Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Is your flock refusing to lay eggs in their nesting boxes? Want to spoil your hens by creating a nesting area that’s beautiful and inviting? In this article, I’ll show you 7 most common reasons why chickens refuse to use their nesting boxes, what to do about it, and how to provide the best nesting area possible.

It can be heartbreaking and confusing when your flock lays their eggs on the ground instead of the carefully designed nesting boxes you provide. Nobody wants dirty, poop-crusted eggs! It’s also disappointing when they start hiding their eggs or stop laying completely. You spend so much time and money setting up their nesting area, after all! It can be really, really frustrating. 

Getting your flock to consistently use their boxes can take some trial and error, but it CAN be done. It all starts with providing an attractive and inviting nesting area. With the easy ideas below, you can discover if you’re making some very common mistakes in your own coop. If your hens aren’t laying eggs, be sure to print this article out. You can use it as a checklist.

Let’s cover the common reasons why your chickens might avoid laying eggs in a nesting box.

Common Reasons Chickens Won’t Use Nesting Boxes

  1. Too much noise & commotion
  2. There’s mites in the nesting area
  3. The boxes smell or are dirty
  4. The bedding is wrong
  5. Nesting boxes are too high or too low
  6. Your hens don’t like the material your nesting boxes are made out of
  7. They don’t have enough nesting boxes 

Chickens Like Their Privacy

It’s true. Even though they’re incredibly social animals, chickens like privacy when doing their most intimate business – laying eggs. Why is this? When a hen lays an egg, it can take up to 1 hour for the egg to actually emerge from her vent. She must stay still and quiet the entire time. In the last few moments, before the egg is laid, she might even have to strain a little. As you can imagine, it’s not a time when she wants roosters, humans, or other hens bothering her!

If you locate your flock’s nesting boxes in a busy area, your hens might avoid it. Similarly, if they’re easily accessible to roosters or bossy alpha hens, it’s likely too stressful for a quieter hen. In these cases, she will find her own, more suitable, area. 

Make sure your flock’s nesting boxes are inside the coop. Choose a corner where there’s no feeders, waterers, dust bathing areas, swings, or anything else that can attract another chicken to the area. Dedicate that nesting area just for laying eggs. Your hens will appreciate it!

Are Mites A Problem?

We all know what mites are. But did you know they can hide in nesting boxes? Not only that, they can turn a cozy, daydreamy nesting box into a nightmare. Eventually, mites can even cause death. If your flock’s nesting boxes are infested, your hens might avoid them altogether.

So, how do you know if there’s mites? Personally, I automatically assume mites will creep in, especially if I don’t do preventative maintenance. Regularly cleaning nesting areas helps. Spraying the area down with a cleaning solution and scrubbing it regularly is a simple but effective strategy. An all natural cleaner made from citrus is a cost-effective option. 

But don’t stop there. Cleaning prevents existing mites from making the boxes a home, but it doesn’t stop the invasion completely. Do double duty by adding herbs traditionally used to prevent external parasites to your nesting area. Herbs are a cost effective and all natural solution that can discourage mites from returning. Mites can cause anemia, which usually requires a visit to the vet to diagnose and cure. So preventing them is cheaper than a big vet bill. Always make sure to source your blends from a reliable source. We use this herb blend because it’s created specifically for chickens.

chicken mites and lice
A chicken with mites isn’t a comfortable chicken! Mites can make their nesting boxes an unhappy place to lay eggs. Get rid of them ASAP!

Does It Smell Bad? 

Finding eggs on your coop floor? Not always cleaning your nesting boxes when they need it? Then your hens are likely avoiding the smelly, confined areas. 

Who wants to lay in a dirty, stinky bed? Nobody. And your hens aren’t any different. Lots of things happen in nesting areas that humans can’t see. As the box gets dirtier and dirtier, problems compound. Eggs break. A hen drops manure or urine. Ammonia builds up. Their eyes start stinging. Feathers get stuck everywhere. It’s unpleasant.

