by Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily
We all make mistakes when it comes to raising chickens. Sometimes we just don't know any better, sometimes we forget, sometimes we make a bad judgment call, other times it's just bad timing. My most recent mistakee was a case of bad timing.
A week or two ago, the chicks I hatched in March were approaching laying age (21-22 weeks old) and had started checking out their options. Usually a few weeks before they start laying, pullets will start to investigate the nesting boxes, sometimes even sitting in them to get used to the idea. I found several eyeing the various baskets and boxes in the coop.
So what did I do ? I closed up the old coop and moved everyone into the new coop I had just finished building.
It has four nesting boxes and two more wooden laying boxes at ground level. Plenty of room for everyone...but of course chaos ensued. The little ones did indeed start laying but none of them used the new boxes.
I started finding eggs all over the run. Under bushes, behind the bench, in the dirt in front of the old coop. Normally the older layers will show the younger ones where to lay their eggs, but even the older layers were confused and couldn't guide the little ones. Many of the older hens just flat out stopped laying, which is pretty common any time you disrupt their routine. But I still had hens laying their eggs in random locations day after day. My bad.
So I did what I recommend on my Facebook page Fresh Eggs Daily to new chicken keepers raising their first batch of chickens. I put plastic Easter Eggs in the new nesting boxes.
And sure enough, within three days, the little pullets had caught on and were happily laying their eggs in the new coop. The older hens soon followed suit. I think in this case, the older hens actually learned from the younger ones!
Some people recommend shutting up your flock inside the coop for several days if they aren't laying in the nesting boxes. Not only have I never done that, I don't recommend it. If older hens all of a sudden stop using the boxes, there is usually a reason. It could be because there are rodents, mites or even snakes living in the coop. You certainly don't want your hens 'cooped up' in that case!
In the case of getting used to a new coop or nesting boxes, they do figure it out soon enough anyway and I think shutting them up inside for several days just isn't necessary. They need to be outside getting fresh air and scratching in the dirt. I would rather search the run for wayward eggs for a day or so and let them enjoy being outside.
I will leave the Easter eggs in the nesting boxes for a few more days until I am sure that all our hens are straight on where they should be laying.
I found these pretty pastel Easter eggs on ebay but you can also use ping pong balls, wooden or ceramic eggs. I have heard some people even use round stones with great success!
The moral of this story is to not move your flock to a new coop just as a batch of pullets is reaching laying age. But if you do... then just fake 'em out!