When And How Should I Introduce Nest Boxes

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Rollochrome, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. Rollochrome

    Rollochrome New Egg

    Aug 22, 2013
    New chicken owner....

    I bought 42 chickens which were delivered as new born chicks the last week of October.

    20 Rhode Island Red hens, 20 White Leghorn hens, 2 roosters.

    I converted an equine loafing shed into a deep compost coop and free range them everyday on 12 acres.

    Inside the loafing shed I built two rows of nest boxes onto an interior pipe fence partition that is wrapped in chicken wire such that I can enter the shed from the back door and retrieve eggs from the back of the boxes without ever entering the chicken area.

    I then covered the entrance to the nest boxes with plywood so that the young chickens did NOT have access to them prior to being egg laying age. I did this so that they would not get accustomed to going in there and using the potty prior to having the egg laying instinct kick in. ( Now wondering if that was the right thing to do)

    Now that I am within a month or so of the chickens producing eggs, what should I do to introduce the chickens to the nest boxes?

    Someone told me just to throw some spare coastal hay from my cow in there and a golf ball in each box...

    Sound advice??

    Thank you!!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Many people recommend keeping the nest boxes closed until the pullets start to lay. I don’t understand that logic at all.

    When they first start to lay, some pullets have little control over the process. They just drop the egg wherever they are. But as soon as they gain control, they start looking for a safe place to lay an egg. Once they lay an egg in some place on purpose, they tend to want to go back to that same place to lay. A whole lot of pullets start off with that control on the first egg. Why people want to train their chickens to lay somewhere other than the nests I have no idea.

    I’ve had pullets that started to lay at 16 weeks, some at 9 months. There are a lot of people that will tell you how to tell when a pullet is ready to start but in my experience that is pretty nebulous. I’ve had pullets with bright red combs that were not within a month of starting. I’ve had a pullet squat for a rooster at 13 weeks and she was not close to starting to lay. There are a lot of clues that they might be ready to start but there is sometimes a big difference in might and will. I can’t tell with certainty when they are ready to start.

    There are other reasons I open the nests early. If I have a problem I want to know it before they start laying eggs so I can fix it. Sometimes your nest is not built right. The chickens may go in the nests to check them out, just to play, or maybe to scratch around to see if they can find food. If you start to see your bedding on the coop floor, you probably need to raise the lip of the nest to keep that bedding material in there. Often when a hen goes in the nest to lay she scratches around, arranging things just so. I don’t like finding the eggs other hens previously laid on the coop floor. So you may need modify your nests. Wouldn’t it be good to know that before they start to lay?

    Chickens normally like to sleep on the highest location they can in the coop. Normally, not always. For different reasons some don’t. I’ve seen chickens lower in the pecking order leave the roosts and look for a safer place to spend the night when a higher ranked hen was brutal on the roosts as they were settling down for the night. That can easily be your nests. I’ve seen chicks sleep in the nests a few nights while transitioning to the roosts, but some seem to get stuck there. They never complete the transition. They poop a lot when they sleep. You don’t want that in the nests especially when they start to lay. I’d like to know I have that problem before I start to get poopy eggs, not after, so I can work on a fix.

    In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with blocking the nests off while they are transitioning from sleeping on the coop floor to sleeping on the roosts. For mine that is usually at 10 to 12 weeks, but I’ve had some do that at 5 weeks and some that took a lot longer than 16 weeks, but those longer times have been when adults were already sleeping up there. I would make sure the nests were open by 16 weeks in any case and deal with what I had to deal with if there are any problems. And I strongly suggest you use fake eggs (I use golf balls) to show them where to lay and see if they will scratch them out.

    This is my opinion and why I hold it. Not everyone will agree. Good luck however you decide. And hopefully you will get eggs soon.

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