My chickens won't go in nests

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jonlafoy, Nov 26, 2014.

  1. jonlafoy

    jonlafoy Out Of The Brooder

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    So we recently built a chicken coop from trees that we cut down on my proptery. I have a total of 21 chickens and there is plenty of room for them. There is a wonderful nesting box that we got and put in there. We filled it up with hay and grass, made them look likes nests in order to appeal to the chickens, and waited. They have yet to go into the nesting boxes on their own, they won't even sleep in them. They actually prefer to sleep on the roosting limbs that are in the coop. They will also sleep ON TOP of the nesting box, but not in it.
    I see this as a problem because none of my seven month old chickens (including some leghorns which lay earlier than most) are producing any eggs. I fear that the roosting on the limbs for sleep is partly the cause. What can I do to get my chickens inside the nesting boxes to sleep, and thus encouraging them to nest and lay?
    Some additional info: all of our chickens free range. I have looked across the small property, especially in their favorite spots, and haven't found any eggs. They eat whatever they found during the day, then we give them a good amount of scratch feed in the evening. Right now my concern isn't so much that they aren't laying. I first want them in the nesting boxes before they do that. That is what I am worried about first.
    Thanks in advance!!

    P.S. I am new to the site, although I have used it to find good information in the past. This is my first time joining and posting, so if I used the wrong terms for anything, please forgive me!
     
  2. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi - put some fake eggs or golf/ping pong balls in your nests to give the the idea. Also, they won't sleep in the nests, usually, if there are roosting areas availaable - that's their instinct. When your pullets start laying, they should begin to use the boxes. Mine just started to lay (it's been about 2 weeks now, and they are all laying in the nesting boxes, even though they have two coops that they go into at night. If they are in coop A, they'll use a particular box there. If they are in coop B, they go into the nesting area and lay in a particular area there.

    You don't really want them to sleep in the boxes - just lay eggs in them.
     
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  3. jonlafoy

    jonlafoy Out Of The Brooder

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    Peeps, I never considered that they would only go into the nesting boxes to lay, not sleep. Thanks for the insight. I was considering temporarily removing the roosting limbs to help them focus on the boxes, but I think that is more work than what is needed. I have recently heard about the fake egg/golf ball trick. Luckily for me, the previous owner of my land loved to smack balls across the property... unfortunately I'd have to search everywhere to find them!! I've seen so many I don't know where they are. But I'll keep my eye out for them.
    If they aren't using the nesting boxes just because they aren't laying, then I suppose I need to fix why not. I have read plenty of forums on here, and found a great link that describes all the possibilities.
    Thanks again for the help!
     
  4. iwiw60

    iwiw60 Overrun With Chickens

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    Are your girls doing the "submissive squat" for you yet? When they do they are getting very very close to lay. If not, they are not quite ready regardless of their 'age'. Also you need to take into consideration that it is now winter and with that comes shorter days, colder days, rain and snow. This is also the time that hens naturally slow down...their reproductive system is taking a rest!

    I wish you all the best![​IMG]
     
  5. jonlafoy

    jonlafoy Out Of The Brooder

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    Iwiw, I just heard of the squat today... My chickens won't let us get near them. I don't know why. The only way we could is when we feed them, as they become very excited and no longer care about anything except that "crack" we feed them. We tried to keep them friendly, but it never stuck to them. The only one in my household who can easily catch a chicken is my son. He'll randomly come out of the coop holding a chicken, by the legs, to show us what he can do. My son is two years old, by the way... a two year old chicken whisperer. When we care sneak in a pat, or a stroke as if to pet, they will kind of squat, it's more out of... anxiety, maybe? Just a reaction, they've been doing it since they were chicks.
    I know it's almost winter, but I am in central Texas. Mornings are chilly, but the afternoon will still see 70 degrees and sunny. We did have a cold front a few weeks ago, and that may have kicked in the rest cycle (before it even got started). But it is by no means cold yet, that won't happen until late December or early January.
     
  6. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi there, and [​IMG]

    I was wondering if you have you considered feeding your girls a formulated pellet instead of scratch? The only reason I ask is that scratch is generally considered to be a 'treat' and should not be the sole source of food, wether they free-range or not.

    A specially formulated pellet would also give them all the nutritional requirements they need in order to not only produce eggs, but maintain good body condition, boost their immune systems, and promote healthy feather growth. It is generally suggested that all chickens should have free access 24/7 to their feed too. I wonder if maybe they are not getting the necessary nutrition to be able to lay for you?

    I second @iwiw60 in that your girls also need substantial daylight in order to produce eggs. It may well be that you are fighting nature a bit in that regard. It is also completely normal (and to be expected) that they will want to roost during the nights. Nest boxes are purely for laying in, and for hatching chicks in. Your girls should not be sleeping in the nest boxes at all.

    Best wishes,

    - Krista
     
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  7. jonlafoy

    jonlafoy Out Of The Brooder

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    Krista, thanks for the reply. I have not considered pellets instead. I also did not know that scratch was a treat. Next time we go to the feed store we will look at the formulated pellets. I am sure they cost more so we may have to work the budget. We would like to get a fodder system set up, large enough for our goats as well. That should help with most food deficiencies they may be getting. But the initial cost can be troublesome as well (we are cheap pople :) )
    I will look into getting a light set up in their coop. We lock them up pretty early since it get's dark quick. And if we don't, they'll roost in the trees (especially the guinea hens). I'll probably get a solar powered one, since the coop is so far from the house. Would any type of light suffice? Such as florescent v. condescent?? Or will any light be good enough to make their bodies think it is still day?
     
