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How to encourage Nest Box and Roost usage?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by KC-Jim, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. KC-Jim

    KC-Jim New Egg

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    Apr 20, 2017
    Kansas City, MO area
    I have a coop that is about 8'x10' with an attached run that is about 12'x16'

    I have a roost that is about 6' long and about 3' off the ground in the coop. All food and water are oustide the coop.
    I have 4 nesting boxes that are located about 12" off the ground and are under the roosting area. My thought was they would feel more secluded and perhaps that would encourage the chickens to use them.

    Here's my problem, only 2 of our 8 hens are getting up on the roost at night. 5 of them get in the nest boxes and one likes to sleep on the floor of the coop.

    I am planning on trying to block the nest boxes in late afternoon to take the option away from them. When i go in to shut the pop door in the evening, I place all of them up on the roost and they happily stay there til morning.


    The other problem is I am finding eggs on the ground, either in the coop or the run. How do I encourage them to use the nest box for egg laying??


    Basic background. These are Brown ISA hens that are about 12-13 months old. We have had them for about a week. They did use a roost previously at night. I have no idea about where they laid their eggs.


    here's a picture showing the roost area over the nest boxes. The roost sits over a board that is about 2' deep and 6' long. You can also see the ramp for them to get up to the roost and next boxes.


    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Let me know if I'm on the wrong track of if I just have to keep doing what I'm doing until they figure it out.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Northwest Arkansas
    I don’t see anything wrong with your basic set-up. Sometimes chickens just don’t handle change very well. What they are living in now is probably quite a bit different than what they had before.

    Are you putting fake eggs in the nests? I use golf balls but some people use wooden or ceramic eggs. The colorful plastic Easter eggs can work too but you probably need to put something heavy like dirt or sand in them and glue or tape them shut. The hens often do a lot of scratching when adjusting their nest for laying and can scratch those eggs apart even when glued or taped shut.

    Are you sure they have all laid before you block the nests? Are you opening the nests before they lay in the morning? When you find those eggs in the run or on the coop floor, are they randomly scattered or are they always laid in the same places, maybe in a nest-like depression? I don’t know why they would scatter them randomly at that age, but if they are in the same places, they have decided that is where the nests should be. If it looks like they are laying in the same place, let me know and I’ll go over how I broke mine of that bad habit.

    It’s possible your two that are roosting are bullies and brutes. It doesn’t happen that often with adults but it does happen, sometimes a hen just treats other chickens so cruelly when they are on the roosts that the weaker chicken looks for a safer place to roost. I see that a lot when I’m integrating immature chicks with adults, but yours are not immature. My only suggestion for physical change is to maybe put up another roost separate from that one and maybe just a bit lower. See if they will use that one.

    Other than that, I’d keep moving them to the roosts until they catch on. It’s frustrating but they should catch on before too long unless there is bullying going on.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2016
    Missouri
    My guess is they are disoriented after the move, and need to "home" to this house.

    Try leaving them locked up inside the house for 3 or 4 days (move food and water inside for now). Also, try placing something for them to hop on fly up from in front of the roost. I used a square bale of hay, set on edge. They hop on it......see higher ground above and hop on up to it. I've never used ramps, as I never felt they were needed. The birds can fly / hop up that high on their own.

    Do you have any training wheels in the nests? I use golf balls.
     
  4. KC-Jim

    KC-Jim New Egg

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    Apr 20, 2017
    Kansas City, MO area
    Time for an update...

    First to answer the questions asked...

    1. I am not blocking the nests until about 30 minutes before they head inside for the night.
    2. I have golf balls in the nests.
    3. They are all generally still on the roost when I go out in the morning to let them out.
    4. I've never found an egg first thing in the morning. In the past 9 or 10 days I have found 5 eggs. Not bad for their first week. Hoping that picks up by the end of this week. 2 were found within a couple of hours of me getting them. The last 3 were found one a day 3 out f the 4 last days. These have all been in the same spot, just inside the coop on the floor out in the open.


    So, for the good news,

    Each day it seems more of them are figuring out how to get up to the roost. Last night 5 of them were on the roost when I went out to lock them up for the night.

    I think their wings have been clipped so flying up there seems to be more than they can handle right now. I think it is just an issue of figuring out the ramp for now.


    The bad news, no one is using the next boxes it seems.


    I tried getting them out in the yard yesterday for the first time. Could only get 5 of them to come out and of those only 3 really did any exploring. The others stayed very close. So I thought that was pretty good. They definitely knew where home was and it was easy to get them to go back.


    Thanks to everyone for all the information here. It has been a huge help to us.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Northwest Arkansas
    Thanks for the update. It sure sounds like they have decided that spot is the nest so they need to be trained if you are not happy with that spot.

    I made some of my nests so I could lock a chicken in the nest if I wished. That’s actually come in handy a few times for different reasons. But when I find a hen on the nest I do not want them to lay in, I lock that hen in a nest until she lays her egg. Usually that takes about a half hour but I’ve has some take 3 hours after locking them in there. Usually it only takes doing that once to train them to use that nest, but I have had a couple take twice. The trick is to catch them on the nest when they are laying. That’s not always easy.

    Another potential problem is that with several laying there, if the trained hen sees an egg on the floor in the old nest she is more likely to go back there. They do like to lay where others are laying. When I do this it’s just one hen, the others are using the nests.

    I personally have not tried this but others have said it works. With multiple hens it may be worth trying. Put a nest where they are laying. It could be an open cardboard box with bedding, doesn’t have to be fancy, as long as they don’t turn it over by landing on the sides. You may want something heavy in it as ballast or use something kind of heavy to keep them from turning it over. After they are using the nest instead of the floor, move it gradually toward where you want them to lay, maybe 6” to a foot every three or four days. Once you get that to the nests, either leave it as a nest or remove it on day and see where they make their new nests. They are in the area of your other nests, maybe it will be them. This way you don’t have to be there when they are laying.

    I’ve tried blocking the area where they were laying so they couldn’t get to it. That did not work, they just laid next to the blockage.

    I wish you luck!
     
  6. KC-Jim

    KC-Jim New Egg

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    Apr 20, 2017
    Kansas City, MO area
    Thank you for this suggestion. I had not seen or read this one before. I will give this a try if things don't improve quickly.
     

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