Why Hens Hide Their Eggs... 🥚🥚🥚

Sunday, March 21, 2021

...and How To Persuade Them Not Too!

If you’re keeping chickens in your garden, you’ve probably become accustomed to your morning routine: wake up, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and collect fresh eggs from your flock. Of course, it’s an unpleasant surprise when one day you go outside, looking forward to your fresh eggs for breakfast, but return to the kitchen empty handed. There are several possible reasons why you’re not finding eggs in the nesting boxes anymore. Maybe your hens are too old, it’s wintertime and your heritage hens are moulting and taking their annual seasonal break from laying. Or they might be broody? Broody hens sit in the nest box all fluffed up and do not lay. But there is also the possibility your hens are in fact still laying eggs, but are hiding them in a nest they’ve created outside their coop.

Why Do Hens Hide Their Eggs?

It simply might be due to a shortage of nesting boxes, or your hens for some reason aren’t comfortable in the ones you have provided. The general ratio of nesting boxes to hens is 1:4, although 1:6 or 1:8 might be sufficient. It is important you give your chickens a safe, cosy, sheltered, quiet spot for laying that makes them feel protected. Nesting boxes can sit on the ground or be elevated. Best kept below perch height. Hens aren’t picky about the material the nesting box is made off, but they are picky about where they lay their eggs. Although wooden nesting boxes are common, plastic and metal ones are less susceptible to bacteria and easier to clean. If your hens were happily using the boxes and then suddenly stopped, there might be mites in the nesting material.

Ways To Get Your Hens Laying In Their Nesting Box

Of course, you don’t want to go on a hunt every day to find eggs (only at Easter!) and you want to be able to gather them freshly from the nesting box you’ve provided for that purpose. You can take steps to encourage your chickens to lay in the nest boxes and not outside hidden in grass, hay bales, in the tussocks, under the chicken coop or any other place that for some reason seem to appeal to them. They usually choose a well-hidden, secret spot!

Clean The Nesting Area Out At Least Once A Week

Whether an egg will be hatched or eaten, in both cases cleanliness of the nesting box is particularly important. The nest needs to be cleaned, disinfected and treated for mites regularly. Obviously, a clean nest, free from droppings and red mites, will encourage your chickens to use it. Put some fresh straw, wood shavings or hay in the bottom of the box to provide you’re hens with a comfortable nesting space. For residual red mite control we recommend dusting the nest box with Appletons De-Mite Powder. We use Chicken Astroturf as the nest liner in our nest boxes. This is brilliant stuff! It keeps the eggs clean, reduces breakages and the hens seem to like the feel of it. It is economical to use and very easy to clean and can be repeatedly used.

Coop Maintenance Pack
Nest Box Liners

Find The Secret Stash!

If you are letting your chickens roam about in the garden, they may have made a nest under a bush or in a corner somewhere. Follow your chicken discreetly to find the nest. Hens will often let off a loud celebration cackle when they have laid an egg, which can help you finding the nest. Once you’ve discovered the nest, remove the eggs from it and try to block it off or make it otherwise unattractive. You can simply cover it with a scrap piece of wood, rocks or plastic bottles filled with water. Hopefully, this will convince your hens to return to the comfortable nesting box you’ve provided.

‘Decoy Eggs’

Hens will often lay in places where there are already eggs. Fake eggs are useful for encouraging your chickens to lay their eggs in a particular place. When young hens get ready to start laying, the fake eggs in a nesting box will give them the hint that this is the place to lay their eggs. We recommend leaving them in the nest boxes all year round. It makes no difference as to the colour or size of the fake egg as to the hen an egg is an egg.

Fake Eggs

Collect Eggs Often

Collecting eggs regularly is not only one of the greatest joys of keeping chickens, it is also an important thing to do. A few eggs won’t keep a hen from adding one more, but a box already full of eggs isn’t very appealing to a hen. Collect the eggs at least once a day, twice a day is even better and every day is recommended. This will also discourage egg eating, dirty eggs and broodiness, and it will help you keep track of which eggs are fresh.

Egg Skelter

Break the ‘Lay-Away’ Habit

Chickens are creatures of habit, and they can be very stubborn about their egg-hiding-behaviour. Most chickens lay their egg in the morning but some also lay into the late afternoon. It takes longer than 24 hours to make an egg so the time they lay each day will vary. To help stop your hens laying in places other than the nesting box, you can keep them in their run until midday or early afternoon. Invest in an Omlet automatic chicken door. The Autodoor can be programmed to let your hens out from the coop when you are not home giving them the afternoon to free-range. If your chickens are very stubborn (cross their legs and wait), you can try to shut your hens in for a few days. A good week to 10 days is better for very stubborn hens. They will be forced to lay inside and hopefully get into this preferable routine. Hens are creatures of habit so setting a new routine for them can take a while. It is always better to persevere a little longer until they have a new routine than to feel sorry that they are shut into a smaller space. If you let them out too soon they will only start to lay away in secret places again. Stick to it and it will work and the result will be delicious breakfast eggs where you want them - in the nest box!

Discover the Autodoor

Getting Hens to Lay in New Nest Boxes

Sometimes we need to upgrade our nest boxes with new ones. Hens do not know instinctively to lay in new nest boxes. If swapping old ones for new ones then place them in the same position as the old ones. Best to remove the old ones altogether from the chicken coop. Old wooden boxes can become a hazard as they harbour red mites, parasites and disease. Plastic nest boxes are much easier to wash and sanitise and can be removed when not in use. If your hens have been laying on the floor of the coop you need to do a few things to persuade them from laying there. First place the nest box where they were laying previously and low down if it is on the floor. Hens will always go to the same spot they have laid before - it is their safe spot. Make the new nest nice and inviting with nesting material like hay and/or wood shavings - add some fake eggs to show them where to lay. Once they start to use the new box give them a few weeks to get used to using it and then slowly move it across to where you want it permanently. Removable wall hung boxes are good as you can easily re-fix them on the wall. It will also help to temporarily cover over the old nest spot where they have been laying and place a bin or sack there so they cannot be tempted to go back.