Where do free range chickens lay eggs?


10 Years
Aug 27, 2009
We have chickens in a pen, and we let them free range during the day. What time of day will they lay their eggs? Should I wait until later in the morning to let them out to free range so they can lay their eggs in the pen? Will they know to come back to the pen during the day to lay their eggs if they happen to lay during the day? I don't want to find eggs all over the yard. They also like to spend some time under our porch. I am afraid they might start to think that is a good place to lay eggs. How do I make sure they will lay their eggs in our pen so its easy to gather them?

With mine, they know where "home" is, and they always go back to the nest and lay thier eggs. I have yet to find one out in the yard somewhere. They lay about every 25 hours so it is usually 1 hour later each day than the day before until it gets into the twilight hours then they will wait until the next day.
There are a number of stories on here regarding the occasional hen that will find another place to lay. It just seems that there are some that are driven to secrecy.
Mine always go back to the coop to lay. I've gone on numerous easter egg hunts when my egg production drops for an unknown reason and never find any. It always turns out to be another reason for the drop in production; not laying outside the coop.
I think it helped that my birds were on lockdown in their coop for two weeks at the point most of my hens started laying.
Before we moved, we let our chickens free range 100%. Eggs where everywhere. We found one nest in the woods that had over 3 dozen eggs in it.

Here are my suggestions, but I am not an expert.

When they are about to lay. Put out a bunch of nest boxes with whatever filler you choose. I used large wood shavings. Then put in some fake eggs. Every day, I would put whichever pullets I thought were close to laying in the nest boxes. A lot of time they jumped right out, some times they stayed in for a while and even made themselves cozy and then jumped out. Once they do start to lay, I would make the ones who are laying stay in the coop until they laid the egg and know that the nest boxes are where that is done.

Once you have some using the nest boxes all the time, most of the others will follow suit.

Always check your yard for eggs. If you start to find clutches around, Keep them in pen for a couple of days until they get used to laying in there.

For the most part this has worked for us. I still have 2 hens who refuse to stay in the pen and lay their eggs in the yard. I'm going to have to get rid of them though because I don't want them teaching the others how to get out and drawing raccoons here with eggs left out.
I have an EE that lays eggs on my front porch, by the time I realized it there were 3 green eggs and 2 brown eggs there. But for the most part, they know to go back to the coop. With all the snow and cold weather we've had, my hens (8 months old) have been locked in quite a bit...I am hoping that this helps them all learn that the coop is the right place. I also keep fake eggs in their nesting boxes.
Chickens do what chickens do and not all of them do the same thing.

I generally let mine out around noon and they usually lay their eggs in the nest boxes. If they haven't laid by the time they are let out they usually come back.

Notice I said usually. We have found a nest that wasn't being tended full of eggs. I had a hen disappear and show up later with 8 chicks following her. I have found eggs under the car. I have no idea how many eggs I haven't found.

When the girls are on a schedule they usually, again that word usually, lay by noon but I quite often get eggs late in the day, as late as 5:00.

I would suggest that anyone that lets their chickens free range are losing some eggs. The girls are real good at hiding things.

Just realized I missed answering some of the questions.

You can help by keeping them locked up after you get them so they know where home is. After a few days or a week let them out. Keep your eye on them during the day in case they get lost and need help finding their way home. After awhile they will get to know their territory and will find their way home without any problems.

Young hens sometimes have a hard time realizing that an egg is coming and don't make it the nest box. They eventually learn but sometimes have accidents.
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Mine love to hide their eggs from me! When I find a nest and rob it of it's treasure a few times, they find somewhere else to hide them!
i have found eggs in the horse feeders, buckets and cages that were hanging up for storage, in flower pots stacked up for storage, in the hanging feeders, in brush piles we haven't burned yet, in the lawn chairs, behind everything that is difficult for me to get to...and in the nest boxes!

Mostly, unless I am getting way too few eggs, I don't bother looking that hard. But when I only find 2 dozen eggs in the nests, it is time to go on a treasure hunt! Then I lock my girls up in their runs for a few days to remind them where they are supposed to lay. After a couple of days, they start laying in the nest boxes again.

OH...and I threaten them verbally, too. Seems to work.

Mine free range and *most* of them go back to the coop to lay in the boxes. I do have a few that like the barn better, but they have their favorite spot in there (more privacy maybe?) and don't try to hide the eggs. That being said occasionaly one will get a wild broody feather and want to start a hidden nest, so if you have breeds that are known to go broody you should be aware of that possibility. I would block off access to under the porch though since I think a nice dark hidey hole like that will eventually prove to be irresistable to one or more of your hens.

How old are your girls? Mine are different ages so the younger ones seem to follow the older girls lead and aside from a few accidents in the barnyard they lay in the coop. I think if I was starting out fresh I'd keep them locked in most of the day when they first started to lay so that they would get used to the nest boxes. A lot of them are pretty confused and frantic (who wouldn't be) when that first egg comes.

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