Nesting Box Wars!

Discussion about the small Australian acres. What we can plant, animals that work and how we can farm sustainably.
Shadowgirlau
Posts: 2281
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:57 pm

Nesting Box Wars!

Postby Shadowgirlau » Mon May 04, 2015 12:34 pm

I keep chickens and at the moment I am glad I am down to only 7 (through natural attrition) otherwise I could find myself in the middle of an all out chicken war. Why? I've asked no one in particular do they do it! Why do they feel the need to all use the same box at the same time literally sitting on top of each other or maybe strut around right outside the box cackling and squawking until the offending hen is done and leaves particularly when there are two other perfectly dim cosy nest boxes right next door to the one they want?

Look I know that the girls like to lay their eggs in a nice safe & secure environment but do they all need to covert the same nest at the same time? Chickens will of course always look for a safe private (to them) place to lay their eggs and as each egg they lay is potentially a baby chicken, so when they stroll past a nest and see an egg (or hen) in that nest, they think that since another hen felt it was a safe place, it must be a safe place for their egg too.

Alana Moore mentioned in her book that in a flock, all the laying hens will sometimes lay their eggs in a communal nest in order to accumulate a 'clutch' which one of them will then sit on to hatch. The faster the clutch is completed, the sooner the hen can start sitting, the more fertile the eggs and the better chance at hatching them. Somehow though I don't think this has been the cause of our war here.

(Now, remember in the world of the chicken, whether or not the eggs are actually fertile and whether or not there is even a rooster in the flock is irrelevant and doesn't figure into their reasoning at all.) Hence all out war can ensue and they can get fairly loud & heated not to mention be quite destructive too when the eggs start to get broken. Broken eggs not only means that your egg yield is down but in some cases can be the beginning of hens eating their eggs (something you don't want to see start) and of course something else that sometimes occurs, the hens start pecking at each other which can cause injuries and if it goes on long enough even death.

The past few days one of my girls has been going ballistic every morning and even yesterday afternoon, Initially I thought she would stop but she didn't as each day she has become even more aggressive about the whole situation and I noticed yesterday that none of the other girls would go near the nest boxes in the afternoon. Oh dear - all out war has begun at our place :roll: Regardless of exactly why chickens like to lay their eggs in a nest with other eggs, it's pretty clear that they do. So ending the nesting box wars while time consuming I hope will be fairly simple in the end.

Friday I blocked off their favourite nest box, oh dear :? 'Hudini' (she is always escaping from the orchard) was not impressed and remained quite loud most of the day on & off. Saturday I visited the livestock store and managed to find a couple of solid plastic 'dummy' eggs (helps when there is quite a good local chicken club nearby). I popped one of these dummy eggs into each nest box although I have decided to keep the favourite one closed for another couple of days just to break the habit so to speak. My thought in regard to placing the dummy eggs in the nests is that the girls will see another egg in there and think that it must be a safe secure place to lay their eggs and hopefully will call an end to the war!

Also hopefully by blocking the 'favorite' box for awhile and forcing everyone to choose another box it will help them realize that yes, they all are identical after all! :lol: It has been quieter since Sunday afternoon so I am hopeful though it has rather cold here so maybe they have had other things on their minds after all.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon

Shadowgirlau
Posts: 2281
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:57 pm

Re: Nesting Box Wars!

Postby Shadowgirlau » Mon May 11, 2015 8:43 pm

Yikes! the war seems to be over but for some reason we have not been blessed with any eggs since that fateful day I decided to stop 'the nest box wars' :lol: and of course we haven't been blessed with so much as one egg since, so may I haven't stopped the war, maybe they have gone on strike in retaliation? :shock:

Are chickens capable of such a thing as organizing an egg strike? Of course my girls are 6 years old so maybe it is just an age issue? Of course there are several reasons why chickens go off the lay so lets explore a few of them.

