Strange (to me) nest box behavior

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by schroedpot, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. schroedpot

    schroedpot New Egg

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    Jan 29, 2016
    SE Michigan
    First time posting here in this amazing forum. Please bear with me if this question has been answered somewhere else; I didn't really know what to search for.

    This spring I got six ISA Brown chicks, returning to chicken-raising after a couple of decades off. What an absolutely marvelous breed. They started laying early and haven't quit through the winter months. We usually get six eggs a day.

    My question is this:

    In my small coop (a converted outhouse) I built two identical nest boxes, directly connected to each other. But the chickens will only use one of them. Sometimes there will be three hens stuffed into the one 15" cube, while the nest just next door sits empty.

    I tried a crate on the floor in the corner, but they ignored it too.

    It's not a huge problem. They all eventually lay their eggs in the one nest. But it would certainly be more comfortable for them if I could figure out what's wrong with the other nest.

    (FYI the nests are a little over 1 cubic foot each, made of plywood, with pine shavings as bedding, sitting about 2' off the ground in a corner)

    I figured some of you speak chicken as a second language. Any help would be much appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Dan
     
  2. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member

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    [​IMG] Glad you have joined us, you should start a thread under the New Members forum for a proper welcoming.


    Often there's no way to figure why they do anything except run for treats .[​IMG]

    Even tho the nests look equal to us there is usually something different to them - take a close look - a pic is better - of location of each nest - with attention to which gives more seclusion or has less light and is darker - that's the one they all prefer.
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Welcome, that's normal behavior, all my hens want to use the same box, some argue, some pile in, I find it helps to have fake eggs in the nests, I move my eggs around and the chickens favor the boxes with the eggs.
     
  4. schroedpot

    schroedpot New Egg

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    [​IMG]


    Thank you both for the quick responses! You gave me some helpful ideas.

    I've suspected that the corner nest is the prime real estate because it's slightly more private. So per your suggestion sunflour, I think I'll try to darken the other nest with a small piece of fabric.

    And I'll also try your suggestion, oldhenlikesdogs, of using fake eggs in the undesirable neighborhood.

    Thanks again!
     
  5. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member

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    I do think adding a curtain will help. But add the same thing to both nests - they will react to the change, but get over it quickly.

    *** add it late in a day after they have all laid and pick a fabric not easily frayed - so they cannot eat it...[​IMG] I use old blue jeans - the all cotton type.. Avoid burlap - it will ravel too easily.

    I had curtains on both of my nests and they used both. Removed it to break a broody and now they only use the one with a darker location. Guess I had better take my own advice and get a curtain back in place.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    If they are all laying in the one nest, they must all be comfortable doing it. Sorry, I just don’t see where you have a problem unless one goes broody in that nest. That would be a good reason to isolate a broody if you want her to hatch. Normally I don’t isolate a broody, sometimes other hens lay with her, sometimes they don’t. I don’t consider that a problem either way. But there are times when isolating a broody is a good move. You need to stay flexible.

    I normally have three nests but with several new pullets to evaluate may go to four. I’ve seen three hens in two of those nests at the same time with the third nest empty. I’ve seen two hens in each of the three nests at the same time. Sometimes the eggs are scattered around in the nests fairly evenly, often most or all are in one nest. That one nest may be any of the three. Right now the bottom left nest is getting almost all the action, but there have been times the favorite nest was the bottom right or the top one.

    As long as they are laying in the nests I’m not going to fix things. They don’t like change and see no reason to make things better when it could easily cause them to look for a different place to lay. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
     
  7. schroedpot

    schroedpot New Egg

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    Jan 29, 2016
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    Good point about treating both nests equally, sunflour. I can see how that might be effective. I slapped up a short piece of fabric on the tops of both nests, so we'll see.

    That was before I saw your post Ridgerunner, and your point about not fixin what's not broke sounds like my life. But since I have the curtain up already, I'll give it a few days to see what happens. Easy enough to take down.

    Thanks again folks! You've been really helpful!
     
  8. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member

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    @schroedpot

    We can vote on results for fun.

    Will they use both nests or not with the curtain?

    Sunflour votes yes [​IMG] Please give us an update on what happens.
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Yes updates are good.
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    Just chiming in to say it's pretty normal. I have four nest boxes, all the hens only use one. I swear they cross their legs and hang out waiting for the current hen to vacate the box.

    But, since I've been free ranging and have new layers, the new girls have decided the nest box isn't worth waiting for. They're laying in the garbage can with feed in it [​IMG], or the can with oyster shell. I've thought about re-training, but at least I know where to find the eggs so I'm not too worried about it.
     

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