The Great Egg Hunt of 2014 - and chickens on strike

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by selenah, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. selenah

    selenah New Egg

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    Aug 8, 2014
    Getting our chickens to lay in their coop has become quite the challenge. I appreciate your thoughts and advice! Here the deal:

    We have three black australops and two Rhode Island reds. They are a little over 6 months old. One of the austalops starting laying. First egg in the nesting box. Perfect. Then no more eggs for 5 days. Or so we thought. Then we found her nest with 5 eggs! She abandoned that nest after we took the eggs. Five days later we found another nest elsewhere on our property - with 5 more eggs! Then we didn't find any more eggs for days.

    Until last Saturday, when we saw one of the Reds sitting on a nest of eggs. Fifteen of them! So it looks like at least one of the Reds and the Australop are laying. We decided to keep them in the coop for three days straight, to try to impress upon them that they're supposed to lay their eggs in the coop.

    Today is day three. So far, only one egg laid in the coop. So it appears that they've gone on strike. (Or perhaps gone broody? They did have a nest with FIFTEEN EGGS after all!)

    I'm not sure why they're not laying in the coop, but I have a hunch that it could be because the coop is pretty dark inside (and we don't have an outdoor run attached since the idea was to have them free range on our 5 acres). I'd rather not "coop them up" for any longer, but I'd really like to have our eggs without hunting all over 5 acres of property to find them!

    Suggestions?
     
  2. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    I gave up trying to make them all lay in the coops. With free range birds, if they have access to a lot of places outside that they would consider a good place to hide eggs you usually wind up with hidden nests being an ongoing problem.. I wind up putting "fake" hidden nests outside for them with a fake egg or two and just collecting eggs out of them like normal every day (old dog houses, buckets, barrels etc) it seems to keep the stubborn girls that want to hide eggs happy and I still get the eggs and don't wind up with a bunch of surprise chicks. Do try and make sure the nests in the coop are attractive to chickens, dark, big enough etc.
     
  3. taradye3

    taradye3 New Egg

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    May 10, 2014
    Aren't you afraid of predators getting to your chickens when they are just out wandering your 5 acres of property all day and night?

    I'm new to the chicken raising business and that is something that I'm really nervous about when my baby chicks get too big to be inside. I'm looking at coops with runs because I'm afraid they will get killed just being out in the open. Am I wrong?
     
  4. selenah

    selenah New Egg

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    Aug 8, 2014
    That's a great idea, Kelsie! I was thinking about putting the actual nesting boxes in the places that they seem to have liked. To your hens keep going back to the same fake nests, even after you collect the eggs? Our Australorp has stopped laying in both of the nests she made as soon as we collected the eggs from them. Hence the problem with always having to look for new nests! I wouldn't mind collecting them from fake nests outdoors so long as I know where those fake nests are!

    I'm not sure if the nesting boxes we have are attractive to them. The coop is pretty dark, so I think the boxes are dark enough. But they're just simple boxes -- no tops on them -- that are sitting on the ground of the coop next to each other (three boxes for 5 chickens). Any thoughts on whether that's attractive for laying? Our coop has two rooms, separated by a door that we keep open. Right now the roost is in one room, and the food, water, and nesting boxes are in the other. We initially had the nesting boxes in the room with the roosts, but decided to see if putting them in the other room would fix our problem. Obviously, it didn't. :)
     
  5. selenah

    selenah New Egg

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    Aug 8, 2014
    We don't leave them wandering around at night. Our usual routine is to let them out at about 7:00 am and put them back in the coop at 7:00 pm. Many of our neighbors have had trouble with losing chickens to predators -- mostly hawks and eagles, I've been told -- but our property is mostly forested, so maybe that's why we haven't had any problems yet. Our were indoors full-time until they were at least a couple months old. (Maybe three months? I'm having a hard time remembering.)

    I'm new to this, too, so I'm not a great person to ask for advice. :)
     
  6. taradye3

    taradye3 New Egg

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    May 10, 2014
    That makes sense. Both my husband and I work during the day. So again, I'm nervous to think of them out wandering all day without supervision. Also, we do have several trees in our yard. And it's a big yard. But it's not fenced and we have neighbors with dogs and cats. We are right on the edge of town. Woods line our neighbors' property and then it's all country for many miles. I see hawks/eagles flying over our yard every day. So I don't think I can let them be totally "free without me being present. I guess my poor little gals will have to be ok with just about an hour every day during the week and then most of the day on weekends. :( I'd rather them be safe than me be sorry I guess.
     
  7. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    i try to leave a fake egg or two in all my nest boxes, chickens like to lay where other chickens have so that tends to encourage them to use the nests you want... you can get fake wooden or ceramic eggs on ebay etc, those plastic easter eggs will work also if you fill them with sand and tape/glue them shut (chickens don't care about the color), other people use golf balls etc. If you put a fake nest with fake eggs where they had a hidden nest they will often keep using it. I've been doing it long enough that I just have nests scattered around and they just use the old ones now, I do sometimes put out new ones or move one for some reason or another, it is funny how fast they will find new/moved ones.

    ime chickens do seem to like nests with tops on much better than open topped nests (if the nests are in the open) if you can cover the nests that might help, you might also want to put one or more off the ground to see if that helps (make sure those are still easy to get into with a perch out front). I mostly just use big cardboard boxes inside anymore (for standard birds anything over about a 14"square will work), just cut a hole in one side for the entry and fill with hay/straw/shavings, I have either frames they fit in, or just put a brick/block in front to keep them from moving, leave a 4-6" lip on the bottom to keep the nesting material in... I am basically lazy :) and find it easier to throw away the boxes when they get old/dirty rather than washing/cleaning them all... really got to hate cleaning nests if a bird broke an egg or I had a soft egg /yolk layer that was making a mess.
    If you have questions about nesting box set up, you might want to post pictures in the Coop/Run design forum for suggestions on ways to make them seem better to the chickens... with not laying in the boxes, free range chickens are always more of a problem than birds that are mostly in the coop/run just because they have so many more options available... even if you lock them in periodically to make them lay in the nests for a week or two, when you let them lose, sooner or later somebody will start laying elsewhere, some breeds are a lot worse than others.

    With free range, you most probably will have losses eventually, how bad depends on the predators present in your free range area. I have large dogs that run in the same area the chickens are (have about 8 acres now fenced that dogs/chickens roam) so do not have any real problem with ground predators, birds of prey are the biggest potential problem for losses for mine, but even those the dogs will take scare off, so I may lose a bird or two to hawks, but I won't have a stray dog or fox take out half the flock. There are quite a few threads on the pros and cons and things you can do to make it safer ... https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/897953/keeping-chickens-free-range and https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/890106/free-ranging-pros-and-cons
     

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