1) Straight off the bat, age would have to be at the top of the list and although I am saying this is or could be a factor it would also depend on the breed of the chicken. Some chickens depending on their breed will reach point of lay around 16/17 weeks of age while other breeds may not reach point of lay until around 26 weeks of age.
2) Number two on the list I am reliably told is to do with light as a chicken requires a certain number of hours in the day in order to lay. The amount of sunlight the hens receive affects their endocrine system which in turn affects their hormone system that regulates their ability to lay eggs.
In the northern hemisphere it is quite common for people to add lights to the chicken coop and leave them on for a certain amount of time each day to ensure they keep the egg production going strong while here in the southern hemisphere this isn't so common amongst those of us who keep chickens, we tend to just accept that in winter our egg production will decrease with the shorter days. Of course adding light in the northern hemisphere also has another benefit too and that is added warmth for the girls when the temperatures get so low.
3) I could say moulting is right up there too but I have to say that on the whole my girls still lay eggs when they are moulting (or have done in the past) and anyway, none of mine are moulting at the moment. If you are new to keeping chickens then I can tell you the first time you see feathers all over the place and your girls looking ragged and as if they have been dragged through the fence back wards, don't panic - they have not been chased by a fox, it is just the 'moult' and while they look a fright they do eventually get through it. It can take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks and depending on the breed again they may or may not stop laying altogether.
4) Last but not least the only other reason I can think of for a chicken going off the lay is because she has become broody, and while this has been bred out of some chicken breeds these days I have it on good authority once more that the heritage breeds (which I have) or some of them are prone to broodiness. A hen that goes broody is a force to be reckoned with and I have many bruises from pecks when I have tried to shift a broody lady from her eggs (my hens are notorious for stealing the other hens eggs when they go broody) and can assure you it doesn't tickle when your bare hand comes face to face with a broody hen, it darn well hurts :!:

For now though I will enjoy the quiet with the end of the 'Nest Box Wars' for the time being anyway :)

Is there anything I have forgotten? I'm not sure but I can say that in the end chickens are chickens, eggs are seasonal just as are our fruits and vegetables. The choices we make when we keep chickens will more than likely affect how we manage our flocks and we will just have to wait it out. Saying this I have been told by another acquaintance that I could try doing what they do and that is increase their flocks protein levels by feeding them some dog food and garlic powder. While I haven't tried this just yet I have been feeding the girls some black sunflower seeds which are higher in protein. Time will tell.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon

minnie
Posts: 2700
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:23 am
Location: Alice, West of Casino, NSW
Contact:

Re: Nesting Box Wars!

Postby minnie » Tue May 26, 2015 12:22 pm

Just a thought, you can buy artificial eggs at the Ag store, if they won't go to the other nests put an egg or artifical one in them and that encourages them. I've left done that and it worked.

I don't kill my chickens so they just swan out their days until they go. But I've got two chickens one Rhode Island Red X and Australorp X lovely hens but rarely get an egg from them. All my others lay green and blue eggs (the green eggs are new girls) and some of my blue eggs coming from a chicken that would be well over six, not daily but still lays better than the other two.

For me the only chooks I want are the Araucana or cross that lay blue to green eggs. They are more prolific, don't go broody often, some never have and the yolk is bigger.

Mind you the Araucan Bantam, is the cluckiest one ever, but that's bantams.;-)

Vicki

Shadowgirlau
Posts: 2281
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:57 pm

Re: Nesting Box Wars!

Postby Shadowgirlau » Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:32 pm

Hi Vicki,
Thanks for the info, I haven't been back in here for a little while and almost didn't come in today either as I was becoming tired of listening to my lone keystrokes so am glad to see some one else has been around. I have a few of the artificial eggs and I swear these hens seem to know that they are artificial because every time I put them in the nests they kick them out. :roll:

I haven't killed my hens for quite some time now so the losses have been through natural attrition lately. These girls aren't that old really with half of the now 7 being 5yrs or less so I feel that they should be still laying something. It is too late to add to the flock for now so will wait until the spring then do so and doing this will also give DH a little longer to build me a new coop and divide the currant run so we will be ready for them.

Cheers
Kathleen
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon

Shadowgirlau
Posts: 2281
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:57 pm

Re: Nesting Box Wars!

Postby Shadowgirlau » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:49 pm

Hi Friends,
In spite of the cold today, looking around the garden and watching the animals going about their own day I can't help seeing the signs that tell me spring is just around the corner. I saw a duck with her ducklings crossing the highway (their mama is taking the poor things lives in her wings) when I went out this morning on returning home it was to be told it looks like the hens have started to lay again too as we have 3 eggs today already. The nest box war may be over! I think?

Just last week I read in our community newsletter that there will be a delivery of point of lay chickens at the end of August and having decided we need more hens I need to get DH onto building me another coop. Hopefully in the next few weeks DH will also divide my orchard and build in a run as well.(I've only had this planned for about 3 yrs now) Gosh that man is going to be busy this season :P

Cheers
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon


Return to “Small Farms”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron