Pullets staying in nesting boxes most of the day


In the Brooder
Jul 24, 2016
I have 4 pullets and a cockerel that are almost 13 weeks old. They spend most of the day in the nesting boxes, while my older hens spend most of the day in the run. Should I try to make them come out in the run? They usually all 5 pile into one box.
Have you introduced the younger birds properly with a "look but can't touch" system?
Are the older hens bullying them?
If not, it may just be that they feel intimidated by them and all that wide open space. Young chickens that have been raised in a brooder find it quite scary discovering that there is a big wide world out there and no mother hen to show them the ropes and help them integrate.

Is the cockerel in there with them? If not, it may be that he is starting to become sexually mature and they are hiding from his advances because they are not ready. Young roosters can be pretty insistent and often pester the life out of hens and particularly young pullets. 13 weeks is probably a little too young, but by 15 or 16 weeks he may well start being a pain and terrorizing them, so that is something else to prepare for. I hate juvenile roosters. They stress the whole flock!

Do they have access to food and water in the coop? It is important to ensure that there are several food and water stations when introducing new birds and make a sanctuary for them in the run where they can hide from the older birds when they feel threatened. I have an open bottom cage which can be chocked up on blocks. I put food and water in it and put the chicks in there. Make it high enough so that they can duck underneath if they want to but too low for the older hens to get in. Initially cover 3 sides with ply or even cardboard, so that the older hens can't see them all the time and then gradually remove a side at a time so that there is just the mesh over a period of days/weeks, maybe even leave 2 sides covered as a long term feature if they look like they are still hiding after a few weeks.

Good luck with them

I had the same issue with last year's chicks, even though they were brooded right outside in the run, in a big wire enclosure in full view of the older birds. I put out multiple feeding and water stations, had more than enough roosts, and a great hidey hole in the form of a huge, hollowed out half log, hollow side down. The Littles and the Tinys learned to use it immediately if they needed to. I kept their pen door open enough to allow them to access their brooder but not wide enough for the Bigs to follow them. I had full integration with the flock by 4 weeks old, and they did great - except!! Yep, loafing in the nest boxes. They started that when they were about 7 weeks old. Drove me batty! And the dumb thing was that they used the roosts very well - when they wanted to.

Part of it was comfort. I'd taken out their brooder pen, which had plenty of good, warm straw in it. Well, so did the nests. So when they needed a little "escape" they'd use the nests. And because they were used to snuggling together, if one went into the nests a few more were sure to follow. When that nest filled up the rest would use the empty ones. <Groan>

They did stop doing that on their own (or because they got tired of me shoving them out) but still insisted on the nests at night. I did all the usual things - roust them out when I'd catch them and put them on the roosts at night, and finally had to resort to closing off the nest boxes. I hung a big piece of landscape fabric in front of the nests after the eggs for the day were gathered, then rolled it up after dark or very early in the morning. Within a week they were roosting regularly and now, a year later, the only time they are in the nests is to lay. I theorize that maybe one chick in the first group got spooked and hid in a box, and others saw her and just joined in, continuing until it became a habit for all of them. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! Stoopid chickens! This year's chicks have not done the nest box thing - they are content to use the run and the coop and the great outdoors and leave the nests alone. They were raised exactly the same way the first groups were. Sheesh! Who knows why some do silly things and others don't bother?

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