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Are your chickens laying their eggs outside their nesting boxes? Here is how you can stop this annoying behavior by encouraging your chickens to lay eggs in their nesting boxes.
Why you should have nesting boxes
Nesting boxes are great because they are a designated area that your chickens can lay their eggs in. The nest boxes help keep your chicken’s eggs clean and protected until you collect them.
If your chickens free range and you don’t give them nest boxes to lay their eggs in they will lay eggs all over. They could lay eggs in large piles, and there is nothing worse than a pile of rotten eggs.
As you can see nesting boxes are very important if you are raising laying hens, but if your chickens won’t lay in your nesting boxes, you don’t get any of these benefits.
How encourage your chickens to lay their eggs in nesting boxes
Here are just a few ways you can encourage your chickens to lay their eggs where you want them to. You should note that every now and then your chickens will not lay their eggs in the boxes, but you should not let this become a habit.
Make your boxes big enough
If your nesting boxes are too small your chickens will not want to lay their eggs in them. In fact, they may not even be able to fit in them if they are built too small.
If you are new to chickens it could be hard to gauge how big your nesting boxes should be because your chicks are so small. Nesting boxes should be built 12 inches tall, wide, and deep.
Make your boxes low enough
Chickens can only jump a certain height, so if your nesting boxes are too tall they may not be able to jump in to lay an egg. While chickens can jump pretty high to get onto their roosts at night, when they need to lay an egg they cannot jump that high.
It is best to place your nesting boxes no higher than 18 inches off the coop floor. You could even place your nesting boxes level with the floor. My nesting boxes are about 12 inches off the ground and my chickens have no trouble jumping in them to lay their eggs.
Make your nesting boxes cozy
Chickens don’t like to lay their eggs out in the open. I believe this is due to their internal instinct as birds. Like other birds in the wild they choose to lay their eggs in secluded and protected areas. This allows them to sit on the eggs without being suspectable to attacks.
You should place your nesting box in the back of your coop where it will be dark. Some people even hang little curtains on their nesting boxes to make the hens feel even more protected.
Build the right number of boxes
One reason your chickens may not be laying eggs in their nesting box is there may not be enough spots. If your hens have to wait till a box is “open” they may find a different spot to lay their eggs.
A good rule of thumb is to have one nest box for every three to four hens, but you also don’t want to make too many nesting boxes because this can also cause problems.
Make sure that you don’t have too many nesting boxes because the hens may decide to sleep in them instead of roosting. Chickens do most of their excreting when they are sleeping and nothing is worse than getting dirty eggs.
Another reason your hens are sleeping in your nest boxes could be due to not enough roost space.
Use Soft bedding
Chickens like to lay their eggs in soft fluffy bedding. They usually lay in the nesting box for awhile before they lay their eggs so make sure that it is comfortable for them.
My favorite nesting material to use is straw. I love how straw absorbs odors and moisture plus straw smells great. Keep your straw clean and replace it if your chickens have scratched it all out of the boxes.
You could also use other materials such as pine shavings or these aspen pads.
Use Fake eggs
One of the best things you can do to encourage your chickens to lay their eggs in their nesting boxes is placing fake eggs in them. I have made my own eggs out of extra polymer clay that I had and they have worked great. You can also buy these fake eggs on Amazon.
You can place things like golf balls or egg sized rocks in their nesting boxes. Once your chickens get the hang of laying eggs in the boxes you can remove the fake eggs.
I like to leave my fake eggs in the nesting boxes because I feel like it discourages egg eating. When the chickens peck on a wooden egg they seem to lose interest in eating them.
Keep the boxes clean
Chickens don’t want to lay eggs in nesting boxes that are full of manure and other dirt. Here is a simple guide to keeping your chicken coop clean.
When I clean my nesting boxes I like to use this all natural homemade cleaner. You can grab the recipe for this chicken coop cleaner here.
Cover other nesting areas
If your chickens have found a different area to lay their eggs, you need to get them out of the habit. Covering the spot with logs or stones will discourage them from laying there again.
If you let your chickens free range and they have a favorite laying area outside the run, you should coop them up for a few days. Once they get in the habit of laying eggs in the nesting boxes you can try free ranging again.
Place their eggs back in the boxes
If you find some recently laid eggs outside the nesting boxes you should place them back in their boxes. This works just like the fake eggs and lets them know that they need to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes.
How can I tell if my eggs are still good
If you find a nest of eggs outside the coop you may be wondering if the eggs are still good to eat. Here is a simple way to see if your eggs are still edible.
What should I do with spoiled eggs
You can throw spoiled eggs in the compost pile or the garden to add calcium. If you are worried about the smell of the rotten eggs, you could also bury them. Some even say to place an egg under your tomato plant to give it nutrients.
What makes a good nesting box
A good nesting box is 12 inches high, wide, and deep, is no more than 18 inches off the ground, and is both dark and secluded.
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