When to allow access to nest boxes?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by WitchyAng, Aug 27, 2013.

  1. WitchyAng

    WitchyAng Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 8, 2013
    Southcentral WI
    Hello, All--our first chicks are 16 weeks old. We have four Buff Orpingtons and three Easter Egger bantams. Two of the BOs have a red face already, wattle not too big, yet. There has been no squatting, thus far. From what I've read here, I'm guessing we can expect the BOs to lay before the EE bantams, right? We have some nesting boxes built in to our coop, but have denied access with a slanted board. (Didn't want the chicks to sleep/poop in there!) Any thoughts on when to take the slanted board down? I recently read someone post about how it's more difficult to retrain hens to lay in the right place if they've started laying in the wrong place...I don't want that to happen. Our chicks only occasionally free-range, supervised. We don't want them to start off laying in the coop or on the poop board, especially with the brand new nesting boxes just a few feet away!

    Any thoughts?
    Thanks!
     
  2. DavidKerk

    DavidKerk Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 9, 2013
    I would for sure take down the slanted board before about 21 weeks. At that time I would also put some golf balls in each nest so the hens think other chickens have layed and it is a good spot for them. I think your BOs will start laying before your EE bantams, but I don't think by much! I hope they lay in the nest box! It's a pain to try to get them to after they find a nice spot elsewhere.
     
  3. WitchyAng

    WitchyAng Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 8, 2013
    Southcentral WI
    Thnks for the advice--will do!
     
  4. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 13, 2013
    Kentucky
    My Coop
    Many of the experienced folks here on BYC advise opening the nest boxes early, around 16 weeks or so. So for you, now would be a good time to take off your slanted boards blocking the entrance. Opening them early lets the pullets get used to them and they can check them out. Also, you may be able to determine if there are any problems with them, like that they're not high enough or too high. One common problem is that the lip is not tall enough, which allows the litter inside to come out and potentially the eggs too, as the chicken gets in and out of the box. Also, I'm sure you placed them lower than your roost so your chickens don't chose to sleep in the nest box vs. on the roost.

    Several people advise putting either fake eggs or golf balls in them. Also, when your pullets are just getting started, it helps to have the nests not too high off the ground, just maybe 6 inches to a foot off the ground. You can raise them later after the pullets have gotten used to them. Also, make sure they're fairly dark inside as the pullets like privacy and dim light when they're laying. Some people put curtains on their boxes to accomplish this.

    Here's what I'm doing, in case it helps you decide what you want to do/try. I made my 2 nest boxes out of a big white feed barrel I already had. I cut the barrel in half around the middle to make 2 boxes out of the one barrel. I laid the 1/2 of a barrel on it's bottom and then cut out an entry way in the side. I put each barrel on top of a cinder block and faced the entrance hole towards the darker side of my coop. I put a nice thick layer of straw in each. I put just a flat board on top of each. They are nice and dim inside. I put 3 of those tie-dyed plastic Easter eggs filled with sand in each nest box (got them at an after Easter sale at Walmart for 50 cents). I'm going to ask for ceramic or wooden eggs for Christmas because these plastic ones aren't going to last very long, I don't expect. I put the nest boxes out at about 16 weeks as recommended by others here on BYC.

    So far, it seems to be working. I free range (no fence at all, no run, secure coop at night) with the flock spending most of their time in the forest and all over a wide, diverse area. My flock is about 20 weeks old and my most mature pullet is the only one laying so far (that I know of!). She's laid every single day since her first egg 6 days ago and every one of them in the nest boxes! So for at least that pullet, the nest boxes are working.

    I don't know if you're supposed to do this or not, but as I think a pullet is getting ready to lay (wattles and comb turn red, cockeral starts mating with her), I place her in the nest box and try to show her the fake eggs. Also, my cockeral has been a great help instructing the pullets to lay the eggs right outside the nest box. He's fun to watch as he gives his "here's where you lay your eggs" lesson to a pullet. He's also very keen on the eggs when I show them to him, he's very interested in them and definitely knows what they are. When he's giving his lesson, I'll go get a pullet and bring her into the coop so she can be schooled by the cockeral on the proper egg laying spot. Sometimes,the pullet I bring in watches him intently, other times, she ignores him and gets a bite to eat or just runs back out. So, truly, I have no idea if these actions are helping the pullets learn to lay the eggs in the nest boxes but I'm trying everything I can think of because it's not going to be fun if I have to try to find their eggs every day all over this thick forest. I just figure I'll invest the most I can up front to get them "trained" to use the nest boxes and then for years to come, the investment will be worth it many times over.

    I've been hunting daily for eggs in the forest (and it is a pain) in case any of my other pullets are laying and not in the nest boxes. In about 2-3 weeks from now, if I'm still not getting more pullets laying in the nest boxes and I can't find any hidden nests in the forest, I'll do as others here recommended. I'll keep them locked in the coop (vs. letting them out at just after sunrise) until noon or 2 or so to see if any of the others are laying. If some are laying, that means they were hiding them in the forest and I just can't find them. So, I'll keep them locked in the coop until later for several days in a row (I'll have to look up the recommended number of days) until they hopefully learn to lay in the nest boxes.

    Hope this helps,
    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2013
  5. WitchyAng

    WitchyAng Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 8, 2013
    Southcentral WI
    Thanks for the advice, Guppy!
     

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