How to adapt coop so the hens stop sleeping in nestbox?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by techiebabe, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. techiebabe

    techiebabe Out Of The Brooder

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    Hiya,

    I have this coop, a basic 1m square coop with two nest boxes attached: http://www.chickencoopsdirect.com/dorset-chicken-coop.htm

    It opens into a large covered run.

    Last sunday I adopted 5 ex-battery hens. Theyve been pretty quick learners; theyve learnt how to use the treadle feeder, to scratch, to go to bed at night, and today one of them used the dust bath for the first time, which was lovely to see.

    I thought theyd also learnt to lay in the nest boxes; turns out theyve learnt to lay where they sleep. Oh. Bother!

    The nest boxes are lined with dust-free straw, the coop is lined with aubiose and a little sprinkled zeolite.

    For the last couple of days the girls have laid in the nest boxes, I was pleased about this til I saw two of them crammed in one at night - and the other three in the second box, one of them being used as a cushion by the others!

    So I googled of course. Last night, three times I moved them out of the boxes into the coop. With the results that two returned to the boxes and laid there, and one laid where the other three slept in the coop.

    The perches arent much higher than the nest boxes; then again these hens love playing on perches outdoors but dont perch at night. Im not fussed whether they perch or not, but I dont want them to poo in the nesting straw, nor lay in the aubiose!

    Google also suggested putting an obstacle eg football in each nest box overnight, and hubby suggested making a baffle to block access which we can put in just before dark and remove when opening up the coop in the morning.

    However, the hens lay overnight, between putting themselves to bed at dusk, and being let out at 6-7am. Also, although they are let out shortISHly after sun up, this will only get worse over summer as the sun comes up at 4am in high summer and we will still only be able to let them out at 6-7am each day. What if they want to lay before 7am, if we've put an obstacle to the nests?

    So, despite googling we dont have a great solution... What do you guys suggest?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would just go with the flow a little longer. You've had them less than a week and you've turned their world upside down. They were probably on lights for 18 hours and they haven't adjusted to daylight. They've never seen a roost or nesting box. Block off the nesting boxes at night and place fake eggs in them during the day. i would wait on roosting at night until they push back the egg laying.
     
  3. lilapot

    lilapot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chickens wouldn't sleep on the roost for about 2 weeks.
    We actually put them up there ourselves,and one day they just figured it out!
    So I'd say give it a week or two.
     
  4. techiebabe

    techiebabe Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 20, 2016
    London, UK
    Hiya!


    You're absolutely right in that their life has turned on its head! I'm actually impressed with how much they've learned and how quickly they've adapted. As I said to my hubby, Sunday was probably the worst day of their lives - taken from everything they know... But Monday was hopefully the best day of their lives, with new freedoms & fun!

    Coming back to the question tho... I don't care about whether they sleep on the floor of the coop or not, just so long as they aren't sleeping (& pooing) on the nest.

    So are you suggesting I just keep chucking them out of the nest boxes for a few times every night? And they should get the idea?

    Thanks!
     
  5. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I take it "ex battery" means they came out of a commercial laying house? And probably were in it for a couple years? Kudos to you for taking them in. I didn't know that was an option Most birds like that in the US end up in a soup can.

    My guess is they are a leghorn descendant of some type, so you may get some eggs from them in their golden years. As others have suggested, give them time and instinct may kick in and they will figure it out. As is, they are probably disoriented and are only doing what they know. If you have ever seen birds in a commercial cage, that type of behavior should not be unexpected.
     
  6. techiebabe

    techiebabe Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 20, 2016
    London, UK
    Hi, Howard!

    Yes, "ex-batts" are retired battery hens. Here in the UK they are only allowed in "enriched colony cages" nowadays, but that still means... A group of 80 per cage, with space roughly an a4 piece of paper each... A couple of nest boxes and one small scratch mat for the whole cage (so it can be claimed they can exercise hen instincts) and other than that, they are still standing on mesh, artificial light 18 hours a day, etc.

    They are kept for a year from point of lay, then killed (or rehomed) - when they typically go from 6 eggs a week to 4 or 5, so are considered "spent". Very sad to see, limited feathers etc. But they are doing very well. And as a bonus I'm getting loads of lovely eggs! tho Id rather they put their energy into healing,not eggs! But im sure they will find a balance soon enough. :)

    Those who aren't rehomed become pet food . I bought some dried chicken wings for my dog this weekend and then realised... My girls' sisters probably had that fate. Sad.

    edit to add: they are commercial hybrids.For some reason,in the UK we like Brown eggs while the US market prefers white. Anyway these hybrids are going to be either Isa Browns, or Goldline, etc. Based on RIR and red sex links, but a hybrid so would never reproduce true if I wanted them to.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2016
  7. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just block the nesting boxes 30 mins before dark as they head to bed. Once they settle down for the night, they don't move around in the dark. You can pick them up and place them on a roost but you don't want them laying from there. I would wait on that.
    They need extra protein to regrow feathers. Cat kibble, fish, meat scraps, meal worms, a higher protein chick or mixed fowl feed... They won't know what to do with it in the beginning.
    Check them over for lice and mites. Common problem with bat hens
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2016
  8. Sutremaine

    Sutremaine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Go out there when they're heading up to roost for the night and keep nudging them away from the nest boxes and onto the roost. It'll take as long as it takes.

    What does the inside of your coop look like? You might be able to easily nudge the perches up a few inches.
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    If at all possible move the roosts about 6"(15cm) higher, which will take some creative carpentry in that coop,
    otherwise you'll be covering and uncovering those nests forever.
    I think the reason those coops are built with low roosts is because they are too small to do otherwise due to lack of space for flying/jumping up and down.
    That coop is not giving them any more room than at the factory farm, which might be a comfort when sleeping.....but at least they get to go outside.
     
  10. techiebabe

    techiebabe Out Of The Brooder

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    London, UK
    Hi Percheron, thanks!

    They get a well recommended layers crumble specially formulated for ex batts. They then get a variety of treats: mealworms, mixed corn, veg scraps, ground cat biscuits. Not all at once obviously because they do need to eat their crumble as most of their nutrition, but theres loads of other stuff on offer each day.

    I do spend some time with them every day (sat in the run!) but I also give them a good check twice a week. No lice or mites etc - and it's easy to see as they dont have any feathers on their behinds :(

    Ive read a lot before taking them on,but theres no substitute for experience so these comments are really helpful, thank you :)
     

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