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Help, Nesting in flower bed instead of hen house!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lady of McCamley, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I have a nesting dilema that may take a little thought to work out and can use your expert advice. I've got 3 birds (maybe more) who've chosen a nest site outside the hen house and have been apparently doing so for some time. (My guess is for 2 weeks). I need advice as to how to get them to nest in the hen house regularly...but I have some extenuating circumstances which prevent me simply from keeping them locked up in the henhouse/run longer.

    Some background:

    We have 9 total chickens with 3 large nesting boxes in the hen house. (You can see photos on my page of it being built.) All the chickens are new layers as they were purchased this spring, either as chicks or pullets.

    6 of the hens were purchased together as chicks from Wilco (3 buffs, 2 RI, 1 Barred), 3 of the hens (Red SL, Black SL, NH Red) were purchased as pullets at the Canby show in April and are varying in age but about 2 to 4? weeks younger than the original Wilco 6.

    As expected the hens for a long time kept to their seperate but equal groups, the Wilco 6 and the Canby 3. Overall they get along well, and have integrated prettymcuh now in the yard as the weeks have gone along. They roost in the hen house peacefully together every night...and funnily it is one of the Wilco 6 Buffs that has gotten bumped off the roosting poles even though there is plenty of room...she was the last to desire to roost and tends to stay below unless I place her on a pole...however everyone seems happy. No one has any signs of stress or body injury due to pecking...no one is being chased around the yard...just an occasional sqwak and flutter but overall they appear to be mostly integrating peacefully. Treats/scraps are vied for equally by all...no one seems unduly ostracized or rejected. The smaller birds seem to be as "plucky" as the larger.

    They are let out around 8am each morning as they get noisy if left in the hen house (which is sized appropriately for 10 roosting hens with a run), and roam in our large backyard. Normally, they would have free access to a small run straight from the hen house, but we are temporarily using the run to raise a couple of turkeys for the holidays (our enjoyment, not theirs :) So we purposely let the hens out before they start getting noisy and restless as we do have neighbors across the way. It appears to be idyllic other than the fuss and some joisting for the "golden nest box" in the hen house each morning. Which brings me to the nesting issue...

    Although the hen house had 3 front shallow boxes and 2 side deep boxes, one of the side deep boxes has become the "golden box" that the birds will fight over and literally "que" for. I usually get 4 eggs in the "golden box" and 1 or 2 in the back deep box which is appears similar to the "golden box." None have been in the shallow front 3.

    I've just this weekend tried to solve the "golden nest box" situation by re-modeling the front shallow 3 boxes into a single deep box like the "golden box," so now I have 3 deep boxes...and I did have victory as both side deep and now the front deep box had eggs this morning....but Buff and Barred eggs. I hope this will help with the "golden" argument each morning...and encourage more harmony with nesting.

    I've been getting 5 to 6 eggs regularly for the last month in the nest boxes, with a very occasional 7 or 8 (once or twice). I see the Buffs and Barred regularly in the side deep nest boxes, occasionally, now that I think of it, a RI, but very rarely the SL's or NH Red (Canby 3). I recognized the Canby 3 eggs as they are more terra cotta than the tan Buff eggs or the yellow-brown RI eggs or Barreds. I just thought the Canby 3 are taking longer to come into laying as they were younger and wasn't surprised to be only getting an occasional terra cotta just yet.

    Okay, so today I was checking the flock and counted 8 not 9 beaks. After some investigation I found the Red SL nesting in the vinca vines along the side fence. She apparently had burrowed out a nest there, and the Black SL followed me and hovered close by. I suspicion the NH Red is likely to have been there as well as that clan often sticks together. After the Red SL got up, I found 16 beautiful huge terra cotta eggs in this self-chosen nesting spot....yes, the terra cotta brown that's been scant in the hen house's nest box. I suspicion the "lower" Canby 3 may have been pushed out of the "golden box" by the dominate Wilco 6....apparently for some time (2 weeks?).

    Help...how do I get the Canby 3 to nest in the hen house....how do I get the Wilco 6 from intimidating the Canby 3 out if that's happening?

    My first reaction is to clean out the overgrowth in the vinca vines so that spot is no longer inviting, try to leave the hens in a little longer in the mornings to encourage laying in the new 3rd box. I can't confine them to the henhouse and small coop run until the turkeys vacate (we plan to slaughter at the end of September).

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Lady of McCamley

  2. allieloveschickens

    allieloveschickens Songster

    May 20, 2010
    San Diego
    that is a tough situation, trimming the vines is a good idea- but it seems like the Canby girls might just find a new spot to lay in if you clear that spot, especially since the other girls are probably booting them out of the nest boxes in the house. Could you maybe just put an outdoor nest box in the vines for the Canby girls? I know it isn't as nice as laying in the coop, but as long as you know where they are laying at least you can collect them daily. Unless you can lock the girls in the coop I don't think they will learn to lay in the boxes. After you process the turkeys you should try leaving them in the coop for a week so that they will get in the habit of laying inside. Good luck!!
  3. Buff-Island-Australorp

    Buff-Island-Australorp Songster

    Apr 1, 2011
    Bixby, OK
    That's a lot to read, but I think I got the jist of it......my suggestion is to lock them in the coop for a few days.
  4. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    Quote:Thank you for taking the time to read the long post and responding. That sounds like good advice.

    My suspicions were confirmed this afternoon when I laid some straw in the vinca and immediately the NH Red wallowed out a hole in the straw/vinca nest...it is definitely the spot the Canby 3 have chosen to lay eggs...and I think you're right. Until I can leave them all in the henhouse/coop for a week I'll only force the Canby 3 to find another spot outside the henhouse to lay.

    Tomorrow I'll make a nice outdoor box for them to put in the vincas. If necessary, I can move outdoor box to under the henhouse (where the turkeys are nesting now) when the turkeys go if the Wilco 6 just simply won't surrender the "golden" territory inside the hen house.

    At least nobody is tormenting anybody. I guess segregation will simply have to be the order of the day.

    Good news is I am getting BEAUTIFUL huge dark brown eggs from those lovely Canby 3 :-D

    Thanks again.

    Lady of McCamley

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