Trying to get my hens laying earlier in the day


9 Years
Feb 4, 2010
Glasgow, Scotland
Can anyone tell me how long should it take to 're-set' hens' internal egg timers?

When I first got my flock at Xmas, I was keeping them in a stable with natural light but no artificial light. They were let out to free range every day, and they laid eggs anywhere and everywhere but never in their nesting boxes. I wouldn't find any eggs at all for a few days, then I'd find up to a dozen in one day. It was like a permanent easter egg hunt! Anyway, I've now got them in a lovely purpose built shed with a light on a timer set to come on at 3am. I'm hoping to eventually get them laying their eggs by 9am-ish so I can let them out to range all day. At the moment I'm getting three eggs a day from seven hens (one's still a bit scabby and run down and the other three haven't started laying yet) but they aren't popping them out till about 2pm! I'm keeping them inside their coop and run until they've laid, to try and get them into the habit of using their nesting boxes, but they're used to being allowed to roam free and I don't think they're very impressed with the confinement.

So how long will it be before their egg timers start to reset? I really want to be able to let them out early, but I don't want to miss out on all their eggs!

The other thing I'd like advice on is that none of them are using their perches yet and they're all sleeping on the floor. And laying their eggs on the floor too. My boyfriend says it's because I've made the floor too comfortable for them and no wonder they prefer it. I've got about 4" of wood shavings down, and they all kick it into deep drifts in the corners and snuggle up there. Should I make the floor less inviting to encourage them to roost at night? And how could I get them to lay in their nesting boxes? Any ideas?
I've heard that it takes a hen about 26 hours to lay an egg. So I'm not sure if you would be able to "reset" their egg laying timer.

What kind of roosts do they have? (size & material) and how high are they? Higher than the nest boxes? They like to roost high in the coop.
If you have large chickens they will need substantial sized roosts, like 2 X 4 's or similar. If their roosts are too small in diameter it hurts their feet and they won't use them. Likewise, if you have bantams, they will need a smaller size roost to fit their feet.

How old are they? Some young birds take awhile to get used to perches.
You might try going out after dark and putting each bird on the roost, repeating until they get the idea.

Hope some of this helps!
I have a board 2 inches thick and 4inches wide.
my bantham cochins love it but I also have a pole that is only
2 inches round. so they use what ever they chose.
mine too lay about 2 in the afternoon. Iam no help
on changing the egg timers of my ladies.Sorry
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Surely within time they'll react to the artificial light though? Everything I've read seems to say that if you have a light coming on early, they'll end up laying earlier than if they didn't have that light on. I was just wondering how long it might take... Two weeks, a month, two months, a year?

They are big chickens, not bantams, and since I got them I've tried them out with a few different sizes and heights of roosts. I know the perches are supposed to be higher than the nesting boxes, but they don't go in the nesting boxes either, so at the moment I've got a low roost just to try and encourage them to hop up on it and use it. I know they can jump quite high because I've seen them jumping stable doors and sitting up high on straw bales etc through the day, but they don't seem to want to jump up on their perches. Their perch is 3.5" wide along the top, I thought that should be big enough. Maybe I'll try lifting them up onto it at dusk, thanks for that idea!

The ones that are already laying are about six months old. The other three are about four months old. I also have six week old chicks that used to perch on 18mm dowel to sleep when they were a couple of weeks old, but now they too are snoozing on the floor...
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Their egg production is set for every 26-28 hrs so invariably if the lay at 8am one day, the next day it may be 10am then noon and so forth then skip a day and back to the early morning so I don't think you can get them to do it all by 9am. Sometimes I'll see a hen in the nest at 8am and by the end of the week the same bird is laying at 6pm.
Oh dear. So if I want to let them free range, I'm probably going to lose a lot of eggs then... My neighbour free ranges her four hens who lay two eggs in the morning and two in the afternoon, but they always go back to their coop and into their nesting box to lay them. So considerate of them. My silly hens just drop, pop and abandon theirs. Bah!
You might try putting a wooden or plastic egg in the nest boxes, or even a golf ball, to encourage them to lay in the nests. That worked for me. My girls free range during the day, but go back into the nest to lay their eggs. It may take a while, and you may have to keep them in a bit longer when you know they are on the "Morning cycle". Once they get used to it, they should go back in to lay on their own. Good luck.
It is nice when everyone is done early! In my flocks", has laid and who hasnt determines which set gets to free range and which set gets the coop and run. Eventually I am going to split my fenced yard in two I think.... with the fence separating the two pop door entrances into the coop so they always have access to their nests.
Yep, that's the way it is here. I free range and my girls always go back to the coop to lay; sometimes running from across a pasture with their legs crossed.

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