Hens generally reach maturity by the age of 5-6 months old, meaning that they can lay up to 300 eggs per year. However, teaching them to use a chicken nesting box size that’s appropriate isn’t the easiest thing in the world and if you could use some extra help, you can check it out here.
Also, below you’ll find some useful tips and tricks you can use to make your chickens more comfortable with their nest boxes.
The right number of boxes
Getting your hens to lay their eggs solely in the designated nesting boxes is a job that requires perseverance and a lot of time. Out of your bird flock, chances are at least one or two are going to make it their mission to lay eggs anywhere else, except the nesting box.
One way to prevent that is to make sure you have enough nesting boxes in your household. Typically, you should have one nesting box for every four hens, but this doesn’t mean you have to overcrowd the coop with them either. You still want your chickens to have enough space to roam and play.
Making the boxes too common can also lead to the paradox where hens will use the boxes to sleep in and defecate instead of laying eggs in them.
How to make the boxes more appealing to your chicks
Since hens may take a while to adjust with the new setting, perhaps it would be a better idea to start a few weeks before your hens lay eggs. Install the nesting boxes earlier and allow your birds to adjust to them before they start egging.
A good idea would be to place the nests close to the floor or directly on the floor at the beginning so that the chicks can get used to the idea. Once they start using the boxes, you can elevate them from the ground around 20 inches so discourage the birds to use them for other purposes except laying eggs.
Chicken farmers also found that placing the nesting boxes in dark and safe places will make them more appealing to the hens. This has to do with a sense of security that hens need to feel in order to be comfortable enough to lay eggs. Therefore, make sure to place the boxes in quiet parts of the coop.
How should the nesting boxes look like?
Another thing to take into account is the way the boxes actually look. After deciding on the perfect spot to put them, you need to make sure the boxes are far away from direct sunlight.
Hens, just like all other birds, have the instinct of laying eggs in safe places that predators cannot reach and staying away from the daylight is one way to ensure that. Thus, you should make sure the nests are as dark as possible in addition to being comfortable.
Eggs stay in the nest boxes
Since all the changes might get a bit confusing to your hens the first time, it is your job to help them out to figure out the actual purpose of a nesting box. Therefore, you should make sure all eggs end up in the nest boxes, no matter where you find them.
At first, you may still stumble across eggs scattered throughout the coop or on the grass but placing them into the boxes sends a clear signal to the hens that this is where they should stay. Once they understand a nest box is a safe spot to hatch eggs, they will eventually start doing it themselves.
Fake egg operation
If you cannot seem to convince hens that nesting boxes are for laying eggs, perhaps some fake eggs will help them grasp the concept better.
Ceramic eggs are the most convenient solution because they look and feel just like eggs. Of course, egg-shaped candles or other items of similar dimensions may do the trick just fine.
The idea is to encourage hens to think of nesting boxes as a safe spot to lay the eggs. However, contrary to popular beliefs, putting fake eggs won’t determine chicks to lay more eggs but will simply help you find them easier.
Make the rest of the laying areas inaccessible
Another good idea specialists recommend is to turn all the other areas inside the coop less welcoming for your birds. If the creative laying areas don’t have bedding or include other things like plastic bottles and rocks, this may determine your hens to think twice before laying eggs anywhere else except the designated boxes.
However, making the boxes too comfortable can also result in your hens spending too much time in them, including sleeping, which isn’t beneficial either. One way to avoid that is to remove the existing bedding in the boxes or add a thinner layer that will cause mild discomfort if your bird wants to spend too much time there.
If everything else fails, we think it’s safe to say that you can try some “unorthodox” measures. In the end, it’s not wrong if it works. Some people suggest chasing your hens in the garden if they prefer laying eggs on the grass. This might take longer and could prove a tad difficult when you’re dealing with more than 20-30 hens, but it is worth a try.
Another idea we could think of is to practice mid-morning releases. Keep in mind that chickens will usually lay eggs early in the morning, so keeping them inside until mid-morning will reduce the probability of them laying eggs outside or in other areas of the coop instead of the special nest boxes.
Last but not least, don’t forget to also keep the nests clean. Remove all traces of feces or dirt and keep them dark and cozy for your hens.