How to Get Hens to Use Other Nesting Boxes: Tips and Tricks.
I have encountered the problem of my hens using the same nesting box and laying at the same time of the day, causing a bit of a bottleneck. I have tried using fake eggs, but to no avail. After some research and experimentation, I have discovered some effective methods for encouraging my hens to use other nesting boxes. In this article, I will share my experience and knowledge on how to solve this problem.
Understanding the behavior of hens
Before we dive into the solutions, it’s important to understand the behavior of hens and why they might prefer one nesting box over another. Chickens are creatures of habit and prefer routine and consistency. They also have a hierarchy, with dominant hens taking priority over nesting boxes and other resources. Additionally, they have a natural inclination to lay their eggs in a dark and secluded area.
With this knowledge in mind, let’s explore some ways to encourage your hens to use other nesting boxes.
- Provide multiple nesting boxes
Having multiple nesting boxes is a great solution to encourage your hens to use other boxes besides the one they are accustomed to. When there are multiple boxes available, hens have more options to choose from, which can help alleviate any competition or crowding issues that may arise. Additionally, providing multiple boxes can help prevent egg breakage and damage, as hens will have more space to move around and lay their eggs comfortably.
When deciding how many nesting boxes to provide, keep in mind that one nesting box can accommodate three to four hens comfortably. So if you have six hens, it’s best to have at least two nesting boxes available. However, it’s always a good idea to provide a few extra boxes to allow for any new additions to your flock or unexpected broody hens.
To ensure that your hens are comfortable using the new nesting boxes, it’s important to place them in a dark, quiet, and secluded area. This is because hens prefer to lay their eggs in a calm and private environment, away from any disturbances or predators. Consider placing the boxes in a covered area, such as a coop or shed, where they can be shielded from the elements and other animals.
- Add some variety to the nesting boxes
It’s important to note that the size of the nesting boxes should be appropriate for the size of your hens. Smaller hens will require smaller nesting boxes, while larger hens will need larger nesting boxes. A good rule of thumb is to have the nesting boxes be at least 12 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and 12 inches tall.
You can also experiment with different bedding materials in each nesting box to provide even more variety. Some hens may prefer straw or hay, while others may prefer shredded paper or wood shavings. By giving your hens a choice of bedding materials, you can help them find their preferred nesting box and encourage them to lay eggs there.
Another option is to add some privacy to the nesting boxes. Hens are more likely to lay eggs in a box that offers some privacy and security. You can do this by adding curtains or screens to the nesting boxes or by placing them in a more secluded area. By giving your hens a private and secure nesting box, they will feel more comfortable and less likely to lay their eggs in the same box as other hens.
In addition to providing different sizes, shapes, and bedding materials for your nesting boxes, you can also make them more appealing to your hens by adding some nesting herbs. Hens are attracted to certain herbs, such as lavender, chamomile, and mint, which can help to relax them and make them feel more at home in the nesting box. You can add these herbs directly to the nesting material or hang them from the roof of the nesting box to create a calming and inviting environment.
- Provide a comfortable and secure environment
Another way to provide a comfortable and secure environment is by ensuring that the nesting boxes are free from drafts and temperature extremes. Hens may avoid using nesting boxes that are too hot, too cold, or too humid. Make sure the nesting boxes are well-ventilated and protected from direct sunlight or rain. You can also install insulation or use materials such as hay or straw to regulate the temperature and humidity levels in the nesting boxes.
Finally, it’s important to consider the overall layout and design of your coop. Hens prefer to have a designated area for nesting that is separate from their roosting and feeding areas. Make sure the nesting boxes are located in a separate area of the coop to reduce noise and disturbance. You can also use dividers or partitions to create individual nesting areas for each hen, which can help reduce competition and aggression between them.
- Disrupt the routine
Disrupting the routine of the hens can be an effective way to encourage them to use other nesting boxes. You can try several methods to break their habit of using the same box every day. One option is to close off the preferred nesting box for a few days. This will force the hens to look for alternative nesting sites and explore other nesting boxes that they may have overlooked previously.
Another way to disrupt the routine is to temporarily remove the preferred nesting box altogether. This can create some anxiety and stress for the hens, which can motivate them to explore other options. You can keep the box away for a few days and then reintroduce it along with other nesting boxes. This way, the hens will be more likely to explore the other boxes as well.
Another method is to rearrange the nesting boxes. If you have multiple nesting boxes in one area, you can swap their positions or move them to a different location. This will create a sense of novelty and intrigue for the hens, and they may be more likely to explore the new nesting boxes.
It’s important to note that disrupting the routine of the hens can cause some stress and anxiety for them, so it’s important to do this gradually and with care. You can monitor their behavior and reactions to make sure they are adjusting well to the changes. Additionally, providing them with a comfortable and secure environment can help reduce their stress levels and make them more receptive to the changes you are making.
- Add some fake eggs
Another way to use fake eggs is to place them in all of the nesting boxes, which can make it more difficult for hens to choose a preferred box. You can also try adding different types of fake eggs, such as ceramic or golf balls, to provide more variety and encourage the hens to explore different nesting boxes. It’s important to note that some hens may not be fooled by fake eggs and may still prefer to use their preferred nesting box.
In addition to using fake eggs, you can also try placing real eggs in the other nesting boxes. Hens may be attracted to a nesting box with an egg already in it, especially if it is the first egg of the day. This can help encourage them to use other nesting boxes and may help break their routine of using the same box every day.
It’s important to note that while fake eggs can be a useful tool in encouraging hens to use other nesting boxes, they should not be used as a permanent solution. Hens may eventually catch on to the fact that the eggs are not real and may stop using the nesting boxes altogether.
- Rearrange the nesting boxes
Rearranging the nesting boxes can be an effective solution if your hens are used to a specific nesting box location or position. Moving the preferred nesting box to a new location or swapping the positions of different nesting boxes can disrupt their routine and encourage them to explore other options.
When rearranging the nesting boxes, you should do it gradually and not all at once. This will allow the hens to adjust to the new positions and become comfortable with them. You can start by moving the preferred nesting box to a new location that is still within the same general area. This will allow the hens to see the new location and explore it at their own pace.
You can also swap the positions of different nesting boxes to create a new environment for the hens. For example, if the preferred nesting box is on the left side of the coop, you can swap it with the nesting box on the right side. This will create a new environment for the hens to explore and may encourage them to use different nesting boxes.
It is important to note that you should not move the nesting boxes too far away from the hens’ regular environment. This can cause stress and confusion for the hens, which can lead to a decrease in egg production. Additionally, you should make sure that the nesting boxes are still in a quiet and secluded area that mimics the hens’ natural preferences.
Encouraging hens to use other nesting boxes can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, but with patience and persistence, it is possible. By providing multiple nesting boxes, adding variety, creating a comfortable and secure environment, disrupting their routine, adding fake eggs, and rearranging the nesting boxes, you can encourage your hens to use other nesting boxes and reduce the bottleneck caused by all the hens laying at the same time.