The simplest way to avoid this is to clean the nesting boxes weekly. Remove all bedding, and do a wipe down. Then, add clean bedding and herbs. For a more detailed explanation, you can read this article to learn how to clean a coop.

It’s also important to clean any unusual messes as quickly as possible. For example, if an egg breaks, don’t allow the smell to fester and the egg to dry. It’ll be hard to get the stench out of your flock’s feathers. You’ll spend even more time cleaning. You’ll end up with stinky chickens in addition to no eggs. You want to avoid wetness, stickiness, and bad smells. Clean the box immediately, and replace any bedding and herbs. 

Which brings us to an important point: great smelling herbs are an easy way to keep your flock using their nesting boxes. Chickens are animals, and smells are very important. It’s how they understand their surroundings. They use scent to determine if an area is safe or not. We’ve found that adding herbs and dried flowers creates a more inviting area that smells better. Instead of repelling our chickens, the herbs invite our flock to use their nesting boxes. 

We like this product, which is full of fragrant, healthy herbs and flowers like calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose petals, and more. The herbs are all healthy for chickens, and other buyers report the herbs attract their chickens to nesting boxes better than just bedding alone.

Herbs can make any nesting box more attractive. This blend smells great, and chickens love it!

Is The Bedding Wrong?

Have you always used a certain type of bedding? Or, are you not using bedding at all? Chickens are sensitive, like a lot of prey animals. Bedding that doesn’t suit them – for whatever reason – can stop them from using their nesting boxes. If your flock won’t use your nesting boxes, try out different bedding options. Straw and pine shavings are two popular options. Adding herbs to bedding can also help attract your hens. In our coop, we use pine shavings from Tractor Supply and Best Eggs Ever! Nesting Box Herbs. Our flock enjoys them, and our hens always give us about a dozen eggs a day. 

Adding ENOUGH bedding is important, also. What would you rather sit on: a thin cushion or a nice, fluffy pillow? Personally, I’d opt for the fluffy pillow. I’m sure your chickens feel the same. 

When they lay eggs, the hens tuck their legs under them and bed down. Sitting on hard, cold metal hurts the shank of their legs and their toes. If their coop floor offers nice, fluffy shavings, they’ll likely opt to lay their eggs on the softer area. Add at least 1 inch of shavings per nesting box, and top it with ½ cup of herbs and flowers. Adding extra bedding and herbs can cost a bit extra, but it’s better than spending money on feed with no eggs to show for it! Your hens will show their appreciation by giving you lovely butt nuggets!

Whatever bedding you choose, just make sure to stay away from cedar shavings. While they smell good, some studies have shown that the aroma can have a long-term negative impact on your flock’s health. 

Are The Boxes Too High Or Too Low?

It’s true, sometimes chickens can sometimes be picky. While we have a lot of nesting options in our coop, for whatever reason, our flock refuses to use any that are placed too high. There’s a Goldilocks zone. If a new nesting box isn’t within those parameters, they ignore it. 

For example, a company sent us some nesting boxes to test out. The product looked perfect. But we committed a cardinal sin (at least a sin in the eyes of our chickens): We placed the boxes higher than our other nesting boxes. The hens promptly ignored them. As soon as we lowered the boxes, our chickens used them. 

It can go the opposite way, too. Sometimes nesting boxes are TOO close to the ground, and hens avoid them. This happens especially if the nesting boxes are directly on the ground. There’s a lot less privacy, and potential for opportunistic predators to infest the area to steal eggs. Bossy hens, roosters, rats, snakes, skunks, or other predators can easily enter the box. Because it’s not safe, chickens then lay their eggs in undesirable areas. 

If everything else in your coop seems okay, then perhaps the height of your boxes is the problem. Try lowering them or raising them to see how your flock reacts. It can be a chore, but so is an Easter egg hunt every day. In the long run, you’ll be happier with the results by finding your flock’s “ Goldilocks Zone.”

Choose Materials Your Hens Prefer

When we purchased our new coop, I had visions of easily removable plastic nesting boxes. I wanted to power wash them weekly to keep them dirt free. My flock had other plans. To this day, they refuse to use plastic nesting boxes. Instead, they’re fans of stainless steel. I’m still scratching my head, but that’s just the way it is.

Nesting boxes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be made of wood, stainless steel, plastic, wicker, and any other material you can imagine. Like people, chickens have their own preferences. This is especially true if you have an opinionated alpha hen. She can influence an entire flock. And sometimes, chickens just prefer one type of nesting box over another. 

For example, if your nesting boxes are made of cedar, it’s possible your hens want to avoid inhaling harmful fumes. If the boxes are plastic, maybe they’re just too slippery. If it’s winter, maybe the stainless steel gets too cold. In the summer, maybe it’s too warm. Maybe it’s too sharp or too hard, and it hurts them. 

Examine your own flock’s habits. Observe them as they interact with the nesting boxes. From there, you can figure out if they’re avoiding their boxes because they don’t like what the boxes are made from. You’d be surprised what you can learn by spending a few hours watching your chickens. You might end up investing in new nesting boxes,  but it’s cheaper than getting a big feed bill with no eggs to show for it.

When they love their boxes, hens will double up to use them!

Make Sure You Have Enough Nesting Boxes

It’s best to have approximately 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. Yes, sometimes your hens will all use the same nesting box. But please give them plenty of options. For example, if you have 5 chickens, 2-3 nesting boxes is best. For 10 hens, then 3 nesting boxes is a good number. If you have 15 hens, 5 boxes is best.

Why is this ratio important? It comes down to promoting good behavior and cleanliness. Let’s pretend two or more hens need to lay eggs at the same time. Where will all these lovely ladies lay? Sometimes, two chickens can pile into a nesting box. 

But most boxes can’t accommodate more than two hens. More importantly, they shouldn’t. When hens pile into a box, chaos happens. Eggs break, and fights start. If it’s hot, your hens can overheat. Somebody can get smushed or suffocate. Your hens might avoid the boxes altogether because it’s too stressful.

Having plenty of nesting boxes also prevents bullying. If you have a dominant hen, she might stop other hens from laying in “her” box. Then, the other hens start laying in undesirable areas. They have to lay somewhere! To avoid all these disasters, just follow this simple strategy. Build 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. You’ll get better eggs and have happier hens!

Final Thoughts

Yes, some chickens can be picker than others. But if your flock has suddenly stopped using their boxes altogether OR if they never used them to begin with, it’s pretty safe to say your flock’s tastes aren’t the only issue. Likely, the problem is environmental. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas you can test in your own coop. You don’t need to implement every single strategy we discussed. But if you notice your flock is laying eggs in undesirable areas, it’s worth printing out this article and using it as a checklist. From there, you can determine whether you’re making any of the mistakes we covered. Good luck and let me know how it works out by leaving a comment below!

These 6 Adorable Fall Window Boxes Ideas Are Darling!

These 6 Adorable Fall Window Boxes Ideas Are Darling!

I love the looks of a window box, because it gives every coop a nice, polished appearance.

 

And it’s so easy to do, and easy to change for every season. With fall coming up, and the days getting shorter, we’re falling in love with the colors of autumn.

 

From mums to pumpkins to late summer blooms, there’s an idea here for every chicken coop. So get ready to get inspired!

 

Worried about your flock snacking on your flowers? Take a page from this genius fluffy butt owner, and put chicken wire over your window box!

 

We love how this coop uses the colors of fall – and they’ll never fade!

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#chickencoop

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How about this gorgeous arrangement?

 

Or these summer blooms:

 

Got green shutters on your coop? This home uses splashes of pink to complement them! Love!

 

And this is just a really cool looking coop (and we’re jealous!):

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Built this the other day #chickencoop

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Happy fall!

DIY Pumpkin Vase Chicken Coop Decoration For Fall

DIY Pumpkin Vase Chicken Coop Decoration For Fall

Fall is here, y’all. And that makes it a perfect time to decorate your chicken coop with a cute fall display of pumpkins and mums.

