Tips on new layers
PUBLISHED: 15:23 13 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:35 14 October 2016
Help, tips & advice by chicken keepers
I have got my first flock. They’re all around 14 weeks old so I’m looking forward to some eggs soon. My hens free range in the garden, which includes some overgrown areas. I’m concerned that, when they start laying, the eggs will be everywhere but the nesting boxes in their coop. Is there a way to get them to lay in a nesting box rather than in the undergrowth?
Julie Moore says: Hens like to have privacy and feel safe and secure when they lay. You should provide ample nest boxes (generally one nest box for every three hens) that are of a good size, easy to get in and out of and positioned in a darkened area away from any windows or the entrance to the coop. You could add nest box curtains to create extra privacy too.
As hens like to lay where others have laid their eggs, placing fake eggs such as ping pong balls in the nest boxes can encourage pullets to use the nest boxes, as they’ll associate the nesting boxes with ‘eggs’.
Hopefully, when your pullets are getting ready to lay their first egg, they’ll start showing interest in the nest boxes. You’ll see them exploring the nest boxes, walking in and out, spinning around, rearranging the nesting material and practising sitting comfortably.
Even if you do provide the ‘perfect’ nesting boxes, some free-range hens like to find their own nesting sites. You should be extra vigilant and look for the physical signs that your pullets are ready to lay — their combs and wattles will start to increase in size and redden. You’ll then know that eggs can generally be expected within a few weeks, so if there are no eggs in the nest boxes, you’ll know to look elsewhere.