The Omlet Blog

Why won’t my hens lay in their nest box?

Boy looking at a hen laying eggs in an Omlet Eglu Cube Chicken Coop

Why won’t hens lay in their nesting box? Chicken keepers sometimes find themselves picking eggs up off of the ground or in other inappropriate places. It’s frustrating when hens decide to ignore the carefully placed and meticulously kept nesting boxes you have provided them with, and instead choose to lay their eggs wherever they see fit. Hens thrive on routine, so once they create a habit of laying eggs wherever they’d like, it can be hard to convince them otherwise. See how you can retrain your hens to lay where they should, or to prevent them from deviating from the nesting box in the first place. 

Understanding egg-laying behavior 

To begin unraveling the mystery of why hens lay their eggs outside of their nesting box, it helps to understand what might be causing them to veer away from their normal routine. Healthy hens that feel their best will naturally seek out comfortable, secluded spaces to lay their eggs. And, as flock animals, they will gravitate toward a location where other hens have chosen to lay – happily contributing to the previously laid eggs.

Hens that suddenly start routinely laying their eggs outside of their nesting boxes are likely: 

  • Not feeling well 
  • Reacting to a perceived threat 
  • Don’t feel comfortable in their provided nesting area 
  • Feeling crowded in their space 

Broody hens also run off other hens that may be trying to lay in the nesting box. A hen that has decided to sit in order to hatch eggs will stay in the nesting box for the required 21 days if they aren’t made to move. As most broody hens are aggressive and territorial, they will protect their nest and not allow other hens to lay their eggs in the box. 

Why is it a problem for hens to lay eggs outside of the nesting box? 

Hens that aren’t laying their eggs in the nesting box are communicating to you and the rest of the flock that they either aren’t feeling well, or that something is amiss in the coop. And, eggs that are laid outside of nesting boxes are easily crushed or cracked, which will cause hens to eat them. Chickens can and will eat eggs left in the coop or run

Most hens don’t eat eggs from nesting boxes, but once an egg is cracked, it becomes a protein-packed treat for chickens. And, once hens develop a taste for eggs, they will likely begin pecking at the eggs inside of the nesting boxes in order to crack into them. 

Remember, hens will follow the lead of their flockmates, so once one hen begins laying eggs in the coop or run, others will soon follow suit. One stray egg isn’t usually a cause for concern, but multiple days of one or more eggs on the ground requires prompt attention to correct what can lead to a less-than-desirable habit. 

10 steps to keep hens laying in the nesting box 

Young hens naturally take time to get used to laying eggs and in the same place each time. But, if your adult hens aren’t getting the hang of laying in the box, or suddenly stop laying where they should, try some of these steps to get them back on track. 

1. Make sure you have enough nest boxes

Hens need to have adequate space to lay their eggs. But, if too many nesting areas are offered, hens may begin sleeping in the extra spaces, which will create an undesirable habit. Nest boxes don’t necessarily have to be separated, just spread out enough so that hens don’t feel that their eggs are being crowded. The laying area of the Eglu Cube chicken coop is long enough for up to 10 hens to comfortably find a place to lay their eggs. 

2. Make the nest boxes clean and comfy

The nest box should have lots of soft bedding, changed regularly to make sure it remains unsoiled and free of red mites. You also need to collect the eggs regularly, as a hen faced with a pile of eggs might not want to sit there and lay one of her own. A nesting box with just one egg or none is more appealing to a hen.

Make sure your hens’ nesting box is clean and the bedding is deep enough for them to nestle down in order to lay their egg. If a hen feels there isn’t enough bedding in a nesting box, they’ll hop up and search out a place with more padding. Keep your chickens’ coop clean so that red mites don’t take up residence in the nesting area – causing your hens to vacate the box altogether. 

3. Provide enough roosting bar space

Roosting space is important to hens not only for bedtime, but for creating and maintaining healthy egg-laying patterns as well. Hens that don’t feel like they have enough room to roost will head to bed in the nesting area instead. As the bedding gets flattened down and the droppings accumulate overnight, the nesting box will not be an appealing place to lay eggs by the following morning. 

4. Place a decoy egg 

This trick works best with young hens that are beginning to lay, or for those that have just started laying outside of the box. Decoy eggs made of wood or rubber can be purchased or made to place in the nesting box to encourage hens to lay there. You can also place an extra egg from a previous collection from the coop, or put the egg that was laid in the run inside of the nesting box to give your hens the right idea. 

5. Keep hens in the coop first thing in the morning

Sometimes hens get so excited to seize the day that they neglect to come back to the coop to lay their eggs. This results in eggs being laid in random places around the run. To combat this issue, you can install an automatic chicken coop door to keep them inside of the coop during the wee hours of the morning. But the benefits of the Autodoor doesn’t stop there – see why everyone loves the Autodoor by Omlet.

6. Make it harder for the hen to lay in the wrong place

As creatures of habit, once an egg-laying spot has been found outside of the coop, your hens will likely return to the same place again and again. To prevent them from returning to this spot, place a Freestanding Chicken Perch or other types of chicken toys over it to let your hens know that this is no place to lay eggs. 

7. Move the hen before she lays

If you happen to catch your hens in the act of laying, quickly move them to the nesting box. You’ll notice a hen getting ready to lay an egg when they stop their foraging or dustbathing and hunker down. They’ll fluff up their feathers and sit very still – sometimes making soft clucking noises in the process. 

8. Stop hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes

Hens that sleep in the nesting area will flatten the bedding and leave droppings – which will make for a soiled, undesirable nesting spot for the next day. Quickly shoo any hens snoozing in the nesting area before a habit is created. The Eglu Cube has a divider between the roosting and nesting areas that can be closed each night to help break or prevent this habit. 

9. Make sure the hens feel safe in the box

Nesting areas that are too close to the ground, are subjected to intense light, or are too noisy, your hens may not feel comfortable laying their eggs in them. Hens will seek out quiet, dark, and secluded areas to lay their eggs. The Eglu Cube has a designated separate area for laying, where hens will feel safe and secure. And, once your hens have paid the nesting area a visit, you can easily check their work through the dedicated egg access door. 

10. Make sure your hens can easily access the nesting box

Nesting boxes should be low enough for your smallest hen to comfortably access, but not so low that it makes hens feel unsafe. Your hens will try to find a safe place to lay an egg, and like their roosting habits, they feel safer off of the ground. Make sure roosting bars or other chicken coop components don’t block your hens’ access to the nesting area. Keep the path to the nesting box free of obstacles so that your hens can head in to do their business quickly and discreetly. 

Omlet and your hens

The Eglu Cube chicken coop by Omlet has been designed to make your flock feel safe and comfortable for all of their activities. From laying eggs in their secluded nesting area, to playing in their chicken run, your hens are sure to feel confident in every area of their space. 

A girl taking a freshly laid egg from the Omlet Eglu Cube chicken coop

This entry was posted in Chickens

2 replies on “Why won’t my hens lay in their nest box?”

Barbara Stuart says:

Thanks, always good articles. I’ve had my Eglu for 12 years-great product

Julie says:

I shooed my hans away from the nesting box area for a month straight, then the second I stopped they were back in there. I’m not sure if it’s because I have too many hens in the Eglu or if I’d just have to keep doing it every. single. night. Right now I have 9 hens who seem to fit fine in the Eglu without the nesting area, but could this be the problem? They are average sized: leghorn, legbars, and ISA browns.

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