 

Why decorate your coop? Well, certainly you don’t HAVE to. But it looks kind of cool, and if you do it right, you can recycle your fall decorations as healthy treats for your chickens.

 

DIY Fall Pumpkin Flower Pot For Chicken Coops

Want an uber cute idea to decorate your chicken coop? Try making a pumpkin flower pot this fall! (Psst….it's also a great chicken treat!)

Posted by I Love Backyard Chickens on Friday, October 13, 2017

 

Here on the farm, I like things to multitask. And that includes decorations.

 

So that’s why I love making flower pots out of pumpkins. It looks good – and when you’re tired of the display, your hens can eat the pumpkins AND the mums.

 

(Wondering why pumpkin is so healthy for hens? Click here for more information.)

 

We’ve done the whole “a coop is just a coop” thing here on the farm, and while that’s fine, things just look better when they’ve been given a bit of color. It’ll cheer you up, and enhance your flock’s surroundings and give them some environmental stimulation.

 

So in this article, I’m going to show you how you can make a living flower pot out of a pumpkin and options for flowers that are edible for you and your flock.

 

Step 1: Carve the pumpkin

So, this is pretty simple, and if you’ve ever make a jack o’ lantern, you can carve out the pumpkin without much instruction.

 

Something to note is in the video, I used a kitchen knife. Someone on Facebook pointed out a jigsaw would have been a better choice – and they’re right.

 

Avoid the mistake I made and use something electric. That being said, it didn’t take very long nor was it very hard to carve the pumpkin using a knife, so if that’s all you got, then it’ll still work great.

 

It goes without saying that you should use a pumpkin that’s big enough to house the flowers you plan to pot in it.

 

Step 2: Scoop out the insides

While this seems pretty obvious, I point it out because the pumpkin innards are GREAT chicken treats. (Find out why pumpkin is so healthy for chickens right here).

 

You’ll hear scuttlebutt that pumpkin seeds are natural dewormers. While there’s really no evidence that they’ll keep your flock parasite-free, they’re healthy for your flock.

 

So they might not do much for parasites, but they’ll DEFINITELY do something to help your flock be healthier – and happier, because hens love treats.

 

Feed the pumpkin and the seeds raw – don’t roast and definitely don’t salt the pumpkin seeds.

 

Step 3: Select flowers that are healthy for chickens

Chrysanthemums are the traditional fall flowers used in displays, and luckily, they’re healthy for chickens to peck at. Just be sure you source organically grown flowers, or at least those not exposed to pesticides.

 

Other options are calendula or even herbs that have started to flower. It’s up to you. For this project, I used chrysanthemums because they’re readily available.

 

Step 4: Stick the flowers in the pumpkin, and you’re done!

This isn’t a hard project, but it’s one you and your hens will both appreciate. Once you’re done with the display, as long as the pumpkin isn’t rotting or moldy, you can pass it on to your hens – who will love you for it!

 

Looking for a cute fall decoration for your chicken coop? Make a vase out of pumpkins! (Hint: It's also super nutritious for your hens!)

 

10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

Spring is here….and like everyone, we’re not just planting vegetables, but we’re looking to establish permanent flower beds to liven up duller parts of the homestead.

 

I don’t exactly have the greenest thumb out there, and perennials certainly aren’t my area of expertise, so I’ve invited my friend Valerie of Aspiring Homemaker to tell us how to choose perennials that are best for our gardens!

10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

 

Pouring over the pages of a nursery garden catalog, looking for the best perennial plant is one of my favorite things to do.  I believe most gardeners enjoy this dreaming and planning stage.

 

But wait.  Before you go out and buy, or order that perennial plant that seems to be calling your name, there are some things to consider.  

 

Rushing into it without thought, mostly likely will not get you the best perennial plant for your garden situation.  At best, you won’t be thrilled with your purchase, and worst case it might die, thus wasting your money.

What should I consider when buying a perennial plant?

