When one or more hens do not use the nests, it can be due to different factors, both environmental and behavioral, or habits. In some cases, a hen that begins to lay her eggs in places outside the nest can be very difficult to correct. However, there are factors that must be taken into account to prevent and eliminate this behavior.
In general, a hen prefers to lay her eggs in nests, since she assimilates them as suitable places to lay her eggs due to space, protection, climate, and light. But if the bird assimilates some other place with better characteristics, it can opt for that other nest, even if it was under a number of boards.
Hen Habits before Laying Eggs
When a young hen begins its laying stage, it begins to “investigate” the most suitable places that can serve as nests. This happens about 2 weeks before laying her first egg, so the hen already recognized the nest very well.
The problem is when the hen chooses to place her eggs on the ground, under rubble, in hard-to-reach areas, instead of putting them in the nest of the hen house. Since when the eggs are laid elsewhere, the possibility of them being contaminated, broken or eaten by an animal increases.
Not all hens have the same “tastes or habits” when selecting a nest, as some prefer their nests to be in places with little light, while others choose more light. For this, it is recommended that in the shed where there are a good number of laying hens, there are small variations in light, placing some nests in places with greater clarity and others where not much light reaches, but that is accessible to collect the eggs and all where there is a roof to protect the bird.
Hens have habits of placing their eggs in the corners of the pen or shed since the birds perceive these places as areas destined for nests. Taking advantage of the situation, a nest can be placed in each corner, where birds often lay their eggs.
Causes why hens don’t want to use the nest box
There are different factors why hens do not use their nests, ranging from a bad material inside the nest where the birds do not feel comfortable, to losing motivation due to the delay of their first egg.
On many occasions when the hen begins its laying stage (week 18), there is a pre-laid behavior on the day that it will lay its first egg, it begins about two hours before the egg is ready for laying and ends with the hen laying the egg. If egg laying is delayed for any reason, the pre-laid behavior will pass and the hen will have no motivation to search for a nest. The egg will be laid elsewhere.
Another factor is that the nest may be at a height where it is difficult for the hen to reach, so you should always try to ensure that the nests are level with the floor.
In addition, microorganisms such as mites and other parasites can be present in the nest, causing the hen to reject the nest and look for a new place. Therefore, constant cleaning and disinfection of the nests should be considered.
Another very frequent cause of why hens do not use their nests is because there may be too much competition for the layers that can cause subordinate hens to learn to use alternative areas as nests. Making them lay the eggs on the ground because the dominant hens will prevent them from entering the nests.
The most frequent factors or causes for which hens do not want to use nests, mentioned above, can be summarized in the following points:
- The egg is delayed in its first laying and the hen loses its motivation to look for a nest.
- There is no place in the nests because of competition.
- Microorganisms in nests.
- Very high or difficult to reach nests.
- Having uncomfortable material in the nests.
- Nest location can be very clear or airy.
Disadvantages and dangers of hens not laying inside the nest
The habit of laying eggs in some other area outside the laying house brings with it dangers that can reduce the quality of the product, among the main disadvantages, the following can be mentioned:
- Increases the likelihood that the egg will get dirty from manure or any other residue.
- Reduces the quality of the egg due to a higher probability of contamination.
- It is more likely to be bitten or eaten by another chicken or outside animal and this can trigger a tendency to eat eggs in the flock.
- On many occasions, the place is not very accessible, and difficult to find and extract the egg.
- There is a higher percentage of the eggs breaking.
- Less likely to hatch chicks
What to do to lure hen to lay inside the nest box
For a hen, laying an egg is something natural and daily, therefore the laying conditions must be as suitable as possible, take into account that the nest must have the following characteristics:
- That they are comfortable, with soft and resistant material, where you can be quiet (such as straw or shavings).
- The place should be dark preferably.
- They must be away from noise and external animals.
- The nests must be clean, eliminating external parasites and mites.
- Nest size should be approximately 12 inches high, 12 inches wide, 12 inches deep.
- Always have the nest under a roof.
- It is advisable to provide at least one nest for every 3 hens to ensure that all birds can access the nests when they need it.
- The nest should be at or as close to the ground as possible.
The nest must be installed before the hens lay their first eggs so that they get used to them since if they start laying eggs before suitable nests are presented, it can be difficult for them to correct their egg-laying habit on the floor. The breed of the laying hen is not so important, since it does not influence in the least.