Why your hens are laying away from the coop.

A nest under a hedge as the hens have been laying in the garden again.
How do I get my chickens to lay in nesting boxes?
There are a few proven ways I have found over the years to keep the hens laying in your nest boxes:
  • Use an older hen to teach youngsters. I have a few old matriarchal hens that will happily show the younger birds how its done.
  • Have the right number of nesting boxes, at least 2 and a minimum of 1 box for seven hens.
  • Confine the hens to the hen house until midday for a week or two to get them into the rhythm of laying in the nest boxes.
  • Use pottery eggs in the nests as a visual aid.
  • Provide nest boxes at different heights.
  • Make sure nests never face each other.
  • Make sure the nest boxes are an appropriate size with a lip on the front.
  • Fill the nests with a thick layer of quality bedding.
  • Nest boxes must be clean, dry and draught free.
  • Check the coop, nest boxes and chickens for parasites on a regular basis and treat as necessary.
  • Reduce flock stress factors.
  • Do not have feed and water in the coop, the coop is for sleeping and laying.
  • Track down the hens that are playing truant and disturb the outdoor nests.

Egg laying patterns in chickens are strongly ingrained and always begin with a ritual pre-laying behaviour. If this behaviour is disturbed the birds may go outside and look for other locations to lay.

The choice of nest location is difficult to change the longer it has been allowed to go on so you will have greater success getting hens to lay in the nests if you tackle the problem sooner rather than later.

Top places hens lay outside:

Hens are very resourceful when it comes to choosing nesting sites.

Below: A cream crested Legbar nest in the hay loft.

Other good places to look for nests are inside or underneath sheds or outbuildings, in roof spaces and lofts, in and under hedges or bushes and even in trees.

I found one of my hens laying in a large water tank and another in the hay racks.