposited onto the floor. Most did not survive the trip.


    The old system....

    So after they were all done laying for the day we went in, removed the frame and the 3 wooden nest boxes and put 2 of the plastic ones in their place. The rollout still works great because of how Ken tilted the nests before securing them. Then I took one other nest that I was given and put it on the floor. So for 19 birds I had 2 hanging nests, one basket, and one plastic nest on the ground. No more laying in the litter! As soon as we get the roost and poop board cut down and/or relocate we'll take the last nest and hang it on the wall to use the rest of the rollout. These changes were made with all of them being regular layers,, about 6 months old now. The girls didn't miss a beat - the very next day they all used the new nests and now I can almost tell you which chicken laid which egg just by the time of day and the nest used.

    The new system...and both laid their eggs in there just a few minutes apart.

    Yes, sometimes more than one bird gets in at a time, but you said yours aren't laying yet, so they are just using them to snooze and cuddle. I would recommend that the nest boxes be covered so they aren't using them for roosting. Roosting and resting in them leads to poopy eggs. Then, after you find your first egg, open the nests back up and put some fake eggs in them. They'll get the idea. Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  4. tracecom

    tracecom Songster

    Jan 16, 2010
    Good advice. No loitering in the nest box! [​IMG]
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Chickens do not like change but they do get over it pretty quickly. Like practically everyone else I’ve made changes as I go along and they adapt, usually overnight or quicker. Changing out nests like that now should be really minor in the greater scheme of things.

    When are they piling in the nests? At night? You don’t want the chickens sleeping in the nests because they poop a lot when they sleep. I know marines are tough but you really don’t want poopy eggs do you? Thanks for your service by the way.

    I’m guessing your chicks are about 3 months old. That’s about when mine normally transition from sleeping on the coop floor to the roosts. Occasionally a few might spend a night or two in the nests while making that transition, but normally they don’t. Chickens like to sleep on the highest things available. Your roosts need to be noticeably higher than your nests for that reason.

    You also need to have adequate roost space. As a marine you understand rank. The higher ranking chickens sleep where they want to and are not shy about enforcing that on the lower ranks. Sometimes the higher ranked chickens can get pretty brutal in enforcing those rank privileges about where they want to sleep. If they don’t have enough roost space where the lower ranks can avoid the brutes, they may leave the roosts and sleep somewhere safer. That can be your nests.

    I’m going to side with your bride. Personally I like larger nests though there is some personal preference there. Two reasons. As others mentioned, they like to lay in the same nests, often at the same time. It’s not strange for me to find two or even three in my nests at the same time. Larger nests give them more room. There are photos on this forum where on hen is literally laying on top of another hen in a small nest. I like them to all have access to the nest bottom. The other reason is that if you let a hen hatch chicks in the nests, the first chicks to hatch often like to climb on top of the hen. If the hen is in a small nest where she is sitting close to the edge, the chick may miss the nest totally when it falls off.

    The larger your nests the fewer you need. Even with small nests you will find that five nests is plenty for 20 hens. I made mine 16” square, mainly to fit the stud framing in the coop and I’m glad I did.

    Normally Blooie and I agree but I disagree with her here on one thing. I want the nests open before they start to lay. When a pullet starts to lay she looks for a safe place to lay, often starting to look about a week before she lays her first controlled egg. Occasionally a pullet doesn’t have much control on her first egg and just drops it wherever they are, though most have that control to start with. But once they start to lay in a controlled place they go back to that place to lay their egg. Remember, they don’t like change. If they see an egg randomly dropped, they may think that is a safe place to lay so try to keep those random eggs picked up. I want that first controlled egg to be in a nest.

    If I’m going to have problems with the nests, I want to know that before they start to lay. When chickens lay eggs or when they are exploring for safe places to lay eggs they usually scratch around. If the lip is too low they may scratch the bedding, fake eggs, or real eggs out. If that is going to happen, I want to know before they start laying eggs so I can fix it. If they are going to sleep in the nests, I want to know that before they start laying eggs so I can fix that.

    The earliest I’ve ever had a pullet lay an egg is 16 weeks, and that is pretty rare. Blocking off the nests to get them used to sleeping on the roosts before they start to lay is a good idea, but I’d open the nests by 16 weeks at the latest and see if I have any problems I need to work on.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: