The nest provides a safe oasis for the hens to dispose of themselves in order to proceed to the imminent laying of eggs.
The nest therefore must prove to be a protected and welcoming environment to ensure the welfare of the hens. Otherwise, they may decide to go elsewhere to produce eggs, defeating its purpose and risking reducing the quality of the result. If all goes well, thanks to a good nest for laying hens we will be able to collect intact and clean eggs.
Given that it is easier to convince the hens to use the nest than to dissuade them from laying in other places, setting up an inviting structure for laying is very important for the success of poultry farming.
How to make a nest for laying hens
Introducing a nest for laying hens in the poultry house is an excellent idea to adapt laying to their needs. It helps make them feel comfortable, allows them to collect eggs in less time while keeping them fresh and clean, and makes the hens more inclined to lay indoors instead of outdoors.
If the nest meets the hen’s needs, the hen “sings” to alert the others that the one she is in is a good place to lay eggs, which helps prompt the others to use the same hangout as well. In fact, hens tend to gather together to produce eggs in the same place. In this way, if a predator attacks a shared nest that has many eggs, there is a greater chance that at least one egg laid by each hen will survive the incursion (odds that drop in the case of fewer eggs all laid by one hen).
The nest can be purchased from third parties or be made by oneself.
A nest can be made from several pre-existing items, such as plastic containers, woven baskets, wooden chariots. Even a clean plastic bucket may be sufficient to house the hen and her chicks. An opening is made on the bucket and straw is placed in the bottom.
A wooden laying nest is suitable for groups of laying hens and helps generate a comfortable brooding environment. A single nest is suitable for poultry houses with few hens: you can opt for metal and plastic models of laying hen nests. To make sure there is enough space for all, it is best to introduce at least one nest for every 5 hens.
Nest for laying hens: what features it should have
A good nest for laying hens should be raised from the ground by at least 30 centimeters and set up in a place safe from moisture and drafts, intense noise, even better if it is immersed in half-light. To make it more inviting for the hens, we can place straw, untreated wood sawdust or dust-dusted shavings on the bottom, to be changed periodically as it becomes dirty.
To induce the hens to use the nests, they must clearly be free of mites, so we will do well to periodically check for mites and if so remove them. They should be stable, anchored shelters so that they do not tip over in strong winds, and have a 7-8 cm layer of straw or shavings to ensure comfortable laying.
Nests located outside prefabricated poultry houses wear out over time and increase the chances of rainwater seeping into them. If, for example, the lid of the nest no longer insulates the contents from water, you can arrange a waterproof sheet to the outside wall of the chicken coop by making it reach the ground, so that the entire structure is covered with it and thus insulated.
How to arrange the nest for laying hens
A collective nest for a dozen hens should have a base of 80 x 50 cm with a height of 40 cm, but it is better to opt for even larger dimensions to ensure the comfort of the feathered guests.
Hens reach sexual maturity around 7 months of age, so we can make the nest around this stage.
Hens tend to lay in the morning, so you can keep them inside the chicken coop until after lunch, so they will spontaneously orient themselves to the nest inside.
What to put inside the hens’ nest
Hens need to learn to make use of the nest available to them, and this can be either when they find it convenient or when they have no alternative.
One trick to attract their attention to the nest is to leave an egg (perhaps wooden) inside the structure so that they get in the habit of laying there.
If we find eggs laid outside the nest, we can arrange to remove them right away and put large stones in their place, so that the hens are no longer enticed to use that space to lay.
Nest for hens eating eggs
You may not have known this, but there are hens in the world who eat their own eggs. This can happen because of very unbalanced feeding, when there are not enough nests compared to the poultry present, when the hen breaks eggs by mistake and is tempted by the taste of the spilled yolk, a habit that spreads like wildfire to the other hens.
Regular feeding of fresh grass and vegetables reduces the risk of ovofage practices. A good diet should include a satisfactory amount of protein, fat and calcium (which decreases the hens’ tendency to feed on their own eggs to balance their diet). The less space available to poultry, the more likely they are to engage in such practices: in fact, it has been found that in large pastures very rarely do hens eat their own eggs, being distracted by the large spaces available.
To reduce this phenomenon, you can add orange and white ping pong balls to the nests of hens that eat eggs: the poultry may peck them and, having ascertained that they do not break, lose the habit of doing the same with real eggs.
A nest for egg-eating laying hens is usually composed of polymeric material or plastic or galvanized sheet metal, equipped with a compartment for collecting eggs also suitable for outdoor environments.
In this structure, the newly laid egg rolls gently to a front container, which the animal cannot reach to damage the contents. The eggs, intact and clean, can be easily collected by the operator through a convenient flap.
In this way we can remedy the damage that would otherwise be produced by hens eating their own eggs.
If you don’t have the necessary skills or time to make one, River provides many models of laying hen nests from which you can choose the one that’s right for you!