Will pullet naturally lay in nesting boxes or outside?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Marvelisticme, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. Marvelisticme

    Marvelisticme Out Of The Brooder

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    Two of my six pullets are showing all the signs of getting ready to lay. I'm concerned that they will find a spot to do it somewhere besides a nest box, because they are free-ranging most of the day and I haven't seen any indication that they have been exploring the nest boxes. I have them well padded with hay, about 18" off the ground (so I don't have to bend over so far to get eggs) and a golf ball in 3 of the 4 boxes (as a hint). They have free access to the coop all day. Is there anything else I can do to ensure they know where to lay, or do I need to do anything?
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    That's all I've ever done. At times I've had them lay outside the coop but not often. For the first few weeks, you may see odder things than after they get used to the idea of laying.
     
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  3. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    I'm going to guess that you don't have any adult hens in there to show them where to lay?

    I find that free-ranging pullets are amazing at hiding nests. They will squeeze into places that look too small for chickens to fit through and make themselves at home. I once thought my Ameraucanas weren't laying, then one day found a nest with *48* eggs in it behind a rock pile. My dad had a free ranging flock that used to lay in the calving pens, the shelves in the machinery shed, on top of the piles of round bales, and even on the tops of the cabs of tractors.

    Our hens are pastured now, and I'd never go back to true free-ranging. But when we were free ranging, we shut the birds up in the hen house right when they looked like they were at point of lay (combs suddenly got red, they started squatting when we came up to them). We kept them locked up until we started seeing eggs in the nest boxes regularly. However, we can do this because we have a very large hen house with lots of full-sized windows. Any time we started seeing eggs in places other than the nestboxes, we'd lock them up again for re-education.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
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  4. Marvelisticme

    Marvelisticme Out Of The Brooder

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    You are correct, WalkingOnSunshine, I only have the pullets. I'm new to chickens. They're only about 4 months old, but a couple of them are showing all the signs (clucking a lot, red comb/face, squatting). I'm about to leave for a week's vacation, of course :( I just have a feeling they are going to find a comfy, leafy spot to lay, rather than going back in the coop.

    The chickens and guineas share the coop and run. I said "free-range", but I don't usually leave them out all day. However, when they are out, they are free to roam our 5.5 acres, though they tend to stay relatively close to coop and house. It will be a bit complicated to let guineas out, while keeping chickens in for a period, but I think I can manage it because the guineas prefer roosting out in the run, so I can close the coop door and not open it in the morning until the guineas have been let out of the run.

    Since it only appears that a couple of the pullets are ready to lay, if they make a habit of laying in nest boxes, will the others follow suit when they are ready, you think, or will I have to keep them cooped up until they are all laying??
     
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    If you are only letting them out in the evenings, after the time that most chickens have laid their eggs, you don't have a problem. They'll lay in the coop (and maybe the run, at first) because that's where they will be when they need to lay the egg. Then you can let them out later in the day with no worries.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
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  6. Marvelisticme

    Marvelisticme Out Of The Brooder

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    Well, I usually let them out in the morning, because of the heat in the afternoon, but that won't be a problem soon. If they lay outside, while I'm gone on vacation, will they still come in or insist on staying with their egg? I don't know if they go broody when first laying???
     
  7. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    No, they won't stay with their eggs. Not all chickens go broody anyway, and usually not in the first few months of laying. If you have production breeds, chances are very rare that they'll ever go broody.

    The biggest problem that you'll have is that they'll get used to laying outside and it will be harder to make them lay in the boxes. Other than that, you'll just have a giant Easter egg hunt to find where they're laying them
     
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  8. Marvelisticme

    Marvelisticme Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for all the great information!! This is very helpful!
     
  9. GarthRyan

    GarthRyan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Two of my barred rock hens just started laying the other day. two of them laid eggs next to a fence post. so that evening i made a nesting box out of an 18 gallon plastic tub by cutting a hole in one end the size of a sheet of notebook paper. well the next day, no eggs. but the day after that and then again today they've both laid in the box on their own, almost like they already knew what it was for. i've seen of people putting eggs in there or golf balls so that the hens will see where they're supposed to lay, but i had no problem with that.

    So for your question, they might or they might not. i reckon i've just got lucky and got smart hens.
     
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  10. Marvelisticme

    Marvelisticme Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the response, GarthRyan!

    I have 2 Barred Rocks, 3 Black Sex Links and 1 Red Sex Link. The Red SL started laying last week (1 week shy of 5 months old). Her first egg was laid from the the roost and fell a long way. It cracked but it was still good, because the membrane was intact and none of the chickens bothered it. The next day, she laid on the ground, in the run :(

    I was determined to train her to lay where I want, so the next day, I kept them in the coop until she laid her egg and stayed out there with them, putting her in the nest box a couple of times and petting her until she got comfortable and started making a nest. She laid her egg in the nest, but the next day was still trying to get out to go lay in the yard somewhere, so I had to stay out there with them and put her in the nest box a couple of time again. She did end up laying in the box.

    I decided to take the golf ball out of that nest and leave the egg in there this time. I was wary of leaving an egg, because it might get broken and I don't want them to ever have the opportunity to eat one and like it, but her eggs are perfectly formed, with very hard shells, so I decided to risk it. I also added a wider perch in front of the nest boxes to make it easier for them to get up there, because a couple of the other chickens were curious about what she was doing and having a hard time getting up there to watch and check out the boxes.

    Yesterday was day 5 and I was gone all day, so I had my husband let them have use of the run, but not let them free-range. When I got home, she had laid her egg in the nest box beside the one with the egg still in it LOL :) Funny thing was, the egg left in the box and the golf ball in the other nest, had both been pushed to the edge of the box and her new egg was in the middle :) I think she's trained now and I hope the others follow suit. A couple of them are getting semi-close to ready. Never pictured myself training chickens where to sleep and where to lay their eggs LOL :)

    She is laying every 25 to 26 hours, just as someone told me, so I have another question now... What happens when the time incrementally moves into the night? Will she lay again from the roost, or wake up and go to the nest box?? Is that why they start sleeping in the nest box sometimes, which I know I don't want.

    I kinda hate it that they are all getting ready to start laying, just in time for them to stop for the winter molt LOL :) Oh well...such is the chicken life.

    Thanks for all the input, everyone!!
     

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