Three egg-cellent tricks for a productive flock August 23, 2012

Everyone hopes for a productive flock, even if “high production” wasn’t near the top of your list of reasons for getting pet chickens in the first place. I hear a lot of advice about how to get your chickens to lay early, lay more, or lay their bountiful gifts where and when you want them to.

productive flock of chickens - full egg carton

See, THIS is what I want: lots of full egg cartons from my fabulous productive flock!

Trouble is,  my hens do whatever they want.  Sometimes I think I even hear them snickering at me from behind the waterer because there were no eggs in the nesting box again today!  I’ll find those eggs behind the ramp to the run tomorrow, I’m sure.

Teach your hens to lay in their nests for a productive flock

One of the hens decided a shady spot in the raspberries is as good as any nest box I could build.

Truth is, a hen will lay when she’s ready, and she’ll lay where she’s comfortable.  This could mean you have four of your six pullets starting to lay at 20 weeks, while two more don’t start until 25 weeks old. Or all six of your girls may want to climb on top of each other to lay in one nesting box while no one wants to use other nesting box you worked so hard to build last summer!

I’ve found three tricks to help get me that productive flock. That’s a limited number, but they’re still great little tricks!

1. Use fake eggs or golf balls in your nests –  When you place fake eggs in nests where you want your hens to lay, they make the place seem safe for your hen to deposit her eggs. Your hens will assume the other chickens like that box for laying, and will most likely begin to lay in those wonderful spots that the others seem to be using.  This also helps if you end up with an egg eater.  After a few hard pecks, when nothing yummy oozes out, they’re likely to quit, if you catch your egg eater early enough.

2. Add light on a timer – The lack of sun over the winter affects the hen’s cycle and can slow her laying, or stop it over those dreary months.  That timer can set the light in the coop to mimic the summer sun’s natural summer hours and boost their laying. I choose to give my girls a natural rest period by not adding artificial light. Keep in mind that if you do choose to add light to your coop during the winter, there are important guidelines to follow regarding when and how much light should be added. Read more about adding artificial light here.

3. Practice patience –  Pullets’ hormones and reproductive tracts have to be mature and in sync to start producing those yummy orbs. There is no good way to get them to lay any earlier than they naturally will. In fact, if a chicken comes in to lay too early, it can mean her eggs will be smaller than average for her breed. It’s a delicate balance, so if you love your pets, try to be understanding. You’ll receive their delicious gifts with time, when they’re ready—and that first egg will be priceless!

  • Fake eggs or golf balls help make a productive flock

    The girls lay the most eggs in the nest box I leave a golf ball in.

19 Comments
Alex August 23rd, 2012

My girls are just starting to lay this week. My barred rock has laid 2 eggs this week, and my NH Red is acting like she is getting ready too. It’s so exciting!! I have a little plastic ball in the nest box and that is where my barred rock has laid both times 🙂 I just love this whole process.

sparrowchic August 23rd, 2012

Do you put the golf ball in the nesting box before anyone has begun laying? Or only after they start laying?

Heidi Newman August 23rd, 2012

I have 3 red sex links, 3 white leg horns and 2 rhode island reds that I raised from eggs. I got my first egg @ 13 weeks! Shortly thereafter, within the week, 4 more eggs came to a whopping 5 eggs daily. I’m now at 24 weeks and am getting 7 eggs daily. WHOOP WHOOP! First year with chickens and I’m a total addict!

Stephanie August 23rd, 2012

My nest boxes aren’t done yet! I hope they can hold off laying one more week!

sandy August 23rd, 2012

Our youngest girls have started laying about 5 weeks ago , Our first one was Sadie lady ( bantam easter egger ) , but in the last 2 weeks she is not laying any eggs ( she was laying an egg a day ) , we keep having to take her off the nest cause she’ll set there all day if we let her , anybody know why ? is this normal?

Elizabeth August 23rd, 2012

We have 3 hens that are now all laying, the RIR and the SL Wyandotte started first, the same day. The speckled Sussex started a little later — we could tell her comb and wattles weren’t red when the others were.

We had trouble getting them to lay in the nesting box(es). We found most eggs in the run, a couple on the coop floor, and some even in the grass while they were free ranging.

We tried the wooded egg in the box. They kept knocking it out of the nesting box onto the coop floor. We kept putting it back. Then they made their feeling known even more — one of them pushed the egg, out of the box, then out of the coop into the run, and then under the ramp! I’m sure it was a joint effort, but after that we stopped putting it back in the box since it bothered them so much!

Yesterday we got 3 eggs in the box for the first time. So we’re hoping they finally got there on their own!

shannon August 23rd, 2012

Sparrowchic, You can certainly put the faux eggs before they begin laying or after they’ve started. This will coax them into using the nesting box at any age.

