How soon is too soon?

Baumshell28

Songster
Apr 16, 2020
263
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176
Gonzales (Baton Rouge), Louisiana
So all my girls turned 8 weeks old yesterday! Barred Rocks & Cinnamon Queens. I know they’re all technically a good bit away from POL, although several of them do now lay down when I put my hand on their backs. Anyways, a couple thoughts and questions...
Last week I installed 3 new plastic nesting boxes on the wall where the old original wooden box is located. I figured it would take a bit of getting used to, but tomorrow makes a full week that they’ve been up and they have not explored the boxes at all. I am positive, because on top of the shavings, I tossed in some nesting herbs and nothing in them has been disturbed. They haven’t even peeked into the boxes...the dust on the nest box “roosts” is untouched. I really hope they’ll come to understand what the nesting boxes are for! I know that golf balls and fake eggs can be used to help them understand, but is 8-9 weeks old too early to start using a prop as a way to help them figure it out?
 

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TheOddOneOut

🙄🤚 Doing my best.
Feb 15, 2020
10,951
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Oregon
So all my girls turned 8 weeks old yesterday! Barred Rocks & Cinnamon Queens. I know they’re all technically a good bit away from POL, although several of them do now lay down when I put my hand on their backs. Anyways, a couple thoughts and questions...
Last week I installed 3 new plastic nesting boxes on the wall where the old original wooden box is located. I figured it would take a bit of getting used to, but tomorrow makes a full week that they’ve been up and they have not explored the boxes at all. I am positive, because on top of the shavings, I tossed in some nesting herbs and nothing in them has been disturbed. They haven’t even peeked into the boxes...the dust on the nest box “roosts” is untouched. I really hope they’ll come to understand what the nesting boxes are for! I know that golf balls and fake eggs can be used to help them understand, but is 8-9 weeks old too early to start using a prop as a way to help them figure it out?
Waaaay too early. They won’t lay eggs for 15 more weeks, and no hormones have kicked in yet. At all.
 

coloradowildflower

Crowing
12 Years
Jul 12, 2008
319
198
261
Utah
They won't be interested in nesting for several more weeks. Feel free to put the golf balls in--it won't hurt. But don't be worried if they are not interested yet. Right now their instinct is to group together and find food. When they get closer to POL, their instinct will be to find a cozy place to lay, and you've got that all ready for them!
 

EmilyRobb

Songster
Premium Feather Member
May 12, 2020
120
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Southwestern Manitoba
@Baumshell28 It seems that your little guys are too young at this point to be concerned about nesting boxes or laying at all. Once they're ready to start producing, they'll find a cozy place to lay eggs, being the nesting boxes, with instinct (and hormones) to help them out. I've never had to help a hen out in finding nesting boxes, they just seem to come across them and they know what to do from there on out.
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
Premium Feather Member
Jul 3, 2016
15,880
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My Coop
My Coop
Most likely they'll teach themselves where to lay once it's time. BUT... some of my last group of chicks didn't seem to notice the nest boxes even though they're present, very obvious, and uncovered (and being used by the hens!) every day since they moved into the coop. Why, who knows? :confused:

I had to actually put 2 of them in the boxes to show them the boxes once they started laying, because they couldn't figure it out on their own. So yes if it comes down to it, you might have to help them along, but I wouldn't worry about it unless it becomes an issue.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,530
20,825
907
Southeast Louisiana
The egg laying process is fairly complicated. Most pullets seem to figure it out and get it right the first time but some have problems with that. That process is not just putting the egg together correctly but includes when and where to lay. Don't be shocked if your pullet's first eggs are large with two yolks inside, extremely small with no yolk or no white, soft-shelled, no shell, or really thick shelled. Or just weird in some other ways. A pullet's first eggs are pretty small anyway but most do get it right from the start. Any problems should clear up in a few days, hardly ever last beyond a couple of weeks.

There are various triggers that tell a hen when to release a yolk to start that internal egg making process. These are designed to get her to lay during daylight so she can lay in a nest. Sometimes when they first start those triggers don't work right. She might lay an egg from the roosts at night. That's frustrating but they typically get that part right in a few days.

Going along with this, most pullets have total control over the egg laying process from the start. They know an egg is coming so they head to a nest to lay it. But some don't seem to realize one is on the way. They may drop an egg just walking around the run or in the coop. It's like it totally surprises them.

Pretty often a pullet starts looking for a nest about a week before she is ready to lay her first egg. Her instincts are working the way they are supposed to. She goes into all kinds of nooks and crannies, looking for that perfect nest so she knows where to head when that egg is coming. This investigation usually includes some scratching as she checks it out. This is a good test of your nests, if you find bedding or a fake egg on the coop floor you probably need to raise the lip on the nest.

Some (not all) hens like to lay where other hens are laying. That's why putting a fake egg in the nest can often help them choose to lay in that nest. I use golf balls but others use other things. Putting a fake egg in your nests does not guarantee they will chose that nest but it helps my odds a lot.

Sometimes chickens will sleep in nests. When that happens there is a reason. Could be different things. If they are going to sleep in the nests I want to know far enough ahead of time that I can fix the problem before I get poopy eggs. This plus having the nests open when they are looking for a nest is why I like having them open early.

I've had pullets similar to your pullets start laying as early as 16 weeks. That's pretty rare but it has happened. I've also had some not start to lay until months later. With our flocks you just never know. Typically I'd think you will see at least a few eggs close to five months but you don't get guarantees. The more pullets you have the more likely at least one will be typical.

Good luck and enjoy the adventure.
 

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