Need Help Finding Hidden Nests


In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 13, 2009
middle TN
I have a flock of about 30 hens that I believe are hiding their nests. The flock consists of mostly RIR, BA, BO, as well as some mixed breeds. Most are just under a year old, with 2 being about 2 yrs old. Late winter, early spring, my egg production was just creeping up to about 24 a day, then it slowly dropped. I was lucky to get 8 – 10 a day.

I shut up the girls during the night, but let them free range during the day. And there is a lot of ground they cover. They are fed a 16% layer ration with added vitamins and calcium. I have never had soft shells, except at the beginning of their production. I rarely feed treats or scratch, except for a little BOSS in the evenings. The eggs I do get are firm shelled, with rich yolks and thick whites. I use hay in the nesting boxes and coop floor, and change it out often (we always have hay available and so is cheaper than purchasing other bedding materials). I have 6 12” x 12” nesting boxes in the house (10’ x 12’) and a 10 hole metal nesting box in the barn.

I have a near by hoop coop that the 4 month old pullets live in with a 12 hole nesting box in there. The hens and pullets free range together but retire to their individual houses at night. I do find a few eggs in the pullet house. All the birds seem to co-habit with out much fuss.

Occasionally I will find a hidden nest, but as soon as I do they will go somewhere else. I acquired a metal nesting box and repaired it and hung it in the barn – one of their favorite hangouts. I did get a couple in there for awhile, but that stopped as well. I found an egg eater, and after removing her I started getting more eggs. I also started letting the girls out later each morning, but it is way too hot to keep them cooped up for too long.

While I am now up to about 16 – 18 eggs a day, I know that they are still hiding some. So my questions: what are some favorite hiding places that hens like to use. I have looked high and low in places I would think they would like. Secluded, dark, and safe. In the barn, around the barn, under the barn. I have walked the pastures, but that is a lot of ground to cover. With the wet weather, we have not been able to cut our hay fields, so there is a lot of tall grass. Do they typically lay / nest in the middle of a tall field? Or do they prefer a protected site? What does a hen look for when selecting her site? I have tried to listen for the egg song and find nests that way, but I have been unsuccessful. Obviously, I do not think like a chicken…. Any help or advise would be appreciated!

For a while I had them laying in the bamboo. So I think tall grass would be similar.
Maybe follow them.

Unfortunately, my chickens are quite spoiled and seem to be more interested in following me than the other way around. But I am trying to be more observant and see where they are coming from. I think they are smarter than me though!
They may be laying in the barn. Check up high. A friend of mine had some hens laying on the roof of the coop.
They'll lay in the tall grass too. You can try to watch and see which direction a hen goes when she breaks away from the rest of the flock, but to truly solve the problem you need to put them all in lock down for a week or so until they get used to the nest boxes again. Is there anyway that you can expand your run (even something temp. and flimsy) to make that possible?

Another thing I do for my persistent hens is that when I find a nest I either leave an egg (marked) in it or put a fake egg in the nest. They are more likely to return to the same spots if you leave an egg or two in the nest. Good luck!
Thank you for the replies. I have looked high as well as low, but know I am not looking everywhere. I don't think they can make it to the hay loft, but even looked in there. I think it may be the grass as I have heard them in there, but by the time I get to the area, they are gone and the grass is so thick I would have to step on it before I found it. I will try to get something to leave in the nests I do find - wish I had thought to pick up some plastic easter eggs. Tall grass will have to wait I guess until it drys enough to cut for hay. It is too hot to put them in lock down, but I may try to re-do their run area where they can't fly out. I have only had chickens for about a year now, so know I am not thinking like a chicken. Thanks again!
My bantys are very adept at hiding eggs.Look for any hole that looks too small I've even had them lay in buckets on top of a storage shed! Neighborh found a huge batch at the back of his yard with his lawn tractor
He could'nt put it up for days as some were very old!

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