Hens around four months of age will start laying eggs. To facilitate the egg retrieval, it is necessary to get the hens used to laying them inside their nests. Hens are animals of habit, and once they get into the habit of placing eggs in inappropriate places, it is not easy to persuade them to change their minds, unless you lock them in the coop to get them used to using their assigned nests.
Therefore, it’s best to move at a good time to make sure your poultry keeping goes smoothly!
Why don’t chickens lay in their nests?
There is nothing more frustrating than witnessing hens undauntedly ignoring the nests so carefully placed to lay in the dirtiest or most inconvenient places. But where does this deleterious habit come from?
Poultry are very habit-forming animals that tend to perform actions repetitively. If they start laying eggs in unsuitable places, they may continue to lay them in places where the eggs can get damaged, dirty, or end up being eaten by the same hens once they taste them.
The clucks may have a nest hidden somewhere. They also often cackle once the eggs are produced, which can make it easier to spot. Once found, you can remove the eggs and cover it with stones or tree branches so it is no longer viable.
How to get hens used to laying eggs in the nest
The first requirement for inviting hens to produce eggs in their own nest is to make sure they have one available. Not infrequently, in fact, novice breeders underestimate the number of nests needed to carry on the flock as productively as possible.
However, the nests need not be too many either. If a vacant nest remains, a hen might decide to settle in it, filling it with droppings in no time.
The ideal is to buy one nest for every four poultry, keeping in mind that each single nest may be enough to accommodate two or three hens to lay. You can follow a ratio of 1 nest to 4 hens, 1 to 6 or 1 to 8.
Of course, such nests must be kept clean to ensure the hygiene of the eggs collected.
Floor nests with legs and front access for example can be easily placed and moved on the ground according to one’s needs, without the need for special installations.
Collective nests are another solution to consider, as they accommodate the natural behavior of hens to lay and “sing” to communicate to others that they have found a pleasant space to do so.
How to get chickens to lay eggs in nests
Chickens tend to lay in the early morning hours: if they have a clear field, they may turn to the most inconvenient places to perform this activity. You can therefore confine them in the coop until the early afternoon hours so that they become accustomed to using the indoor spaces dedicated to them.
If you see that the hens look for food on the ground and squat down, it is a sign that they consider that position to lay: it is best to chase them away to the nest so that they get in the habit of turning to it each time to produce eggs.
To keep the eggs clean, it is advisable to fill the nest with wood shavings, sawdust and chopped straw. In fact, the eggs, through the porous shell, can absorb impurities from the dirty soil that corrupt the contents. We must also devote ourselves to cleaning the litter regularly so that it is clear of mites.
Hens are enticed to lay in the vacant spaces available to them. Regular efforts should be made to collect eggs so that the hens are not deterred to go elsewhere by the absence of free space. At most, it is advisable to leave only one egg, to remind the animals that they have laid there before.
How to teach hens to lay an egg in the nest?
Emulation is a powerful factor behind the habit of laying eggs in the nest. If you have specimens in your hen house that have taken up this healthy habit, the others by imitation will be led to adopt the same behavior.
A good strategy to instill in them the idea of laying in the nest is to replace the newly laid egg in the dirty litter box with a stone for about a week. We can place a rubber or ceramic egg in an available nest so that it acts as a lure to go and produce more eggs next to it.
We must also consider that if the hens get into the habit of spending all their time in the nest, they may turn it completely upside down and avoid using it to lay. In that case chase them away to make sure they get the message.
How to best prepare the nest for hens
The nest should be a quiet, hygienic and cozy shelter for hens intent on laying. You need to make sure that no mites are present and that there is a layer of straw so that it is inviting and comfortable even in winter.
A good strategy to make the nest inviting is to place it in an area that is possibly very shady and at the same time easily accessible, in order also to facilitate egg collection.
At the same time, the hatchlings must lose any incentive to continue with laying in the unsuitable areas they have become accustomed to. We can then add obstacles to make them inaccessible or impractical for them to turn to the other feasible places available to them.
What should the place where hens lay their eggs look like?
Nests should be hospitable, safe from squawking and possible danger, protected from excessive light and possibly raised off the ground by something like a foot (always making sure they are easily accessible).
The presence of enough perches is another factor that makes it inviting to lay in the nest, as this gives the birds enough space to roost. You also need to make sure that the perches are easily accessible.
Convincing hens to lay in your nest can be a bit of a headache at first, but by following River’s tips you can solve these problems easily.