Just how many nest boxes do they want??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by franklinchickens, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. franklinchickens

    franklinchickens Songster

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    May 19, 2010
    Franklin, TN
    We have 7 hens who all want to use 1 nest box. We have 2 boxes (we had started with 4 hens and then ended up taking in 3 new ones this spring). We thought we should probably add another box or two though are struggling with where to put them as the coop itself is rather small. They only go in to lay, and at night otherwise they free range and have a large covered area under the coop where their food & water is.
    Just found a clutch of 4 eggs up in the tree line by one of the new girls, another one laid in the compost bin. But the nest box is also used by these same hens so it isn't as if they don't know where to lay. But I wonder if the one box is occupied, they kind of shrug and think, hmmm....I'll just go find a spot in the yard instead.
    It is ALWAYS the same box. I'm wondering even if I add another box or two if it will make any difference.
    Should I maybe do 2 more boxes but down in the run? It's sheltered and clean. Would this matter? Or will they all still duke it out over the 1 box. We've had chickens for nearly 2 years now and no one wants to use the left hand box.
    Gaaaah!
    Any thoughts??
     

  2. ninabeast

    ninabeast Songster

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    We made four nests for ten hens; more than enough, right? Then we had one who desperately wanted to lay in the barn, so much so that she was willing to lay on top of cut hardware cloth. So, we made her her own nest in the barn. Then the other girls went "sweeeeet", and started using it. They now scream at each other if there's a log jam. The original hen decided she didn't like sharing, and she now has her own place in the barn, behind some metal shelves.

    It's exhausting. Also, hilarious. The whole stupid story is in my blog, but you have to go back a bit to get the beginning.
     
  3. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    Loxahatchee, Florida
    The mind of a chicken is a mysterious thing...

    They do tend to be fashion-followers rather than trend-setters. I use this as an example to my kids to explain the lure of following fads. "Don't act like the chickens, think for yourself!"

    But you could use this to your advantage with your chickens. Have you tried placing eggs, real or fake, in the other nest boxes? Sometimes that's all they need to see to get the idea "Hey, somebird thinks this is a good place to lay, I'll do it too!"

    Also, if your hens are consistently laying in a different location you could just collect the eggs daily from there, perhaps leaving one marked egg or a fake egg there to mark their place. Why fight city hall? Or your hens' whims?
     
  4. franklinchickens

    franklinchickens Songster

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    Franklin, TN
    @ninabeast - so funny - that's kind of what is going on here
    @Sunny Side Up - yes we did put a golf ball in the other box and sometimes we'll take an egg that has been laid and move it over to the other box, and have even tried moving a hen into it. We did it once when someone was in the favorite box and she was very unhappy and immediately jumped back in the preferred box. We've also done it several times with the 'log jam' of hens waiting to use the 'special' box. Tried putting them in there and they either hop out or climb on top of the hen who is trying to lay. I've had up to 3 in the box all duking it out.
    I think I'm going to have my husband build the 2 more boxes on the lower level - the main reason we haven't is that I'm afraid they'll freeze over the winter. The coop is insulated and has 4 solid walls with some ventilation. The lower level has 2 solid sides and the rest is hardware cloth. We can just make sure to check frequently - he works from home and I'm self employed so someone is usually around.
    Glad to know mine aren't the only wacko hens. I posted this today because I'm working at my desk and there was a big ruckus in the coop of 2 of them both trying to get in the box! Was kind of bummed because one of them is an EE who is just recovered from molting - I'm expecting her to lay soon and the new girls ( who are a lot bigger) seem to be keeping her out. Better go check the compost bin!
     
  5. ChicKat

    ChicKat Crowing Premium Member

    If the right box is considerably lighter and brighter than the left box--- that could be part of the attraction. Chickens like darkness -- probably figure it is safer for the eggs. Maybe a shade or curtain to block light from the box that they think is less desireable will turn things around for you.
     

  6. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    Loxahatchee, Florida
    I agree with ChicKat, there may be a slight difference in the boxes, enough to keep them favoring one over the other. You can take an old dark-colored T-shirt and cut it into a fringe and attach it to the top/front of the nest boxes to give them more privacy, they may like that.

    If the little voices in their heads tell them to...
     
  7. franklinchickens

    franklinchickens Songster

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    May 19, 2010
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    I'll give that a try but the box they all love is the one nearest the door so it is actually the brighter one. The one they don't like is the one in the corner which is darker. But, thinking along accessibility lines - I wonder now if perhaps the favored box is easy to jump into and the other box, they have to hop onto a roost to get into it. Just the way the coop ended up being configured. It's not hard to do - just hop up and take a step into the box. But maybe that's enough to dissuade them.
    We are going to add the boxes in the run and hopefully this will help - but I am going to take the suggestion about darkening them because that area gets a lot more light so this suggestion is great. Had not even considered that.
    The place they (we found 3 different colored eggs in that spot today) lay in the trees is in the roots in kind of a cubbie that is dark and surrounded on 3 sides. We may just stick a nest box up there and be done with it!
     
  8. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    Loxahatchee, Florida
    Sure, if you know where to look, and they know where to lay, it doesn't matter if it's in the coop or somewhere else, as long as it's easy for you to reach.
     
  9. franklinchickens

    franklinchickens Songster

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    Franklin, TN
    @Sunny Side Up - it's not a really big deal but it's up a hill and through a tree line around the back of the garden beds that are terraced up the hill. Not terribly far but a bit of a hike up the hill! I'm more concerned about rodents or other creatures finding them and eating them and realized we have edible things in our yard - well, more than the garden, hens & compost that we already have! We'll see what happens when we put the new boxes in.
     

  10. ninabeast

    ninabeast Songster

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    Upstate New York
    Quote:This is the philosophy I have taken. If they're happy, I can deal. At least it's not Easter morning every day, as it was for a while with Hermione.
     

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