What to Do When Your Hen Won’t Leave the Nesting Box: Tips and Tricks.
One of the most common issues you may encounter is a hen that refuses to leave the nesting box. This can be concerning as it can lead to other hens being unable to lay their eggs and cause a variety of health problems for your feathered friends. In this article, I will provide some possible reasons why your hen is staying in the nesting box and what you can do about it.
Possible Reasons Why a Hen Won’t Leave the Nesting Box
- Broodiness – Broodiness is a natural instinct for hens to hatch and care for their eggs. A broody hen may become overly protective of her eggs and refuse to leave the nesting box. She may also pluck out her breast feathers to provide better warmth for the eggs. In this case, you may need to intervene by removing the eggs from the nesting box and breaking the broody cycle. You can do this by placing the hen in a separate cage or pen without a nesting box or eggs for a few days until she breaks her broodiness.
- Lack of Roosting Space – If your hen does not have enough roosting space, she may choose to stay in the nesting box instead. Hens need sufficient roosting space to perch at night and sleep comfortably. The general rule of thumb is to provide at least 8-10 inches of roosting space per hen. Ensure that your coop has adequate roosting space and that the roosts are higher than the nesting boxes.
- Stress – Stressful situations such as overcrowding, loud noises, or sudden changes in the environment can cause hens to feel anxious and retreat to the nesting box. Identify the cause of stress and try to eliminate it as much as possible. You can also try to provide a quiet and calm environment for your hens by adding a few natural supplements such as chamomile or lavender to their feed.
- Health Issues In some cases, a hen may stay in the nesting box due to health issues such as egg binding or internal laying. Egg binding occurs when the hen is unable to pass the egg, leading to pain and discomfort. Internal laying happens when the egg is not formed properly, and the hen’s body tries to expel it through the cloaca. If you suspect that your hen is experiencing health issues, seek veterinary care immediately.
What Can You Do When a Hen Won’t Leave the Nesting Box?
- Remove the Eggs – If your hen is broody, remove the eggs from the nesting box to break the cycle. You can also replace the eggs with fake eggs or golf balls to discourage her from sitting in the nesting box.
- Provide Adequate Roosting Space – Ensure that your coop has enough roosting space for all your hens. You can also add more roosts if necessary.
- Reduce Stress Eliminate any sources of stress for your hens. Try to provide a calm and comfortable environment for them to reduce anxiety.
- Check for Health Issues – Regularly check your hens for any signs of health issues. Seek veterinary care if necessary.
- Block the Nesting Box – As a last resort, you can block the nesting box to prevent your hen from entering it. However, this should only be a temporary solution and should not be used as a permanent fix.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why won’t my hen leave the nesting box?
There could be several reasons why a hen won’t leave the nesting box. It’s possible that she is broody and has an instinctual desire to hatch eggs. Alternatively, she could be feeling unwell or stressed. Some hens may also simply enjoy the warmth and privacy of the nesting box.
- How long can a hen stay in the nesting box?
There is no set amount of time that a hen can stay in the nesting box. However, if she is broody, she may stay there for several weeks until her eggs hatch. If she is not broody, it’s important to encourage her to leave the nesting box regularly to eat, drink, and exercise.
- Is it normal for hens to spend a lot of time in the nesting box?
It’s normal for hens to spend some time in the nesting box, particularly if they are laying eggs. However, if a hen is spending a lot of time in the nesting box and not leaving, it may be cause for concern.
- How can I encourage my hen to leave the nesting box?
There are several things you can do to encourage your hen to leave the nesting box, such as providing distractions like toys or treats, keeping her food and water outside of the nesting box, and gently but firmly removing her from the box and placing her outside.
- Could there be something wrong with my hen if she won’t leave the nesting box?
Yes, there could be something wrong with your hen if she won’t leave the nesting box. It’s important to check for signs of illness or injury, such as lethargy, weight loss, or abnormal droppings. If you suspect your hen is unwell, it’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian.
- Will a hen staying in the nesting box affect her health?
Yes, a hen staying in the nesting box for long periods of time can have negative effects on her health. She may become dehydrated or malnourished, and her muscles may weaken from lack of exercise. It’s important to encourage her to leave the nesting box regularly.
- Can other hens use the nesting box if one hen won’t leave?
If one hen won’t leave the nesting box, it may prevent other hens from using it. It’s important to encourage the broody hen to leave the nesting box regularly so that other hens can lay their eggs.
- Should I remove the eggs from the nesting box if my hen won’t leave?
If your hen won’t leave the nesting box and is broody, it’s best to leave the eggs in the box until they hatch. If she is not broody and simply laying eggs in the box, it’s important to remove the eggs regularly to prevent them from becoming dirty or broken.
- Is it safe to let a broody hen stay in the nesting box?
Yes, it’s safe to let a broody hen stay in the nesting box if she is healthy and the box is clean and comfortable. However, it’s important to monitor her and make sure she is leaving the box regularly to eat, drink, and exercise.
- How can I tell if my hen is broody and not just refusing to leave the nesting box?
A broody hen will exhibit certain behaviors, such as fluffing up her feathers, sitting in the nesting box for extended periods of time, and growling or hissing when disturbed. If you suspect your hen is broody, you can also check for physical changes such as an increase in body temperature or changes in her comb and wattle color.
A hen that won’t leave the nesting box can be a cause for concern, but it is usually not a serious problem. By identifying the root cause and taking appropriate action, you can help your hen return to normal behavior and ensure the health and productivity of your flock. Remember to provide adequate roosting space, reduce stress, and seek veterinary care when necessary.