Sandy, it most certainly sounds like she’s experimenting with being broody already! We have 4 wonderful posts right here on the blog that cover broodiness in chickens, maybe it will help you decide what you would like to do? Simply type ‘broody’ into the search box at the top right hand side of this blog post page.

Jan August 23rd, 2012

Do hens stop laying–or should they–from August to Thanksgiving? I’ve read it will kill them if they don’t. And therefore their feed should be changed gradually to I-don’t-remember-what so they will stop.

I’d love some info on this.

Carlos August 23rd, 2012

I have 4 girls. A Delawre, a Barred Plymouth, a New Hampshire and a Red Island. They are 18 weeks old and haven’t started laying eggs. Now I am kind of worry and for sure will finish they nesting area this weekend. I live in Glendale CA and I was waiting for the summer to calm down but I think they should be ready anytime soon. Very excited. Thank u MyPetChicken. Waiting second week of september for my second shipping. Addictinggggg…!!!

Ellie August 24th, 2012

They forgot a couple things………if your hens don’t have access to a grassy area, Take them fresh grass a few times a week. Be sure to make the grass short, about 1 inch long pieces, so they can swallow it. Oyster shell at all times and they need some sun as well as shade. Being kept in a pen that never gets any sun is detrimental to any birds health.

shannon September 6th, 2012

Hi Ellie,

You are correct those are important factors as well. I wrote the article with the assumption basic health care needs, food, pasture and otherwise were taken care of. Your pullets’ health is the MOST important factor of all. We have a great resource to help cover your chickens’ needs with our chicken care guide here: http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-care/guide-toc.aspx

shannon August 24th, 2012

Hi Jan! Chickens will naturally stop laying for certain things. It could be their health, their diet, broodiness, molting, lack of light, ect. There is no need to change their feed until it is diet related. Layer mash/pellet should have everything a laying hen needs in their diet. If your hen slows or stops laying due to natural conditions, it won’t affect their health, and they’ll begin laying again when they feel up to it.

Kristen E. Martin October 20th, 2012

Does anyone have a guess why someone laid a shell-less egg in the bedding under the roost, not the nest box? I have 4 barred rocks *all hens*, 4 black mystery chickens and 1 rooster. One of the black ones is clucking much more than it used to. Does that mean anything, or is it just vocal? They’re anywhere from 4 to 5 months old. Breeder couldn’t remember and didn’t write down when they hatched. They’re huge, but I can’t sex them.

shannon October 22nd, 2012

Hi Kristen, My Pet Chicken has some really great information on what may be causing your bird’s egg to be lacking a shell. Maybe this will help you first out what you can do to help your girl out. http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/Why-did-my-chicken-lay-a-shell-less-egg-H85.aspx

Bob November 21st, 2012

Thxs Great info, nice to have such a resource. I am sure my girls are being
effected by the decrease in sun light ! went from 4 a day to 1 sometimes two!!
Patience!!!!!!!

shannon November 23rd, 2012

Oh Yes Bob, those girls are forever forcing us to be patient this time of year. My girls have stopped altogether.

Frank Greco January 27th, 2013

I am at a loss here folks. My girls are pecking eachother to the skin. No blood, but plenty of bare skin, and not a feather to be seen on the ground. I tried increasing calcium; nothing, increased protein with Taste of the Wild which yeilded 16 eggs a day from 21 girls IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER. They have plenty of greens from the leftovers at the grocery. I give them electrolytes in the water daily. They all sleep in the coop (10X6), but diring the day all are out in the run (20X10). I’ve been turning the heat lamp on at nigh because the temp drops to single digits. It started with just my easter eggers being pecked, but now all are victims, even the rooster. I have 8 black sex-links, 8 reds, and 6 easter eggers. At first I thought the ‘rednecks’ and the ‘blacks’ were being racist, but now it it’s obvious that all are victims. Is it just that I have too many?

shannon January 27th, 2013

Hi Frank, I guess I have more questions for you rather then answers. First, have you checked them for mites or fleas? This time of year if there were mites in the coops, they may very well be on the girls now since they are so warm. Itching scratching and picking from the other birds would lead to feather loss. If their skin seems clear and that’s not an issue, they may be bored or stressed. I’ve added chicken play things to our coop and run for that have something other then flat ground, especially since they can’t free range. Things like logs, branches or chairs are good for them to have perch places. Hanging baskets with the scraps you give them as fun as well. If all that seems to be just fine, it may be time to go with something like a no-pick spray or lotion. This stuff has such an off-putting taste the girls won’t find anymore joy in eating feathers off their friends: http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Chicken-Health/Pick-No-More-Lotion-4-oz-p389.aspx

Kim March 18th, 2013

Sparrowchic, I love your name! So cute! What breed are you anyhow? Or are you a sparrow and not a chicken?

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