Using egg boxes and broken eggs


In the Brooder
6 Years
Jul 18, 2013
I have two black australorps that are now laying eggs. One has been laying for a few weeks, but I can't get her to use the egg boxes! She used it once and then went back to her favorite spot, right in front of the coop door (the chicken's door to the coop). I guess she doesn't need privacy ;-). Anyway, gross. I don't want her laying there. I've made nice egg boxes with a mixture of shredded paper and pine shavings for bedding and even have wooden fake eggs in there. No luck. My second hen just started laying three days ago. I was able to get the first egg which she laid in the sand of the pen, yuck, but the next two she laid in the coop across from her "sister" and both we broken. The first one looked as if she stood up to lay it and it smashed on the floor. The second was smashed, but on top, so I don't know if she's pecking them or what. No one is eating them, but none the less, they are smashed and wasted
:-( Any advice on how to get them to use the boxes and what to do about my hen who is breaking the eggs? Thanks!

Ahhh, I think that I've figured it out. I think she's laying from the roost! I took the roost out to force her to lay on the floor at least.
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Can you describe your nest boxes or show a picture? I was just wondering about their size, how high off the ground are they, how dark are they, where they are placed inside your coop?

Given that your chickens just started laying, you're right, it's good for you to try to help them develop good habits by laying in the nest boxes from the start. When chickens first start laying, they don't always get it right the first few times. They drop them from the roost (as you saw), they don't lay them in the right place or the eggs are not proper/fully formed yet.

I ask the above questions about your nest boxes because it's possible that your chickens for whatever reason, do not prefer the nest boxes to the alternative places to lay the eggs. This may not be the case as again, your chickens are just getting started laying so they're working out the kinks. But, we should just check on how the nest boxes are set up to make sure they're as desirable as possible to the pullets for egg laying. You already said you have nice, I assume thick layer of bedding in them and fake eggs so this is good.

So, the boxes, are they around 12 x 12 x 12 or so? Bigger is OK, I get the idea smaller is not for a regular sized hen. Exactness of the size does not seem to be important, just so it's not too small. Mine, for perspective, I made them from a barrel I had on hand. I cut it in half in the middle, then I laid each 1/2 on it's bottom and cut out an entry hole in the side and then added a board on top to make the top. The chickens love them. So the exact dimensions aren't that important it doesn't seem. Do your nest boxes have a top on them and are they fairly dark inside? It seems that it's more preferable to the pullet if they're sort of dark inside. Are the boxes themselves in a fairly dark area of your coop? Are the boxes themselves not too high off the ground, like maybe 6 inches or a foot at the most? Seems that when the pullets are just getting started, they like them closer to the ground. You can raise the boxes later once they're consistently laying in them.

Finally, is there any reason the pullets don't feel safe/like to go in the coop? This would keep them from laying inside. If for example, a predator recently got into the coop (like say a snake), it *could* make them not want to go in there. Not likely but just thought to mention this.

If you've checked all of these things and as far as you can tell if you were a chicken, they are the best option for egg laying from the chicken's perspective, then... the only other thing I know is to lock the chickens in the coop until after they lay their eggs for the day. This is in the hopes that they then have many fewer alternatives but to lay in the nest boxes. You can let them out once they've laid for the day.

Hope this helps,
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Thanks for such a great reply! I'll have to take a photo, but my nest boxes are built on to the side of the coop. If you look at my profile pic, the nest boxes (3 of them 12x12 ea) come out of the left side of the coop. We went by size recommendations from various coop building books. I hope they aren't too small, but like I said they are the size recommended. I can tell that the girls are going in them and rearranging the bedding, even knocking the wooden eggs out onto the coop floor, ha. My one hen laid in a box once, but then went back to her favorite spot, in front of the coop door (you can see the little door in the photo). The actual coop is 6X4, (12x4 with pen). They love the coop and seem to feel secure in there. I have it pretty predator proof as well. I thought of using nest box curtains, but where they are laying now is more out in the open than if they got into one of the boxes! I don't get it, ha. I'll try some other type of bedding, maybe hang a curtain. They are laying in the coop, just not where I want them to, ha. I think I have figured out that the one hen is laying from the roost and that's why the eggs are busted! I will remove the roost during the day and see what happens. That will at least force her to lay on the floor. Hopefully she doesn't lay it before I can get out there in the morning! ha. I guess it's a learning curve, they are still young, AND I'm new to this as well! Thanks for all the advice!
Sounds to me like you have everything well designed, right size, etc. I can't think of anything additional for you to do or try that you haven't already done or mentioned. Maybe someone else has an idea? Or, as you said, they'll figure it out as time goes on.

They don't hang out in the nest boxes during the day or sleep in them at night, do they? I saw that you said they get in to re-arrange the bedding some but I mean hang out in them like the nest box is just another place to lounge.

The hens always roost. They only go in the coop to sleep and lay eggs. I have to close off the nest boxes at night otherwise the younger ones sleep in them, we forgot a couple times and they got in them. But we figured that would happen. So they are only open during the day for laying. And it's only the hens that go in the coop during the day. They def don't hang out in the boxes, ha.
PS Today I went out early and found her egg INTACT, yay! Maybe she'll keep laying on the floor, that's at least an improvement from the roost! ha!
Thanks for you time and help!

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