How To Train Hens To Lay In Nest Boxes

You carefully selected your chicks, cared for them for weeks in the brooder, successfully moved them out to their coop when the time was right, and now they are beginning to lay their first eggs. But they are laying them everywhere but the nest boxes! Here are a few ways to help train hens to lay where you expect the eggs to go.

Hens will naturally seek out a dark, secluded, and safe spot to lay eggs. Sometimes they will prefer an area with tall grass or weeds in their yard instead of the nest boxes. If your hens are allowed to free-range, you may find hidden nests along the edges of a tree line, tall grass in shaded spots, inside of any piles of wood scraps or other debris nearby, or any number of suitable secluded spots. When you discover these hidden nests, the first thing you should do is clear that secluded area to make it less desirable as a nesting spot. Mow the tall grass, remove the rubble, or otherwise make the spot not so cozy.

With the more desirable spots now removed, there are a few things you can do to encourage your hens to use their boxes. If you already have a few hens that are laying, the sight of an egg in the nest boxes triggers new layers to lay in the boxes also. If you have young hens just beginning to lay, leave an egg in the box for them to see. That’s the sure-fire way to teach them where they need to go. If you do not yet have a laying hen, try adding a golf ball to each nest. The golf ball is similar enough to an egg that most hens will see that and lay their egg right next to the golf ball.

If you happen to find a hen in the process of laying her egg in an undesirable spot, quietly pick her up and move her to a nest box, preferably a box that has an egg in it. It may take her a few “lessons”, but eventually, she will learn that the box is the best place to lay her egg.

If you have several hens who continue to refuse to use the nest boxes, take a good look at why that may be happening. If nest boxes are too brightly lit, try adding some curtains to the fronts of the nest boxes to darken them. This tip can also help deter hens from egg-eating if that should develop. Also, make sure that you have enough nest boxes for the number of hens you keep. I recommend 1 box for every 3 to 4 hens. You may also want to experiment with using “community” nest boxes that allow several hens to lay at once. They do very much prefer the company of each other when laying.

We hope these helpful tips will help you train your hens to lay in their nest boxes. If you have other helpful hints you’ve discovered in training your hens, leave us a comment.

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