The Australorp took longer to settle when grounded
in the chicken tractor, but the Red Star seemed immediately content. In
fact, she hopped up into the nest box within minutes, and I could
almost hear her sigh of relaxation.
That observation made
me think that improper nest boxes was one of the big reasons our
pullets were flying
the coop last
month. I kept finding stashes of eggs around the garden, and
most escapes from the pasture happened in the morning during
egg-laying hours. Small wonder — we had absolutely the
worst nest-box situation in that coop since we had initially
planned it to be a broiler coop. In fact, there was no nest box, just a
depression in the straw in a corner where several hens were laying.
Even in the
laying-hen coop, into which we moved half of our young flock, the
nest box was
just a milk crate full of straw sitting on the ground. Our
other hens hadn’t complained, so we figured if it ain’t broke,
don’t fix it. These new pullets, though, thought they
deserved better, and Mark agreed. He
built a simple nest box out of scrap lumber and used a shelf
bracket to hold it in place along the wall edging the roosting
area. By taking out a board in the coop wall and leaving
part of the nest box uncovered, he was even able to make the nest
box accessible without walking into the coop. (The board
went back onto the wall as a door.)
I filled the new nest box with straw and
three golf balls (to prime the pump) and waited. The first
day, the eggs were still on the ground, but once the hens woke up
to a nest box right in their faces, they decided to use it.
Ever since, eggs have been clean and right where they’re supposed
to be. Success!
generally tell you to make one nest box for every three hens, but
in my experience, all of the hens want to lay in the same
spot. Maybe that’s one of the reasons our pullets were so
discontent with their previous housing situation — who wants to
be sat on while you’re trying to lay an egg?
provide your flock with the basics so you can focus on
improving their quality of living.