How to teach free rangers to lay in the nesting box?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Kotiya, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. Kotiya

    Kotiya Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 11, 2009
    South-West Ohio
    My pullets are getting close to laying and we want to be prepared. While it is still good weather, should we build a run so they are contained for awhile? We have 31 birds that sleep in a 10x12 repurposed shed. All day they free range. I know this is dangerous, but we've been lucky and like the arrangement. We are concerned that the girls will lay their eggs wherever they are in the yard. Our yard is 5 acres, and sometimes they wander onto the neighbors yards (no one minds). We don't want a daily egg hunt. We are in southern ohio. As the weather gets colder, will they free-range closer to the coop? Will they naturally lay in the coop since they sleep there? We get cold here, but not consistent, and not too much snow. Thanks in advance for your suggestions. I love all the info I get from this website!
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well...I don't free range, so hopefully someone who does will chime in... My first thought was that free range hens could be laying for weeks and their person/owners wouldn't know (if they were laying away from the coop) unless they just stumbled across the eggs. I've got until at least January before mine lay, but I've already got my wooden eggs ready to put in the nesting boxes to "encourage" them. I think I would at least put up a temporary fence for a little while until they establish themselves with laying in the coop. Another thread had a GREAT, easy suggestion for a temporary fence: Buy a 100 or 150' roll of the 2x4" welded wire fencing (maybe 48" tall), and simply unroll it and stand it up in a circle around your coop (if your coop is out in the open), or a U-shape allowing access to their chicken door. I've tried it and it works! No metal posts needed....and it would only be temporary.
  3. popcornpuppy

    popcornpuppy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 19, 2009
    Holland, Massachusetts
    I have read in Raising Chickens for Dummies that you should keep them cooped up until they establish good laying habits. If they are in the coop, then they have no choice but to lay in the coop, and hopefully in the nesting boxes. If they are allowed to free range before they start to lay, they may go off and find a secluded spot in the yard to lay their eggs.
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I never kept mine locked up in the coop, except when they were pullets. They go back into coop to lay. Occasionally I'll find a yard egg.
    If you really don't want yard eggs then locking them up when they start laying seems to be the way to go.

  5. Gonda

    Gonda Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    I have the same question. I have 16 new chickens; the guy I got them from has no idea how old they are as he had several at different stages. I have left them in the coop until noon for the first week, then let them out into the run - but no eggs yet. I'm reluctant to leave them in the coop all day, in case they do start laying and one of them starts eating eggs, out of boredom. Is that a possible risk you take by leaving them in the coop? I've put golf balls in the nests, hoping they'll get the hint. And in the meantime, I'm checking the coop and the run for eggs every day.
  6. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    They have to stay in their coop or pen for a while and get used to it.

    This morning my boys cleaned the coops and pens and let one of the groups out to free range.

    I walked out to check on them and two of the hens we walking back to the pen. Each one jumped into one of the three nest boxes and 10 minuts later... two eggs, where they belonged.
  7. Ldyjarhead

    Ldyjarhead Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 11, 2009
    South/Central OH
    I can't answer your question because I don't even have my hens yet, but what the others are saying sounds reasonable (at least a temporary fence area until they know where they should lay).

    I'm brand new here too and in south/central Ohio, Chillicothe area.
  8. vstoltzfus

    vstoltzfus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 10, 2009
    Lancaster County, PA
    If you do not teach your hens to lay in their nesting boxes they will lay wherever they want. I speak from experience. I kept my hens in the hen house for 10 days, 24/7, until they learned that this is where they lay. Even after that, one hen decided to make a nest under a bush. Back in the henhouse they went for another 3 days (since I couldn't tell who was "going rogue"). Now they all lay in their nesting boxes. While I love my hens dearly, I have them for their eggs, and don't want to lose a single one. I must admit this was a little tough on my girls, who were used to free ranging all day, but now every one knows what they're doing, and we're all happy.
  9. kcravey

    kcravey Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 10, 2009
    East Texas
    Just a suggestion... but how about you make them a little run attached until they start laying? Our pullets when they first started laying were laying eggs everywhere and hated me having to barge in on them to get their eggs. I would pick them up and put them in the nesting box until they figured it out. We start ours with little runs and then add bigger yards as the need arises. We also let them free range and they always have access to the coop to go do "their business." They usually dont get too far from the coop once they start laying.
  10. chicks4kids

    chicks4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2009
    Northern Indiana
    I have 17 hens and 1 roo that free range all day and I think free-ranging is fantastic for the birds!!

    Do you currently have a nesting box in their shed or are you just now putting it in there? If it's been in there the whole time, I say, let them free range, throw a couple golf balls in each nest box, and see what happens. I bet they lay their eggs in there no problem.

    However, if you're just putting nest boxes in there now, still put the golf balls in there. With 31 birds, it may take a while for all of them to start laying. I wouldn't put up a run just to house them to get them to start laying in the boxes, that'll just upset them and may cause them not to lay just yet. I do that to mine when we go away for 4 or 5 days, and although I know they are safe, they lay less--I figure it's because they're not used to being "locked" in. I just had 11 pullets start laying and even after 4-5 weeks, not all of them are laying. One thing I did with them free ranging, is I changed the coop litter from the nesting material. In my coop I have hay and in their nest boxes are wood shavings. To me it kinda seperates the two--not saying the chickens know why I do it--but the only problem that I have is one of the new girls running to my breezeway every morning to lay her egg in my outside cats bed. Other than that, they all lay in the boxes.

    Edited to say that I have 10 acres-5 of which my girls roam around and they always make it to the coop to lay their eggs. They do stay close in the morning and early afternoon, but once they're done laying, they're off to search for bugs and what nots!
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2009

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