Nesting boxes and golf balls

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by EasterEggDrew, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 9, 2016
    So, we're familiar with the golf ball trick, but one thing that is not clear is when to place them. Our chicks are just shy of 20 weeks, and are barred rock, easter egger, and brahmas.

    The nesting boxes are currently covered, to keep them from using them to roost and poop. When should we uncover the nesting boxes and place the golf balls?
  2. ECSandCCFS

    ECSandCCFS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2013
    I would say pretty soon, since some breeds start laying at 20 weeks. Your girls, especially the brahmas, will probably take a little longer to lay, but you can expect eggs in the next month or two.
  3. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    If they've been in the coop awhile now and are roosting fine, you can probably open up the nest boxes now. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they continue to roost. I had my nest box open and ready (with golf balls) several weeks before mine finally laid. They did go in to investigate and would occasionally sit in it (and play soccer with the golf balls!), but never slept in them and pooped in them maybe once or twice.

    Thankfully the soccer part stopped once the main "kicker" started laying.
  4. tomphot

    tomphot Chillin' With My Peeps

    How long do you keep the fake eggs in the box?
  5. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    As far as I know you can just leave the fakes in indefinitely, as long as you don't have a hen trying to brood them.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I would open the nests up now, give them time to inspect them and for you to break any nest sleeping habits before eggs come.
    I leave fake eggs/golf balls in nests full time to 'spread the love'.
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Personally I want the nests open by 16 weeks. I’ve had some pullets start to lay that early and I want the first controlled egg in the nests so I don’t have to break them of the habit of not laying in the nests.

    When they first start to lay, some pullet shave no control of the process. They may drop their egg from the roosts or just walking around. Most have control of the process to start with but you get some that don’t. Wherever they lay that first controlled egg becomes their nest and they generally return there to lay the next egg. If you have your nests blocked their nest will not be in your nests. Why create a problem to solve one that probably doesn’t exist.

    You read on here all the time to block your nests so they won’t sleep in them. That’s fine up to a point, that can help train them where to roost when they are learning. If your coop is set up properly they won’t sleep in the nests, they’ll sleep on the roosts. If my chickens are going to sleep in the nests I want to know before I start getting poopy eggs so I can fix the problem.

    You’ve probably read on here that the roosts need to be higher than the nests because chickens normally like to sleep as high as they can. That is your first step, the roosts need to be higher than the nests. That fixes most of these problems but sometimes you still get chickens sleeping in nests.

    Some chickens can be pretty brutal on the roosts as they are settling in for the night. It’s a pecking order thing. Part of them being rough is that the ones highest in the pecking order get to sleep wherever they want. If another chicken is in their way they may peck that chicken to move it or even knock it off the roosts. It can get pretty rough, but this usually isn’t the problem. They eventually sort out who sleeps where and settle down.

    Sometimes you get a chicken that pecks another chicken lower in the pecking order just because they can. Often this is a hen fairly low in the pecking order picking on one even lower. Usually when I see this I’m integrating younger chickens into the flock and it’s a low ranked hen picking the even lower ranked juveniles. You hardly ever see this with mature hens all the same age, but you have juveniles. They haven’t fully matured yet and could still be sorting out the final pecking order. Even with juveniles it is unlikely you will see this, but this is usually the cause of some chickens sleeping in nests when others are sleeping on the roosts. Chickens don’t like being beat up and brutalized on the roosts so they seek a safer place to sleep.

    I see this all the time when I’m integrating juveniles into my main flock. I solved it by putting up a juvenile roost, lower than the main roosts, separated horizontally, and higher than my nests. This gives them a safe place to go that is not my nests.

    Another potential problem you could have is that the pullets could scratch bedding and fake eggs out of the nests. They like to scratch a lot when settling in to lay, getting the bedding arranged just right for their nests. Often before they start to lay they investigate possible nesting sites, often scratching a lot. If you find your bedding or golf balls on the coop floor, that can usually be solved by raising the lip holding that stuff in. I’d like to know about that before I find real eggs scratched out onto the coop floor.

    Where are your pullets sleeping now? If they are sleeping on a roost higher than the nests you probably don’t have a problem. But the only way to be sure is to open the nests up and put the golf balls in. That way you will know if you have a real problem you can fix or just an imaginary one that doesn’t exist.

    I always leave a golf ball in the nest even if they have been laying for years. I don’t see where it hurts anything and could help.
    2 people like this.
  8. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 9, 2016
    Thank you for the detailed response! My poop tray and roosting bar are directly above the nests, per aart's advice, so I don't anticipate having too many issues. You are right that my chickens are young, but all the same age.

    I will find an opportunity in the next few days to pull the lids off the nests (currently nailed on), fill them with pine shavings, and put a golf ball or two in each. No eggs yet, as of this morning, but I'm sure they're getting close to laying, if this week's cold weather didn't put them off it for a bit.
  9. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 26, 2015
    Portland OR
    Just wanted to add that the surest sign in my flock that the first egg is on the way is when the pullets start squatting. Works well for hens coming off a molt and broodies after they're done raising chicks. Hope your first one pops out soon!
  10. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 9, 2016
    Me too! My 7 year old's first words every morning and after school each evening are, "can we go check for eggs?" They're technically his chickens, or that's what we tell him. ;-)

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