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
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!
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