No eggs, sleeping in the nest boxes

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jahphotogal, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. jahphotogal

    jahphotogal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My little flock of 5 hens have been laying steadily since they started in October. (They have light in the coop. ) Suddenly last week we went from 3,4 or occasionally 5 eggs a day to 2, or today, none. A few days ago I found the frozen remains of a broken egg in one of the boxes. This morning there was a lot of poop in one, and tonight at 7pm both were occupied, I assume by girls planning to sleep there. What is going on? What steps can I take to break them of new bad habits? I read the article, six ways to stop egg eating, but I'm not 100% sure that's what's going on.
     
  2. LukensFarms

    LukensFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Put some fake eggs in the nest box. A lot of them. Like six or seven.
     
  3. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mine where sleeping in the nesting boxes too, I finally started blocking them off after 3 in the afternoon, that way my two who where laying eggs continued too (mine usually finishes laying eggs by two or three in the afternoon..)so far it's worked, and I am no longer spending a good part of my morning cleaning out the nesting boxes...
     
  4. jahphotogal

    jahphotogal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How do the fake eggs help?
     
  5. ChucktheChick

    ChucktheChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The coop
    The chickens think that those are real eggs, but they are not. So, they will see the fake ones and they think they are real so they will lay by the fake ones!
     
  6. LukensFarms

    LukensFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When they peck the eggs and there is nothing inside they give up and quit eating eggs. Also it is uncomfortable to sleep on the fake eggs so they go somewhere else.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    You have two different issues. One, why are they sleeping in the nest boxes? Is this a change in behavior? Have they moved from sleeping on the roosts to the nest boxes or have they always done this?

    I’ll ask a silly question. Are they broody? I doubt it since something is pooping in the nest but that might not be the broody. I know it I a silly question but I’ve only had two cups of coffee so far.

    I’ll assume that your roosts are higher than your nest boxes and they used to sleep on the roosts. If I’m wrong, please tell me. This often happens with mine when I am integrating young chicks raised by a broody. The chicks are used to sleeping on the roosts with Mama’s protection but when she weans them and leaves them on their own, another hen goes out of her way to be brutal to the young chicks when they are settling in on the roosts. This does not happen every time but it has a few times with mine. The chicks look for a safer place to sleep. I put an extra roost away from the main roosts and about a foot lower down to give them a better place to go than my nest boxes.

    You might have a chicken that has become such a brute that it is driving the others from the roosts. Maybe they have reached a level of maturity that dominance has changed. I really don’t know.

    It’s possible something else has frightened them when they were on the roosts and they feel safer in the nest boxes. Maybe some critter is in there at night. I doubt this scenario too but it’s possible.

    I’d suggest looking at your roosts and seeing if they are maybe too tight. Consider adding an extra roost, maybe lower and a bit away or maybe just a bit away but higher than your nest boxes, to give them an alternative place to go at night if it is a brute on the roost. And try moving them to the roosts after dark to see if you can get them out of the habit of sleeping in the nest boxes. Sometimes that is easier than other times.

    As far as the loss of egg production, there are many things that could be going on. That broken egg might be a clue or it could be that one just got accidentally broken. It is a strong clue but don’t let that totally blind you to other possibilities. One of the major reasons for a drop in egg production like this is that some are hiding a nest form you. In spite of that broken egg, I’d suggest you consider this.

    Back to my silly question. When a hen goes broody she stops laying.

    Sometimes when a hen gets stressed she stops laying or reduces laying for a while. This stress could come from something really frightening them or maybe running out of water for a long time period. I’ve noticed a drop in egg production when the weather gets really brutally cold. There is an active thread about this. Same thing can happen when it gets extremely hot. A change in the pecking order can cause this, usually triggered by adding or taking away one or more chickens.

    But you have a clue that something might be eating the eggs. You can mark an egg and leave it out there. If it disappears you know something is getting them and you can blow off what I wrote above.

    If it is most of them every day, that rules out a few things. Them normally disappearing without a trace is also a clue. Finding that one egg is unusual.

