Lay Lady Lay
PUBLISHED: 19:23 09 April 2014
Do your chickens play hide and seek with their eggs? Here’s how to make sure your hens lay only in the nest box and nowhere else
Are some breeds more likely to lay away?
The tendency to lay away is not generally breed-specific. Having said that, light breeds that tend to roam, such as Leghorns, Ancona and several of the Game bird breed, may be more likely to find alternative places. But given a good, clean area they will, in most cases, prefer to use the boxes provided.
Getting your hens to lay in the nest box can sometimes be a problem. It is quite common for them to lay elsewhere!
You may not find the eggs at all if they are well hidden … or you may find them so late that they are stale and uneatable – and can smell terrible.
There is no foolproof method, but you can certainly increase the chances that the birds will lay in the right place. Essentially, the nest box has to be place where the hens want to lay their eggs.
Hens that constantly lay away from the nest box may well be doing this for a very good reason – such as an insect infestation in the nest box. Other predators, such as rats, will not generally put the birds off laying but can break and eat eggs, creating an unhealthy environment for the birds.
• The nest boxes need to be in an area that allows both you and your birds easy access.
• They need to be easy to clean (new style plastic boxes are ideal).
• They must be insect-free. Always check the nest box on a regular basis. Look for a greyish dust, a telltale sign of red mite. There are several very good products available to deal with mite, such as Diatom.
• The nest boxes must offer the hens a sense of security, and be somewhere where they feel comfortable.
• Positioning is important. The base should be approximately 2ft above the ground - a suitable height for them to reach without too much effort but hopefully a deterrent to unwanted visitors.
• A darker section of the coop is ideal that is not visible to predators. You can also put a loose cover over the front of the box to make it darker inside, leave a small gap at the side for the hens to get in and out. Sacking or an old towel is ideal.
• There must be enough nest boxes to cover the number of hens - ideally one nest box for every four or five birds.
• Use appropriate bedding.
• Use false eggs, as this will encourage laying in the box. Ceramic, wooden or rubber eggs can be used.
• To encourage egg laying through the autumn and winter, use a timer controlled light to increase the daylight hours; this will help to convince the hens it is still summer.