 

Grab a notepad and pencil, or whatever you prefer to take some notes.  Answer the following questions on your notes.  Your answers will help guide you to find that perfect perennial plant for your garden.  One that you’ll love and that works with the overall landscape.

 

  1.  Do you have a specific location in mind, that you plan to grow your perennial plant?  

If you don’t, then you need to find a place that you desire to plant.  That is your number 1 question to answer.  It’ll be difficult to proceed without knowing that.

 

  1.  Is your location in full sun, shade or partial sun?

Pay attention to the sun pattern as well.  Will there be morning sun, or afternoon? Are there any trees that when leaved out, will block the sun.

 

Sometimes this can throw a gardener off in the planning.  An area will technically be in full sun, but as deciduous trees grow the condition turns to full shade.

 

  1.  Is the area near a southern exposure wall or other structure?  

This could make this area especially hot.  Some plants will not be able to successfully endure there.

 

  1.  Is there any other special conditions that might cause potential problems?  

Look around the location again.  If so, write it in your notes.

 

  1.  What is your soil type?  Do you have clay, sand, rich loamy soil?  

Before you plant your perennial, you’ll want to amend the soil to its ideal condition.  Nearly all plants need well drained soil.

 

  1. Is your potential plant location in the front of a bedding area, middle ground, or towards the back?  

You don’t want to place a low growing plant in the back of a flower bed.  It won’t be seem.  Similarly, you wouldn’t want (in most situations) to plant a large perennial in the front of the area.

 

The general pattern for best viewing is the largest plants in the back, creating a beautiful dramatic backdrop.  Your middle sized plants throughout the center areas.  Lastly the low growing plants in the front where they will be seen.

 

  1.  What plants are closest to the planting area?  

Write those down, and if they are blooming perennials, jot down the color of the flowers.  Make notes of everything to keep in mind regarding design.

 

  1.  What time of year do you want your perennial plant to bloom?   

Too often, this is sorely overlooked when planning perennial gardens. There will tend to be a rush of color when everything is in bloom for a short period of time; then nothing the rest of the year.  Write in your notes when the majority of your plants will be in bloom, particularly those nearest your planting location.

 

The exception to this would be if you intentionally want that big blast of color when everything is blooming at once.  Some gardeners will plant in a mono-color themed garden.  These are examples of intentional garden design, which can be very beautiful.  

 

  1.  Do you have spring bulbs planted in the area that are forgotten about?  

Many times when we think of an area we’d like to add a perennial to, the spot looks bare.  However, it might not truly be.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this.  I’ve dug the hole to plant my new plant, only to realize I had spring flowering bulbs already there.

 

In this case, perhaps a decorative short, ground cover would be a good option.  It would fill the barren look, yet the spring bulbs can easily grow up through it.

 

  1.  What is your plant hardiness zone?  

This will tell you which plants can survive the climate you live in.

 

Summarize your perennial plant notes

 

Look carefully at the data you’ve written down.  There should be some key answers popping out to you.  Some of this information might actually be quite enlightening to you.

 

It may help your plant shopping process to briefly summarize your bottom line notes.  For instance, you may realize you need a tall perennial plant that needs full sun or at least afternoon sun.  It would need to be able to grow in sandy soil.  You decide that you need a plant to bloom in April, or at least have interest at that time of year.  You know your plant hardiness zone.

 

Now you can shop.  Look for plants that fall into your parameters.  You might discover perennials you had never considered before.  Consider plants that are perennial in nature, but perhaps you hadn’t really considered them in that light before.  Examples might be ornamental grasses, bulbs, small bushes, plants in which the foliage is the main attraction.

 

By shopping for perennials in this way, you are sure to find the best perennial plant for your garden.  It’ll be one that works for your situation, and your plant will have the best chance of thriving.

 

By Valerie Garner.  Check out my lifestyle blog at Aspiring Homemaker, you might enjoy the post Poisonous Plants and Children – Symptoms and Tips to Stay Safe.  You might consider following me on Pinterest.  Happy gardening!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which perennials are your favorite? Leave a comment below!