My chickens STILL won't lay eggs in the nest boxes. Any suggestions?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by yankeefan, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. yankeefan

    yankeefan In the Brooder

    Jun 18, 2011
    Upstate NY
    I have a small flock of 6 birds in upstate NY. Three of the six birds have begun laying for me but none of them will use their nest boxes. I had an older flock of birds awhile back that used the same coop and nest boxes with no problem at all. The boxes are roughly 12"x12" with straw as bedding. I should add that my chickens are not free ranging. They are in an enclosed coop and run.

    I have tried the golf ball technique, and I also tried leaving some real eggs in the boxes, but no luck yet.

    Should I just remain patient and hope that the girls will get the idea in time? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Where are they laying? What is the bedding like where they are laying? It's possible they just don't like the bedding, have you tried different bedding?
  3. Crazyhenlady

    Crazyhenlady Songster

    Feb 8, 2012
    Everett, Wa
    My hens never use the boxes I give them. I however have a smaller coop so I think that may be why. I gave up and just let them lay in the spot they want..:)
  4. yankeefan

    yankeefan In the Brooder

    Jun 18, 2011
    Upstate NY
    The bedding in the boxes is/was straw up until a few hours ago when I changed it to pine shavings to try something different.

    They have been laying on the floor of the coop which is covered with sand.
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    Everyone's coop and birds are unique, so what I share, I don't offer as axioms or laws, merely some observations.

    First, the nesting boxes for beginners get used more quickly and more often if they are positioned lower to the floor. Mine are just raised on a concrete block or two, That's it. Purely my experience, but the pullets don't "get" jumping up to lay an egg right away. I get a few who lay on the floor for a week or two, just because I don't believe they themselves even realize they are laying egg. Who knows what is in a chicken's mind. But with the low boxes, they catch on very, very quickly.

    Second observation. A long time ago, I noticed that some boxes just never got used. I used to wonder why. I know they love piling up a clutch, I got that, but why build the clutch in one box over another? Many years ago, it dawned on me that my grandmother, who kept hens from 1890's in the 1950's and who was instrumental teaching me an awful lot about the birds, used to put a burlap flap or two over the boxes. Since most traditional hen houses face south, to maximize the sunlight and solar heating in winter, she used to say, "they like their privacy and some hens will "linger" for awhile". I remembered her saying that, so I experimented in making the boxes darker, and turned one away from the light, making it easily the darkest box. Sure enough, the next day or two EVERY hen in that pen laid in the dark box.

    I re-oriented the same box toward the light and turned a different box away from the light, making it the dark box. Bingo. Every hen, within two days, switched right over to the dark box. Chickens cannot talk so they cannot speak to us about such things. We have to watch, observe and take note of what their behaviors are "telling us".
    5 people like this.
  6. FarmerTea

    FarmerTea Hatching

    Feb 16, 2012
    I have a similar box situation where I gave the boxes more privacy by putting strips of fabric across the entrance of the box.
    My newest chickens are still not sure about the boxes and are laying their eggs in the hay bales...but I have confidence that they will find the boxes suitable soon. Any changes takes time for the chickens to adjust to. Reading this thread inspired me to work on nicer bedding in the boxes too. Last year I had shavings in there, thanks for the reminder.
  7. yankeefan

    yankeefan In the Brooder

    Jun 18, 2011
    Upstate NY

    Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative response. I will certainly try the things you mention. As a matter of fact, I'm gonna head out to the coop right now. Thank you.
    Jef's Girl likes this.
  8. Kev

    Kev Crowing

    Jan 13, 2008
    Sun City, California
    I think Freds Hens is spot on. A good number of nest boxes look way too open/bright to me with very low barrier on the front. It amazes me eggs dont roll out more often. I use covered cat litter boxes, the chickens LOVE them, especially if the plastic is more opaque making them darker inside. I recently bought two new litter boxes, but forgot to check if the top part was super opaque or not until I set them up in the coop... they are almost see through. So far, zero eggs in these even though they are in the same location as the older darker boxes. Think I will spray paint these two to make them darker.
  9. Try the golf balls- chances are, you will probably see a difference. I bought a bag of the cheapie faux balls (for something like $2) and those have worked just as well for us. God luck!
  10. cindylo

    cindylo In the Brooder

    Jun 2, 2011
    Idaho Falls, ID
    My girls figured out where to lay their eggs thanks to the multi-colored plastic Easter eggs filled with wadded up paper that I placed in each nesting box. Tis the season - lots of Easter stuff is hitting store shelves already.

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