If you see a hen panting and looking restless, give her a nest box

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by bluema, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. bluema

    bluema Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I received my day old chicks on 04/24/2013 and got my fist egg today 08/23/2013 from my Golden Buff (Red Star)!
    I was guessing that she'd be the first one to lay from my research, and she didn't disappoint at only 4 months old!

    I have noticed that Star (the Red Star) was squatting around me on 08/20, and then she started panting and looking very restless since yesterday. She looked especially distressed today pacing herself back and forth as if to look for something or trying to escape her run. Although the coop already has two enclosed nest areas, it was almost level with the rest of the coop and filled with sand. Since Star obviously needed something I wasn't sure of, I decided to give her a tray full of nesting material at around 2:10PM. As soon as I sat the nest tray filled with Timothy Hay in one of the nest box in the coop, she immediately went to investigate, went inside the tray, and sat herself down. She looked like she was trying to poop within one minute but she wasn't singing the egg song (that I've been waiting for), so I went inside my house to look for something to reinforce the nest tray and to give her a bit of privacy. When I went back out to the coop, I found the first egg at 2:19PM!

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    This makes me question whether she would've laid earlier if an appropriate nest box/material was made available to her, like yesterday when I noticed her panting hard. She obviously didn't think two enclosed nest areas filled with sand was adequate as a nest box.
    I am amazed that she didn't make any sound while laying her first egg, and I wonder if she would've held it in longer if I hadn't provided something she deemed appropriate for her to lay her egg on. I would love to hear from you if you've noticed a similar behavior.

    Lessons learned - don't expect an egg song (obviously not all chickens make a useful announcement), don't assume it's too early, and provide additional nesting box/material if you see a hen panting hard or looking distressed.

    Star and her buddies all got grapes and blueberries as rewards right after.
    My Roxy (Plymouth Rock) started squatting yesterday, so I'm hoping she'll lay her first egg shortly along with Star.

    I had pet chickens when I was a kid, but I never noticed any egg laying behaviors and just collected eggs that appeared.
    Chickens are such awesome pets that reward you with extra bonus, and I'm so excited to collect eggs again!
    : )
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  2. Alexandra317

    Alexandra317 Out Of The Brooder

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    Your post was wonderful. Congrats!!! I got my first 5 chicks about May 5th so I will prepare based on your post... I have no clue about the laying thing. There are 4 next boxes in the coop but like you said, level and open. Some have been sleeping in them at night. I do have one small dog crate outside the door and under the tarp as well as 2 covered cat liter boxes with pine shavings inside. I have ping pong balls... rather than wooden eggs... to maybe help them get the idea. I don't know. Hahaha! It will all work out.
     
  3. bluema

    bluema Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 8, 2013
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    My Coop
    It looks like you're already well prepared with your litter boxes with pine shavings. Like yours, my two Silkies often slept in the nest boxes, so I didn't want to prematurely place nesting material or a tray that I thought would get in the way. It was fun to see Star with the nesting material. When some got thrown outside of the tray with her wiggling, she picked them up and placed them on her back. I really wish I stayed around to witness her first laying, but I was expecting a loud egg song or anything akin to chicken labor noise. All the other girls were in the coop watching Star, so it would appear that they knew what was happening better than I. I assumed that Star may start to lay in about two weeks since she started squatting 3 days ago, but she surprised me today with her present! I was so proud of her. [​IMG]
     
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  4. bluema

    bluema Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 8, 2013
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    My Coop
    Roxy laid her first egg yesterday on 9/8 at 4:50PM after over 2 weeks since her first squatting.
    [​IMG]
    Different from Star, she definitely sang her [frantic] egg song before laying, and I knew that she was about to lay by seeing her panting and restless while keep dashing back to the nest area.
    [​IMG]
    One of my larger silky, light brahma, and Roxy seem more vocal than other birds, and they're all singing the egg song once in a while now. Star (Red Star) has been a very productive girl by laying eggs pretty much every day with the eggs getting gradually larger, but I've never seen her sing the egg song. My Rhode Island red (Rose) surprisingly laid her 1st egg out of nowhere on 9/4, but she has skipped 5 days in a row with no further eggs (??). She's also quiet and sang no egg song. I suppose all girls are different and some are more vocal than other.
     
  5. Alexandra317

    Alexandra317 Out Of The Brooder

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    WOW! The videos were very helpful!!! A bunch have been panting lately but it's was warm yesterday. A veteran friend mentioned to mark eggs, found and unknown as to when layed, with a pencil and maybe leave as inspiration to my inexperienced pullets. My chicken get to range a bit so, I imagine surprise eggs will be found here and there. Do hens favor a place to lay and stick with that? So I can add a nesting box at that location maybe? If I choose to let a hen brood next spring, can eggs from other hens be added to her clutch?
     
  6. bluema

    bluema Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 8, 2013
    Tennessee
    My Coop
    Yes, hot weather is causing my other hens to pant as well, but it's not as of frantic panting as right before laying an egg. If you watch carefully, you'll notice a hen dashing back and forth to a nest box. When Star was panting, no other hens were panting so I knew something was up unrelated to the weather. My 20 weeks old silky just started laying her egg since yesterday, and I initially thought the light colored egg was from my Light Brahma due to its size. I was expecting the Silky's first egg to be as small as a quail egg, but I was able to capture her laying today.

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    Here's a photo of the few eggs for size comparisons. I also found three soft shelled eggs so far, but I'm not sure who's laying the soft shelled and probably not eating the oyster shells laid out for the girls. Star's egg is now the size of the store bought large eggs on the top right, but she started out as small as Roxy's on the top left. What is very surprising to me is that Sue's (bantam Silky) first egg is as large as other standard girls'. Poor girl...
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    As far as the nest boxes are concerned, each girl has been laying on a specific nest box consistently without fail so far. Star and Sue like to lay on the left box, and Roxy and Rose are laying on the right. I've read that hens like specific nest box for themselves, which could also help when you're trying to identify who's laying which egg. I unfortunately don't have the room for more nest boxes... I've placed a wooden egg in the right nest box (hidden in the below photo by Star's head) only because I saw Roxy pecking one of Star's egg and made a hole in it once. If you can't collect your eggs quickly, some chickens may crack the egg and become egg eaters. If you place a wooden egg along with timely gathering of fresh eggs, I hear they may peck at the wooden egg and find out it's hard to crack, which may discourage the undesired cracking behavior. Oyster Shells, if consumed, can also discourage cracking since the shells will be extra hard. From everything I've read, faux eggs won't encourage egg laying except it may give some clue as to where the hens should lay.
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    If I were you, I'd encourage the hens to lay in a designated nest area near/in the coop so that you don't have to go out egg hunting in the fields. If a hen ends up becoming broody, she may lay in the woods where you can't find her, and may not come back to the coop at night which will place her in danger. Although few of my girls started laying late in the afternoon for their first eggs, most end up laying in the AM. If you have laying hens or expecting to lay soon, I'd have them free range only in the afternoon until their laying habits get established.

    As far as allowing hens to brood, yes broody hens are famous for even stealing others' eggs to sit on (especially Silkies). Some of the productive hybrid hens will never go broody since the trait got bred out of the breeds (to increase egg production), so you can add those eggs to broody hens to hatch.
     
  7. Alexandra317

    Alexandra317 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 9, 2013
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    Super!
     
  8. Alexandra317

    Alexandra317 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 9, 2013
    King George, VA
    Will heed the advice. Thank you!
     

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