When do I open the egg boxes

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jasonkkelley73, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. jasonkkelley73

    jasonkkelley73 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 25, 2016
    North Carolina
    Good morning everyone. We have 6 birds all 11-12 weeks old. We have 2 New Hampshire Reds, 2 Buff Orpingtons and 2 Brown Leghorns. I currently have the egg boxes blocked off so I have less of a mess to clean up. I was wondering when should I open them to the ladies? Thanks in advance for any input.
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    In theory, if the nest boxes are lower than the roosts, then the birds should not sleep / roost in the boxes. There's no reason why the nesting boxes should be blocked off, if thats the case. Certainly, you will need to open them once you see any of your birds squat submissively for you when you walk up to them as this is a sign that they sexually mature and will begin laying soon. They need time to have a look at the nest boxes, spend a little time getting the feel of them before they begin to lay.

  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Personally I like the nests open all the time. You don’t want chickens sleeping in them because they poop a lot at night and who wants poopy eggs? If chickens are going to be sleeping in the nests I want to know before they start laying so I can fix the problem before they start to lay and I get poopy eggs.

    Another reason I want the nests open is that I don’t want to teach them to lay someplace other than my nests. Often about a week before they start to lay pullets will start looking for a place to make a nest. I want my nests to be one of the options they are looking at.

    Are you actually experiencing a problem? Often my brooder raised chicks don’t start to roost until they are about the age of yours. Until then they normally sleep in a group on the floor somewhere. If your nests are on the floor they may consider the nest a nice safe place to sleep. If that is the case blocking the nests off until they start to roost up high can be a good idea. Help them make that transition to the roosts.

    As CT said, chickens normally like to roost on the highest thing available. Your roosts need to be noticeably higher than anything you don’t want them to roost on or in. But there are some conditions to that.

    Occasionally (not often but it does happen) a chicken can be a brute on the roosts even when they get along fine during the day. Where they sleep on the roosts is determined by pecking order and some can be pretty vicious enforcing that, but what I’m talking about goes beyond that. For whatever reason one just decides to go after weaker chickens. This happens a lot with mine when I’m integrating younger birds into the main flock but it’s fairly rare when they are all the same age like yours. Still, it can happen, especially when they are fairly young and still sorting out the pecking order. They don’t like getting beat up so they look for a safer place to sleep. That could be your nests. If you have some on the roosts and some sleeping in the nests this could be your problem. The solution is probably more roost space, especially roosts spread out some so the weak can get away from the bullies.

    Occasionally chicks will use the nests when they are transitioning from sleeping on the floor to sleeping on the roosts. I really don’t see this much but I have seen it. Usually it’s a transition phase and only lasts a night or two, but sometimes they can get stuck using the nests. They can be creatures of habit and not all habits are good. If your roosts are higher than the nests and they all appear stuck in the nests, you can handle it. If they are not yet laying you can block the nests to force them to get in the habit of roosting some other place. If they are close to laying you might want to block the nests in the late afternoon, before they put themselves to bed, and open them back up early the next morning. If they are not close to laying, just leave the nests blocked all the time.

    How do you know if they are close to laying? There are some signs they might be. Combs and wattles get a brighter red. They may start squatting. Their pelvic bones spread. The vent gets soft, moist, and larger. There are several signs they might be thinking about it. But there is nothing that says they are definitely ready to start. These are clues they might be getting ready. There are plenty of pullets that do not display any of these before they start and some that display signs long before they start. The earliest I’ve seen a pullet start to lay is 16 weeks. That’s rare but it happens. I want the nests open by 16 weeks at the latest.

    Sometimes chicks just seem to take forever to transition to the roosts. You can speed this process up by going down there at night after they are in bed and it is really dark and, using as little light as possible, set some on the roost. Keep your coop dark enough that they don’t just fly back down. That may involve covering a window just before you move them, especially if you have street lights or security lights shining in. Leave the window unblocked until they put themselves to bed, they need enough light to see to get up to the roost. Once one starts to roost the others normally soon follow.

    As long as the roosts are noticeably higher than the nests and you have sufficient roost space, you probably won’t have any problems with this. But each chicken is an individual, each flock has its own dynamics. No matter what anyone on here says about a behavior, someone else can come up with an exception. If you are having problems give us enough information to describe your situation and we may be able to come up with specific suggestions that fit your unique situation.

    Good luck.
  4. jasonkkelley73

    jasonkkelley73 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 25, 2016
    North Carolina
    Thanks for the help. The perch is higher than the boxes and 4 of them are already sleeping on the perch. Again THX
  5. Spartan22

    Spartan22 Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 2, 2014
    Canton, Ohio

    @your hens age I will open the nests in 4-6 weeks, since some might start laying as early @16 wks, I have chicks the same age separated w/ chicken wire in the coop from a year olds and they will be joining the group in few weeks before they start laying.
  6. mortie

    mortie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 16, 2014
    The Frozen Tundra
    I had mine closed until they were 16 weeks. It didn't matter that my roost was higher than the nest box, some of them still liked to sleep in there. Doing so did not teach them to lay other places besides the nest because they weren't laying yet. Once the habit of roosting is well established, they won't usually start sleeping in the nest box.
  7. Jenna14Chicken

    Jenna14Chicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 19, 2016
    I agree with every one

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