Kicking all the straw out of nesting boxes?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by deacons, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I have 7 hens in a mixed breed flock, all ranging between 3-4 years old. They are older ladies, but have always been great layers (I've had them all most of their lives, most came as day old chicks). This year, the whole flock had a HEAVY molt, picture 7 naked ladies looking pathetic from late October until a couple of weeks ago. Their feathers have all come back in nicely, though combs and legs are still a little pale. During that time, egg laying stopped completely. It's the first time they've ever molted that hard as a group.

    This week, I've gotten a couple of eggs again. I'm not completely sure who's laying again, but they are the nest boxes. They are basically kicking all the straw out of the boxes every day. I replace it, they kick it back out. The first day, this meant the egg was cracked, either as a result of the straw tossing or maybe just from landing on the wooden nest box. It's also making a huge mess of the coop floor (I have pine shavings as bedding, which is now thoroughly full of straw as well).

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining that they're laying again, and apparently enjoying themselves. They're just usually such a neat and tidy bunch, they always want their nests to be "just so" and this is a new behavior for them.

    Do you think it's just because they're getting back into their routine? Or something else that I'm not thinking of?
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Not sure why the 'old girls' have started this new behavior. Is it possible to increase the lip on the nest boxes to make it more difficult for them to kick the bedding out?
  3. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    Hi there deacons

    Chickens are definitely amusing .. they cook up weird and wonderful ways to stump us on nearly a daily basis [​IMG]

    My oldest gals are coming up to three years old and they are also usually very neat and tidy but same as yours, when coming back into lay following a broody session or moult, they tend to kick the nesting straw out but once they actually start laying, they stop doing that.

    So hopefully with your gals, once they all return to laying this will stop.

    I believe it is similar to birds behaviour in the wild. Birds in our garden return to the nest they used last Spring and simply give it a spruce up, add some bits here, fix up holes etc .. I think that is what my gals are doing when they return to laying.
  4. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    Good idea, if they keep up with this, I could try that approach.
  5. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    They are endlessly amusing- that's why the old girls stay even though they're clearly pets at this point! :)

    Helpful to know that you've seen your hens do this too. I'm hoping that once the novelty of being back in the nest wears off a little, they'll get over the thrill of the feel of straw between their toes.
  6. ericinga

    ericinga Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2015
    Northwest, Georgia
    I had someone call me and had the same issue and their story was almost the same as yours. She couldn't believe her group molted at the same time but in the end we found they had mites. They were scratching and picking their feathers and once it started getting cold the mites subsided and the feathers started coming back. I told her to put some diatomaceous earth in the coop and nesting boxes. If the boxes have mites they will clean them out. People think chickens are not smart but if they know something like mites are in those nesting boxes, they will clean them out. On the other hand, I have a bantam group that will clean all straw and everything from their boxes and will lay on the ground before they will lay in straw but they have been doing that since they started laying. Something has to be wrong for yours to just start raking out the boxes.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  7. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    DE will not cure a mite infestation. My chickens have always kicked the bedding out of the boxes had flat boxes ice found that fully enclosing the boxes with a round opening in front door then to come and go helped a lot

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