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Hidden nesting boxes and eggs

Anyone who has free range chickens, will know how frustrating it is when your hens don’t lay where you want them to. If your wondering where all your eggs have disappeared to, it may be that your hens have hidden nesting boxes.

If your hens are not using the nesting box you provided, you need to sort this out fast. The longer they use hidden nesting boxes, the harder it will be to change and the more eggs you will miss out on. To fix the problem, there are 3 key steps you need to take:

I had 4 hens that were laying regularly in the nesting box provided, without any problems. However, one of the hens (Ruby) decided to start being broody and was sitting on the eggs in the nesting box all day.  I caught this early on, so locked Ruby and the other hens out of the nesting box to stop her getting comfortable. The trouble was, I forgot to open up the nesting box again, which meant it was closed for almost 2 days.

I got home from work and saw there were no eggs in the nesting box, which is when I realised what I had done. I guessed all would go back to normal once I opened the nesting box again, but for the next couple of days I only got eggs from 1 or the 4 hens. I needed to figure out what was going on, so I did some investigating

After some  searching I found a couple of well hidden nesting boxes. They found a dark, secure and cushy spot to lay eggs. I could see why the hens found it comfortable, but I was annoyed because the eggs were wet from some recent rain. I took the eggs out and put a bucket in the hidden nesting box to deter the chickens from laying there. The next morning I watched my chickens to see how they would react. One of the hens (Cluck) went to lay an egg and was pretty upset  when she realised her hidden nesting box had been blocked. Cluck roamed around the backyard for a while looking irritable, searching for a spot to lay an egg. After a lot of flapping and a lot of noise, Cluck finally went back to the nesting box inside the coop. From then on, things went back to normal and all the hens started to lay eggs where I wanted them to. This just shows how temperamental chickens can be – it only takes a small change to throw them off completely.

3 Step solution – get rid of hidden nesting boxes for good

Step 1. Investigate the problem

If you suspect your chickens have hidden nesting boxes, the first step is to find where they are.

  • Search the backyard: If your hens are confined to a backyard, do a scout around your backyard. Look for spots that would make an ideal nesting spot. Anywhere dark, hidden and soft. Under hedges, below other plants, or on flattened area of grass.
  • Spy on your hens: If there are no obvious signs of hidden nesting boxes, another approach is to spy on them. Chickens are very much creatures of habit, which means they generally lay eggs at the same time each day and in the same place. Keep and eye on them at the usual laying time and follow them to their secret nesting spot. Another obvious sign is to listen out for the loud clucking noises chickens make when laying an egg. If you can hear this coming from somewhere other the nesting box provided, it should make it easy to find hidden nesting boxes.

Step 2. Sabotage the competition

Once you have found the hidden nesting boxes, the next step is to block them off. Anything that disrupts them from using the spot should do the trick. I have found that an upturned bucket works well.

Step 3. Make your nesting box irresistible

Now that their hidden nesting boxes have been blocked off, the trick is to attract them back into your nesting boxes. To do this, you need to make your nesting box irresistible by providing them with the ideal spot to lay their eggs:

  • Free from physical barriers
  • Free from animals, rodents and insects
  • Secure
  • Soft and dry bedding
  • Away from the elements like rain and wind
  • Warm but not too hot.

Another good trick to encourage your hens into your nesting box, is to use a decoy. Put an egg (or a fake egg) in your nesting box to encourage your hens to lay there. You may have noticed that hens do everything together, follow each other around and copy each other. This means if one hen lays her eggs in a certain place, that encourages other hens to lay there.  Anything that is roughly the right size and has a bit of weight to it should do the trick. I have found golf balls to work well.

An irresistible nesting box is the key to keeping your eggs where you want then. If your nesting boxes give your hens everything they need, they will not bother building hidden nesting boxes in random places around your yard.

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