Taking turns in nest box questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by MeepMeeps, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. MeepMeeps

    MeepMeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2015
    Long Island, NY
    Hi! I have 5 laying pullets and 1 coop with 4 nest boxes. They seem to take turns, using whatever one they like (usually I find the eggs in 2 of 4 of the boxes, or just 1 box). Today my one black australorp has been in there for at least 2 hours. The other black australorp is running around and yelling, trying to find a place to lay (I can tell because she's done this before and has also laid in the woods in a secret nest). I tried to put out straw in some random boxes outside hoping she would just get comfortable instead of waiting for the other to get out.
    Questions are:
    1) Is there a way for them to get more comfortable so they don't have to take turns in the coop? Curtains perhaps?
    2) Is it harmful for the chicken to have to wait her turn in the coop when she can't find a good spot to lay for this long (2+ hours?) I just feel bad for her that she's running around yelling like a nut, looking for a spot for the past hour.[​IMG]
    3) The black aussie that is laying screams when the other tries to go in - does that mean she is getting broody? First time I've seen this behavior. [​IMG]

  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There is nothing consistent about chickens. While there are trends that they often follow, each chicken is an individual with their own personality. We often find most of our eggs in just one or two nests but then you can find just one egg in a different nest. You will often see a chicken pacing and waiting her turn for a specific nest while there are what look to us to be identical nests empty.

    I’ve found three hens sharing one nest at the same time, laying eggs. I’ve had a nest hog where one hen would not only keep any other hen from getting in the nest with her, she took about three hours to lay her egg. She was not broody, just a pain in the rear. I once saw an older hen grab a pullet by the head and pull her out of a nest so that hen could lay her egg in that specific nest right then. Usually my hens and pullets share nests peacefully but occasionally you can get a brute. None of what you describe sounds unusual.

    I don’t know what your nests look like or how big they are. You can try modifying them if you wish by maybe making them bigger or making them darker, either with a curtain or something else. It might or might not help. If you haven’t done it already you can try adding fake eggs to the nests. Some chickens, not all but some, like to lay where others are laying. I use golf balls but ceramic or wooden eggs or even plastic Easter eggs are also used.

    Hens can control when they lay the egg, at least for a certain amount of time, but eventually it has to come. It doesn’t hurt the hen to hold it but sometimes you can get strange marks on the egg shell. The egg is held in the shell gland and you can sometimes get strange calcium deposits on it. It doesn’t hurt the safety of eating the egg itself but it can look funny.

    Some broody hens (probably most) will happily share a nest with others that want to lay an egg, but some will keep all other hens out. Some hens that are not broody will defend their nest while laying, either from you if you put your hand within range or another hen. Sometimes hens exhibit some broody behaviors but they really are not. To me, the best way to tell if a hen is truly broody is to observe her at night. If she spends two consecutive nights on the nest instead of roosting in her normal spot I consider her broody. Without two consecutive nights she may be thinking about it but not really kick over to full broody mode.

    I don’t see that you are doing anything wrong. Sometimes chickens are just nuts. That can be frustrating but it can also make watching chicken TV a lot better programming than anything on cable, satellite, or antenna.
    2 people like this.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I use fake eggs/golf balls in all the nests all the time, it does help to 'spread the love'...most the time.
    Sometimes I change up which fakes are in which nests, just to see what happens.

    Tho I have seen some squabbling over and sharing of nests, the one time I heard more ruckus than usual and stood out there in the coop and watched for an hour.
  4. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    If your hen has been in the nesting box 2 hrs. I would think she intends to go broody - that is probably why she screams when disturbed by others. Chickens are so silly anyway. They can all have identical nest boxes but all want to lay in just one. Sometimes other hens will just go in and lay a egg on top of the present occupant.

    If you hen does go broody - mark her eggs because other hens may make a deposit . This way you can remove them and not have hatching dates all over the place.
  5. MeepMeeps

    MeepMeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2015
    Long Island, NY
    Thank you so much everyone, your replies made me feel much better. Today all was normal with everyone laying with no squabbling! They are very silly. I still may try the curtain thing and/or make a box bigger.

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