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Fake 'Em Out - Encouraging New Layers To Use Nesting Boxes

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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.

 abigail nesting 

So what did I do ? I closed up the old coop and moved everyone into the new coop I had just finished building. 

 new noxes 

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.

 easter eggs 

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!

 laying boxes 

 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.

box setup  

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.

 fake eggs 

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! 

For more tip and tricks to raising happy, healthy backyard flocks, join me on Facebook at Fresh Eggs Daily and sign up to follow my Fresh Eggs Daily Blog .

jeannie box
8/28/2012 8:09:27 PM

Currently I don't have any chickens - I just don't have a place for them here - but I do enjoy reading about them here. Back in the 70's I raised "Domineckers" as my Granny called them & enjoyed every minute of it. Granny used the now antique solid glass eggs to get hens laying where she wanted them to. One night a rat snake got into the coop and gorged on eggs that hadn't yet been gathered. However, after swallowing one of the solid glass ones we found a "good" snake outside the hen house the next morning! Maybe one of these days I'll be able to get back to my Chickens....

michele harris
8/28/2012 8:05:45 PM

My old girls never had a problem finding the nest. My new little ones roll the rocks and plastic eggs out of the box and sit and lay beside it! Hopefully the new winter coop will solve the problem with large built in nesting boxes.

victoria osteen
8/28/2012 6:56:03 PM

Another great blog! My hens are only 4 eggs in but only the first one was found on the ground. The rest have been in the outdoor nest boxes that are copycats of yours! :) I often read people saying that you "get over" the whole egg collecting thing but I dont see that EVER happening to me. It is amazing!

karen driscoll
8/28/2012 6:55:09 PM

Hahaha ... I was going to say, "Those are some beautiful eggs your hens are laying!" My pullets are 20 weeks old. I'm getting excited as I anticipate them starting to lay!

felicia johnson
8/28/2012 6:24:30 PM

I am excited to try this out. My Brown Leghorn will be laying soon and I want her to start off in the right spot.

cindy mitchell
8/28/2012 6:07:34 PM

Great info!! I'm getting a new coop in about a month and I was really worrying about how to make the girls gave me their first eggs last week and of course they did not use the boxes because all 5 of them cram together and sleep in them! They have made their own little "nest" right outside the boxes. I'll start using the Easter eggs to try and get them to stop sleeping there and then continue it into the new coop.....The Chick Inn... with it's large 6 boxes.....I'll keep you updated and may ask you a few more questions.

devon pierce
8/28/2012 5:47:18 PM

One of our pullets has been laying an egg a day (out first eggs ever) for the last week. So consistent! We actually don't have nesting boxes in there yet---we were planning it for last weekend and it rained all weekend long--but she's been shallowing out a little hole and plopping them right in. We're so excited. Hopefully this weekend we can make them official with real boxes.

heather frank
8/28/2012 5:34:27 PM

I have never heard of that before i would love to try this with my young chickens. Must be hard to find the plastic eggs this time of year.

makenna vanegas
8/28/2012 5:30:36 PM

We do this! I would love to get some more eggs though! They always come in handy. Great blog post!