Or outside in the run or on the range, as opposed to in the nest box where we want them to be leaving their eggs.
Gathering the eggs is one of the simple pleasures that delight all chicken keepers
This is a problem because eggs are being left on the hen house floor or outdoors which can be dirty or they may get broken or be eaten or just be lost in the litter to go rotten.
Eggs laid outside are eaten by crows or vermin and on the floor can lead to contaminated shells or egg eaters which isn't something you would want to deal with.
In a few words the cause is either a shortage of nest boxes or the hen isn't comfortable in the boxes you have provided. Most hens are prefer to lay in the nests you provide but sometimes the incidence of away from the box laying can be quite high.
- Lice or pests present in the nest box material.
- Thin nesting material, hens like to be comfortable.
- Overly small or large nest boxes. Is it a squeeze or are they feeling uncomfortable in a large box
- To bright, breezy or damp in the box.
- The Birds are physically finding it difficult to get in and /or out of the nest boxes
Egg laying habits are persistent and chickens are very strongly motivated by a pre-laying behavior which consists of the searching for the nest phase and then the selection of a site and the creation of a hollow. This helps explain why some birds faithfully return to one nest and complain bitterly if someone else is in it at the time.
Young hens should be allowed to investigate nesting sites in the coop before being allowed out.
Site your nest boxes up off the floor but below the level of the perches - -roosting in the nest boxes presents it's own suite of issues. Hens like to lay in enclosed spaces and the amount of light the birds are happy with may vary especially if you keep several breeds or a greater number of chickens.
- Clean dry nest boxes.
- Draught free and dark.
- Suitable nesting material with a depression and a fake egg.
- Enough nesting boxes - 1 per 2 or 3 birds.
- A little variation in the type and position of the boxes.
- Don't let the hens face each other across the coop.
The coop should be a darkish spot and the boxes darker still. they should also have an enclosed comfortable feeling and not have a view out of their pop hole for example. Lower ambient light is a must for happy laying hens and some like to feel completely enclosed.
I have had several hens in the past that didn't like a nest box that faced the coop exit, although they seem happy under the hedge.
Chickens tend to lay in the early half of the day and not providing enough nest boxes will lead to overcrowding, it isn't unusual for two or three hens to squash into a single nest box to the amusement of their keepers and also for young pullets to be caught short and dump their first eggs all over the place with a surprised squawk.
False or pot eggs are the accepted encouragement for bird to know where to lay but a nicely rounded pebble from a river or beach will work just the same as will a wooden one or a golf ball.
As a last resort or if they are laying outside, then keep them in, in the mornings for a week or two so as they are forced to be inside to lay. They may begin to get used to leaving their eggs where you want them to.
I have had the odd bird that never lays in the box but they are few and far between.
individual nest box ideas.