Help request for chicken newbie


In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 30, 2009
I am looking for a little help with getting my chickens to lay. I have four birds, two Black Sex links and two RIRs. I am not actually sure how old they are. I bought them about 2.5 months ago from a guy who claimed they were 5 months, but I know that isnt true. My guess at the time is that they were closer to 4. They came from a big flock that he was selling off, and all the big ones had been taken already. The ones I bought were in pretty good shape, but had their tail feathers mostly pecked off. We fed them grower for about a month after we got them and then switched to layer thinking they would start laying any second. We started giving them crushed oyster shells as well about two weeks ago. We have put easter eggs and even a real egg that has been drained in their nest box to try to give them ideas.

I have attached photos of them, if anyone has an idea how old they are, and their coop, in case anyone sees anything that is blatantly wrong with it. I live in Gainesville, FL, so I dont think it is a light or cold related issue.

The coop is kinda ghetto, I tried to replicate a design I saw on the internet. I am thinking of making the nest box more private. I removed the roost in the nest because they were sitting on it and pooping in the nest box instead of laying there. I put the poles through the coop in case they wanted to roost, but they dont seem to care about them. Also the coop was intended to house three birds, but we have four. We only wanted three, but one got away and we thought the same predators that killed our previous two would get her. Turns out three weeks later we found her in a neighbors lawn and we have her back.

Also, a un-related (probably) problem: They would much rather sleep in the trees than their coop. We have to trick them into the coop about an hour before sunset or they are spending the night in a tree.

a better picture of their face/comb/waddles will help determine how close they are to laying

the RIR's look like they are on the verge .... keep an eye out for them squatting and making a lot of noise (bwaak bwaak BWAAAAAAAK)

if they are free ranging --- search everywhere --- it is common for them to try to hide their eggs

one person found about 6 eggs in the middle of an old tire

They look like they will be laying soon a month or so. I would guess that they were hatched in April or May. And yes. The chickens would rather be off the ground at night. Could you possibilly build up the coop? Raise it. Or maybe add on. Then you could add in a roosting area. Use a 2x4 or a 2x6 for that. They would like that.
Agree with previous post. Your hens would like the roosts better if they were flat -- a 2x4 on its side -- wide side horizontal -- so their feet can be flat and they can lower their bodies over their feet and keep them warm when it gets very cold.

They prefer dark nest boxes, too, if possible. If you can paint the insides dark or make them as private as possible in their coop, that would be great. And I have found eggs inside a porch that had a hole in the screen, hidden behind a peice of furniture, and also inside a large plant pot! Good luck -- I think your hens look great and will start laying soon. My first egg was soft, and they may look a bit misshapen for a while, but will soon get regular and normal-looking.


Thanks everyone for their help with my girls. Here are the best best pics I could get of their waddles, if that helps to determine their age. In order to notice when they lay we typically keep them in the coop until around 11ish everyday because someone told me they usually lay in the morning. If they did lay outside the coop I have basically no chance of finding it, my backyard is a jungle. My wife is usually home when they are out of the coop and she goes to look whenever she hears them sqwauking (she actually chased away a bobcat when she looked up and heard them going crazy!) so hopefully she could at least see where they are when/if it happens.

When someone said the RIR look on the verge of laying, does that mean they look older? They are a bit smaller than the sex links, and they were smaller when we got them as well. I thought they were both about the same size when grown, just generally large chickens.

I like the suggestion about the 2x4 roost. I had one in there that was about 2 inches wide, just two dowels screwed together, and they liked it well enough. When I make a new nest box, one that is enclosed for darkness and privacy, I think I can have the roost sit on top of it. Looks like I have my project for the weekend.
Sleep on high roosts, nest in low boxes seems to be the preference. Instinct must tell them to get up and away from predators at night so the higher the better. Roost boards 4" wide work well. When I started I had equal roost and nest box height and got boxes full of crap every morning. When I raised the roosts to 5' - 7' the poop problem stopped. The birds immediately established their pecking order within minutes of finishing the installation. Reba, the biggest and flock leader, found out she could get on the 10' rafters to roost. Install dropping boards under the roosts to make for easy clean-up. I made jump boards like a ladder for them to use to get up, it gives easier access to the perches and gives the bottom order some where to roost at night as well. They seem to fly down in the mornings and not use the ladder. As for dark private nesting boxes I found that they like tops and short wall dividers. They must enjoy looking at each other.
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as they age and mature their combs and waddles will go from pinkish, to reddish, to blood red --- doesn't have a whole lot to do with their age, but is usually a good indicator of when they are getting ready to lay

from the first pic, the RIR combs/waddles/facial skin look blood red

from the second pic, the black sex-link looks as if it is on the verge as well

as they get closer you will have to start looking for other indicators .... squatting ... and what they call "the egg song" .... loud squaking (i guess it is like being in labor getting ready to push the egg out)
Hey, ewhulbert,

I'm not expert enough to say from the pics when they'll start laying, but I can sure tell they're slick and healthy looking with clean feathers and feet and bright eyes.

Good for you!

They ought to be grateful and start laying, darn it.
Yeah, your coop isn't so ghetto for Fla weather!! I'm sure they'd rather have lots of air circulation than be too hot and stuffy. Chickens are amazingly adaptable, and as long as they have a place to get in out of the rain, (though they don't always use it, mine just wander around in the rain sometimes!), a safe sheltered place to lay eggs, and a roost high enough that they feel safe, clean water and good food, they'll manage!

I bet they're laying in the shrubs/grass/weed... my yard is... well, not a jungle since I'm up north, but definately a 'wildlife habitat' sort of place too, so I feel your pain. I had to learn where they were hiding their eggs and then go gather them. They moved em several times, but eventually settled on 2 places that have become regular for them. My nice nest boxes are only used if I keep them locked up all day long by a couple of my hens. Most are using them though, so I'm not 'squawkin' too loud!
There's always a couple rebel hens in my flock!
Are pecking order disputes more common when they are about to lay? When we open the door to let them out they fly around like idiots for a couple of minutes and then wind up challenging each other for 10-15 minutes more. It's funny to watch; the RIRs team up on the big Sex Link. The other Sex Link wants nothing to do with the dispute and runs to the other side of the yard...and sometimes they chase her.

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