  8. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I only mention the feed because when I first got my chickens I used to feed them scratch all the time too, and it was explained to me by the good folk on these boards that it was not nutritionally adequate. Back in 'the good old days' my grandparents would just throw a handful of scratch out the window when the mood took them but then again, they didn't have the high expectations of 1 egg per day per hen either. When I think back to when I collected the eggs as a child, they had a good 30+ hens, and yet I only ever collected 5 or 6 eggs from them at a maximum. Knowing what I do now, maybe there was a good reason for that! Either way, I know that when I switched my feed out to formulated pellets and took the scratch away the eggs started rolling in and all the problems I had been having with soft shells disappeared.

    I give my girls free access to pellets 24/7, and have several feed stations available so that wherever they may be (coop, run or yard) they can find pellets close by. They do get half a bucket of vegie scraps each morning, but as far as scratch, wheat or corn goes they only get a small scoop before they go to bed and that's it. It IS more expensive, that's a certainty, and at the end of the day you have to do what is realistic depending on your own budget. My suspicions are though that it is a bit 'one or the other' - it's ok to feed scratch but you're not assured of high production if you do. If you do choose to go the pellet route, shop around and get the best possible price you can. In Australia the rural feed stores offer big bags for $22AU and a bag lasts my flock of 8 roughly a month. I also try to get big, heavy feeders so they can't be knocked over, and move them all inside the coop at night to keep the wild birds from eating them. Anything I can do to stretch it out and limit waste is a good thing!

    I don't know a lot about supplemental lighting myself. But from reading from my Chicken Owners Manual (which is presently right beside me) it states that hens need around 14 hours of daylight to maintain good egg production. It also says that a 9 watt warm wavelength fluorescent bulb provides more than adequate additional lighting for an area of approximately 200 square feet. I have no idea what a 'warm wavelength' fluorescent globe is, but someone at a hardware store might be able to sort that out for you! The recommendation (according to the book) says the extra light should be added in the mornings before sunrise so that the birds still go to roost naturally at sunset. Please keep in mind I am not well versed in this area and that I am just relaying what the book says! I am sure some more experienced chicken owners might be able to provide other suggestions - ones that they have actual experience with!

    Kind regards

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2014
  9. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    Hi there - and welcome to BYC
    I think there may need to be some clarification for us to answer your concerns. You say you want them to go into the nest box to sleep - and seem concerned that they are sleeping on the roosting limbs. In actuality, your birds are doing just what you want. You don't want them to sleep in nest boxes, nest boxes are for laying eggs and roost are for sleeping. Whether or not they go into the nest boxes has nothing to do with whether they will begin to produce eggs. Going into the box is not what prompts laying, but rather the onset of production is what cues the bird to start seeking a nest.
    You mention feeding scratch feed and allowing them to free range, but make no mention of actual feed. Scratch is meant to be used as a snack/treat in their diet, not as a real source of nutrition. Production of eggs requires minimum amounts of key nutrients that are likely lacking in your birds current diet if it is truly made up solely of scratch grains and forage (which the amount and quality of forage they have right now depends on your location - if you are in a region currently experiencing fall/winter is unlikely to have forage enough for them to subsist on.
    If you post photos of your flock and your set up we may be able to help you evaluate their closeness to production as well as any issues that may be contributing to the reluctance to investigate the nest boxes.
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    You got sme good advice. Some people actually close off the nests til the chickens start laying, justt= to prevent them from learning to sleep in the nests.

    It's definitely true about scratch feed not being a complete diet. It's even possible that after a few weeks on a well rounded feed like grower, they will start laying a bit soner --as their health recovers. You can also give a nutritional "boost" by feeding a bag of game bird feed, or mising a little into their grower feed. Also, I didnt notice that anyone said you need th have the nests lower than the roosts as part of the training to keep them out of the nests for sleedp. Chickens instinctively want to slee at the high point.

    You can tame some chicks if you do a lot of hands on work with them from the day they hatch, though some will still never be a "lap chicken." Sometimes when you train a rooster tob be a lap chicken, he will become people aggressive when his hormones kick in, around 16 weeks or so. For them to run away from you is pretty natural for them. You can easily train them to come when you call by also offering a treat when you call (this is one thing scratch is good for!)Lots of people put some in a jar or can and close it, then shake the can and call them. It won't take long for them todome running then you just jake the can. If you need to handle a chicken, perhaps to worm or check an injury, the easiest way is to life them off the roost after they are asleep. They will remain in a bit of a stupor even after you pick them up. Suggestion: Get a hat with a headlamp if you don't have light in your coop.

    More good reading: http://www.hyline.com/aspx/redbook/redbook.aspx?s=5&p=36

    Good luck!

    We have a new forum especially for one of our sponsors, Purina, here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/f/16189/nutrition-sponsored-by-purina-poultry
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2014

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