Nesting questions :0)


In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 3, 2012
My apologies if this sounds long winded, but this is for the edification of those who wish to respond. Here is my story:

I am brand new to this: In May I bought 10 australorps (9 hens and 1 roo), my pullets are not laying yet, and showing no signs of any interest (about 23 weeks now). Within the last week I added 8 RIR laying hens to my flock, all about 1 year old, (and yes their vents checked out). To my chagrin, I've read that it often takes a couple of weeks of getting used to their new surroundings for them to start laying regulary again. I figured, fair enough! I collected three eggs in the last 5 days from 8 birds. But I've been noticing that the hens are popping in and out of the coop. I put the food and water outside in their run area, but I still see them loitering about their coop. During the day, there is nothing in there except the nest. The pullets always stay outside, they're even too dumb to come out of the rain, so this is why this behavior puzzles me. Could this 'in and out of the coop' be a nesting behavior?

Also, I am in CT and as we approach november I'm starting to wonder if I need to add lighting to the coop. If I add lighting, will my pullets start laying this winter? I have a strange feeling that the pullets are going to be pretty fruitless for me until winter is over, even with artifical lighting. Am I correct in assuming that?

Thanks, everyone!
It's a little hard to say for sure what will happen. Different things can happen. Each chicken is an individual. We can talk about what hens normally do or what certain breeds tend to do, but they don't all read from the same book. Some will go against tendencies.

I think there is a really good chance your RIR are molting or soon will be. They quit laying while they use the nutrients that used to go into egg production for making new feathers. I don't have RIR's but some of my adult hens start laying when they finish the molt, even if it is the middle of winter, and some wait until Spring. The move can cause them to stop laying for a while but I'd really guess it is the molt.

Black Australorps have a reputation of laying pretty well in the winter. Mine generally do if a molt is not involved. They almost always start back up when their molt is over regardless of light or time of year.

It's pretty common for pullets that come into lay late summer or during the fall to skip the molt their first year and just keep laying all winter, whether you extend the light or not. Last year I had some Black Australorp pullets turn 20 weeks the first of December. I do not add any light. Most of those BA pullets were laying before Christmas. A few waited until February when the days started getting noticeably longer.

Commercial egg laying operations use the length of light to help control when pullets start to lay. They try to delay them laying until most are old enough to lay a commercial size egg. Then they extend the daylight to kind of make them think it is spring.

There is nothing magical about 14 hours, which you will read a lot about. Commercial operations use 14 hours of light to get the pullets to lay when they control all the light. That's where the magical 14 hours came from. They've found out that the hens are most efficient on using feed and such on that schedule the way they feed them. But length of day is not the criticla thing. What kicks them into a molt is the days getting shorter. If you live far enough away from the equator that your days in summer are longer than 14 hours, your chickens may start molting before the day is down to only 14 hours long.

With all that said, if you start adding light so that the days are getting longer, you have a pretty good chance of starting your BA pullets to laying. They are old enough to do that. I'm not sure what will happen to your RIR hens if they have already started to molt. They may just go on and finish before they start laying again.

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