    It’s pretty normal for a chicken to eat an egg that is broken. They may or may not clean up the shells if something else has broken the egg. I don’t consider these chickens egg eaters. To me an egg eater is a chicken that has learned to open a perfectly good egg. I had one of those once. The others would help her clean it up once she broke it but they did not learn that opening trick. Once I figured out which one it was and removed her the problem went away. Sometimes when she opened an egg there was some evidence left, either a sticky place or shell, but occasionally I would not find any evidence. And it was usually one or two eggs a day but if this is your problem, yours could be opening more. I spent a lot of time at the coop watching them. I put an egg on the floor and finally one went over and started opening it. It took time and effort.

    When eggs disappear without a trace it usually means a snake has found them for me. A snake will not visit every day though, maybe every two to four says, eat several eggs, then go away for a while to digest them. That doesn’t sound like your case, plus you mentioned a frozen egg. I doubt it is a snake for you this time of year.

    My second thought when they disappear without a trace is a family pet dog that has access to the coop. Do you maybe have a dog that has learned the egg song is an invitation to a treat?

    It’s possible a wild critter has learned there is easy food available during the day. Most of these will leave evidence. A fox or coyote will eat the whole egg but are also likely to take a chicken instead of settling for an egg. Skunks and possums will usually eat them in the nest and leave the shell behind. The chickens may or may not clean up the shell. A raccoon will normally take the egg a short distance and eat it, again eating the shell. But if one of these has babies back home, they may take the egg to their babies.

    Another predator normally leaves no evidence, the two legged kind of predator. A human. Just something to consider.

    I don’t know what is going on with either of your issues. There are too many possibilities. Even if I were there looking at it, it would be difficult. I wish you luck. Neither of these is always easy to solve.
     
  8. jahphotogal

    jahphotogal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ridgerunner, Thanks for the thorough comment. Responses to your questions:

    No new chickens coming or going - same flock since July.
    Pretty sure nobody is broody - I'm watching for this because I want to hatch some eggs.
    Re roosts and locations. I have a tiny coop (5x8x5 feet tall foot high hoop house) - the roosts are about the same level as the boxes - both are on a platform about 15 or 20 inches above the ground. There is one chicken (lowest in the order) who has tended to sleep in the nest boxes sometimes, but other times I see her nestled among the others. The sleeping roost is only a few inches above the "upstairs" platform) and sometimes she sits on the floor under the other chickens.

    There is also a ladder in the main coop area, but nobody sleeps on it. (I trained them to sleep on the regular roost when they were little by locking them into the platform area.)

    I've looked around the run for rogue eggs with no success. With the snowstorm coming tonight I doubt they'll be laying anywhere other than the coop for a while!

    Re missing eggs:
    They could have gotten stressed - there was a hawk around a few weeks ago but they kept laying til just a few days ago. I don't think they have run out of water - I keep a close eye because of the cold (they have a cookie tin water heater that works well down to about 10 degrees.)
    I don't think it's a predator (2 or 4 legged) - I'd see footprints in the snow. Snakes seem very unlikely in northern CT in February.

    I am now out of eggs altogether - ate the last few this morning. I could buy some commercial (white, since all mine lay brown or green) and stick them in the next boxes to see what happens.


    Question: If I move the nest boxes to the ground level, will they get too confused? Or will they just know that's where they're supposed to lay now? (They are 5 gallon buckets, bolted to the platform.)

    Do you think filling eggs with mustard or dish soap helps cure egg eating?
    Unfortunately I work full time so it would be hard to watch them. I can keep an eye out this weekend, but with a foot of snow on the way I'm not sure how their behavior might change. I also put out some calcium, just in case - their egg shells have seemed nice and hard but perhaps one broke.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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  10. missnu01

    missnu01 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had a few young chickens that were sleeping in the nest boxes...and my hens started laying in a dog crate...I have the dog crate there so if a hen goes broody she has the perfect spot to do it in...but now all the hens go in there to lay because the younger chicks were sleeping in the nest boxes...now the ones that were using the nests for sleeping, aren't, but still nobody is using the nest boxes...but at least they aren't laying outside--yet. I have a pretty wild hen I got with her clutch at the end of November, and she likes to hide eggs so the dog crate appeals to her. Her first few eggs she laid in a nest she made under the stairs...but now everyone is laying in the coop, and that is good enough for me. But you suddenly aren't getting eggs really, but are finding broken ones...Maybe make a new nest box and put it in the coop with eggs in it...so the laying hens will lay there, and the ones sleeping in the boxes won't sleep in it...that's what I would do at least.
     

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