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Rogue Chickens ~ How To Get Chickens To Lay In The Nesting Boxes

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We have been very fortunate with our experience raising free range, heritage breed chickens.

Since we’ve started, we have yet to have any serious issues with predators, we’ve had broody girls that give us chicks regularly, and we’ve had good girls that come home at curfew and (for the most part) lay in their nesting boxes were they should!

That is until now!

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One of the benefits of raising chickens to be dual purpose is that during molting season, our older hens get a nice break and we have pullets just starting to lay.  

You can read more about that in How We Have Eggs All Winter Long.

But when those pullets are high and mighty, thinking they are too good to lay in their cozy nesting boxes, it can leave you with daily Easter Egg Hunts in the middle of November!

This Fall we have five pullets due to start laying.

I’ve heard the egg song, seen them squat nicely for our roo, and watched their combs turn from pink to bright red.

So, when my daily checks of the boxes led to two, and sometimes NO, eggs I knew something was up!

Look For The Signs

I like to spend time just watching the chickens exploring the yard.

They have such unique personalities and can be so entertaining!

But aside from that, it gives me a chance to “get to know them.”

Knowing their personalities can lessen the detective work when it comes to illnesses or, as we have been experiencing lately, sneaky little egg hoarders.

So the other morning when I opened the run, to let everyone out, I watched one of my Easter Egger pullets break off from the group in a full sprint (literally looking over her shoulder!) around the front of the house.

I followed her and she was not happy about it.

What I found was a happy little nest made in the corner of my flower bed.

I gave her some privacy and let her add one more egg to the pile and came back later to collect the hoard.

The next few days I watched the nest and never found anymore.


I irritated her and now she knows her place!

Or not.

After a few more days with not enough eggs, I hung around and watched for a few minutes after letting them out in the morning.

Sure enough, she broke off again in a different direction.

To the neighbors yard.

Not only the yard, but the fire pit!

I followed her again and found a full nest, of not only hers but also a Buff Orpington’s pullet sized eggs.

Related Posts:

How To Treat Your Chicken Coop For Mites

Dual Purpose Chickens: Raise ‘Em Like Your Grandma Did ~ An eBook

10 Tips For Cutting Chicken Costs

How To Keep Your Chickens Warm In The Winter

How To Build A Brooder House, And Why You Need One

Find out how to get your free range chickens laying in their nesting boxes!

How To Correct It

So, how do you correct this behavior? It’s not as hard as you would think! I have two simple steps that fixes this behavior. Privacy and TIME OUT!

As for privacy, we use curtains on our nesting boxes.

Yes curtains add a pretty touch to your coop, but that is not the only reason for them.

Curtains serve two purposes for us at the Samuels’ Homestead.

They encourage broodiness, which we like because it provides us with meat for the year.

But they also give the chickens a safe, dark place to lay their eggs.

When I say time out, I mean that for a week or two I let them out in the afternoon, rather than the morning.

This retrains them that the proper place to leave eggs is the happy dark place that I’ve given you.

Not hidden corners all over the neighborhood!

When you do let them out, watch for a bit to make sure that they are not wandering off again.

If they do, give them an extra hour of time out the next day.

Time out is a bit frustrating for me, because it increases the amount of feed they eat in a day.

But I remind myself that it is only temporary and will save me the headache of going on a search everyday for my breakfast!

Have you found hidden nests from your chickens? Where? Let us know in the comments!

Looking to raise dual purpose chickens like us? Grab a copy of Dual Purpose Chickens: Raise ‘Em Like Your Grandma Did for tips from brooder box to butchering!
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Wednesday 16th of October 2019

My new lil Silkie, 7/8 mos old, laid two tiny eggs in one afternoon on the patio wicker sofa.... in the folds of a blanket! I understand she had no idea of where to lay bcz I keep her inside the house at night til the pecking order is established. This way, I feel better, hoping they won’t beat her up with her having no escape. I had no idea they’d lay two eggs in a day! Previous owner said a cat got in and killed her sister, so that explains why she hasn’t laid in the 1-1/2 mos I’ve had her.... 😢

Dotty Hoesly

Monday 21st of May 2018

I have 4 layers & they layed in coop all winter then one went broody so one girl layed under coop as it has a nice place to take a break. Then one girl made a nest in tall grass that is next to small creek. Now 3 girls lay in it, sometimes one comes & chases one out. I have one girl that she sits for 2 hrs. One chases her out & lays in 2 minutes, then the other can go back to her laying. It is so much fun watching them go through their dayly lay!

Laura Nielsen

Thursday 12th of April 2018

I had hens awhile back that would lay under a fern type tree. They were all perfectly happy to share this newly found "hidden" nest. Luckily, I found it in time but yes, it is terribly irritating when they don't lay in the nice nest boxes we build for them. Thank you for writing this awesome post! Loved it!!


Wednesday 7th of March 2018

My chickens are free range, totally free range meaning the sleep in the trees at night. I don't have a coop. So trying to find their eggs can be difficult. The worst place they have laid is under the shrubs where you have to crawl under, with needles and dust falling all over you. Then you think you found the nest and they'll keep laying there, they find another place. Why can't they keep the same spot! We have a barn and they'll make a nest in the hay, yea, but then they'll stop and on the search I go. I know I must have nests that I haven't found. Can you still have nest boxes and get them to use them?


Wednesday 7th of March 2018

Hmmm! That's tricky! Maybe try setting up some boxes in a convenient place and add some curtains to the front! We have the curtains in the coop and that has made a huge difference with them laying in corners. They prefer privacy. :-)

Kathryn Low

Tuesday 26th of December 2017

Years ago, when we did free range them, I found three dozen in our leaf pile. The girls had taken turns laying eggs in layers, then covered that layer with leaves, added another, and so on. It was in a nice cave that they'd had carved out of the leaf pile. I only found it because my Irish Setter mix pointed at it towards dusk, and one of the girls ran out! The eggs were fine.

Staci Samuels

Saturday 6th of January 2018

HAHA What sneaky girls and smart Setter! Our Golden Retriever likes to point out when one goes astray from the flock. She will follow them and try to get them back with the group! :-)