Not in the Nesting Box

I want the hens to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes, where they are left in clean pine shavings and are safe from being stepped on and dirtied until I collect them. I don’t want to hunt eggs down under bushes or in corners of the pen.

It’s not hard to get hens to lay in nesting boxes. They naturally want to leave their eggs in a semi-dark and cozy, softly bedded, safe place. I believe that airy coops with windows are best for hens, and so in my bright henhouses I carefully site the nesting boxes so that they are not bathed in sunbeams. My hens seem to like boxes from which they can watch the hubbub of the other girls, but be out of the fray themselves.

I want the hens to use the nesting boxes solely for laying. Laying and broody hens never defecate in their boxes, but leisurely hens who use boxes as beds instead of sleeping on roosts, do. So, when the chickens are not fully mature I do not give them access to the nesting boxes. Either the boxes are not installed or they’re blocked off. This way the pullets have no choice, and learn to roost on bars. When they reach laying age, the nesting boxes are hung about a foot off of the ground. Because the boxes are so low, and because hens like to roost hight, they don’t think about using them at night.

The Gems all lay their eggs in the nesting boxes. Here is Florence, glancing back at her egg before she goes outside to join the flock.

There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. Years ago, my bantam White Leghorn, Snowball, would leave eggs seemingly mid-step while she was off exploring. She was the inspiration for Tillie Lays An Egg. Lately, someone has been laying eggs at the very top of the roost. She’s obviously carefully placing them there, as has not been a single broken egg on the ground under the bars.

I find it first thing in the morning, so I think that she lays her egg before getting down for breakfast. Who is laying this egg? I have no idea! Do you? Has anyone caught this hen in the act?

Have you found any eggs in weird places lately?


  1. I remember when I got my first 2 girls Tammy-Louise and Henrietta they are Silver Laced Wynadottes. I waited with such excitement for the first eggs to be laid, I had the nesting boxes set up and had a fake egg in it. I would check everyday for an egg and nothing. Then one day after having them for a month, I got home from work and walked into my yard and looked to the chicken run and thier was a tiny little pullet egg one of the girls laid, it was like she thoughtfully and deliberatley laid the egg in a spot that I would notice it immediatley. all of the eggs since that day have been laid in the boxes.

  2. I have 4 nesting boxes and my girls have only ever used two. In fact one of the boxes gets far more use than the other three. Creatures of habit – like us!

  3. My redcap Sunny hasn’t been laying very regularly lately, and when she does, the eggs aren’t always perfectly formed. (We can forgive her – she’s four and a half!) Occasionally, when I go out to the coop in the early morning, I find an egg on the poop board right below where she perches. It’s as if she’d dropped it there without even realizing it was happening, looked back in embarrassment (“Oops! Did I just do that?”), and hopped down to rejoin the other girls. My late partridge cochin Hawkie would sometimes just lay an egg when she was out free-ranging and keep walking, as if she were too lazy to go all the way back to the nest box.

  4. When I was watching yesterday morning there was a traffic jam of about 5 or 6 of the Gems waiting to lay eggs in what appeared to be the two far right nesting boxes. It was hilarious! It looked as if 2 or 3 of the gals were in a nexting box together. I laughed so hard! It went on for about 30 minutes or so. Getting in – getting out- going to the next box – going back – decisions decisions! I wondered if they were chattering while this was going on!

    • There is a lot of drama of their own making. Watch closely and you’ll see that it’s Onyx talking loudly as if she’s narrating the whole event.

  5. I always find eggs in weird places due to the blind They even make their way into the house (I suspect that the dogs are the reason for this). That’s why Tillie Lays an Egg is so near and dear to our hearts. It’s like an Easter Egg hunt every day of our lives!

  6. A guy’s blog I read who raises Scott Grey’s, has a had a few hens that have laid in weird places, one laid for about a week on top of the hen house in the hen house’s gutter. He had to cage her for a week before she got it right in her head that the nest box is where she was suppose to lay. And he recently had one that took to hiding eggs in an old junk pile and he never found them all, so a few ended becoming so rotten they exploded.

  7. My trusty Australorp Matilda always lays in the nesting box. My 2 Polish hens lay whenever and wherever they feel the urge, it seems. Once I found a tidy nest of 13 oval white eggs under the deck steps. Obviously this had been going on for a while. I watched it for a few days to see whether anyone was sitting on it to hatch chicks, but nope, Lady Gaga had just made herself a new place to lay. Never did find out if the other Polish, RoadRunner, was also laying there. Those girls are free spirts; I find eggs everywhere. It’s good they are white, easy to see if you know to look. And, yes I have fake wooden eggs in the nesting box but the hairdo girls don’t care!

  8. Sometimes I’ll find an egg in the poop under the roost as if the girl couldn’t make it to the nest in time. Some mornings are like that, I guess. I’m always suprised when they arn’t broken so I wash them off and keep them. I have sand under my roost. Easy cleaning and a soft landing!

  9. Ours are “free range” as we have a large fenced off yard and I have found a whole nest of eggs inside the burn pile tunneled under the brush when we had a drought and couldnt burn anything last summer. There must have been 20 eggs in there! Also we had one hen start laying on top of their covered run and I would have to reach up there and get her egg each day. And we have a hen who loves laying in a planter box so we cant have any pots back there or she will dig it up and lay in it! Chickens are funny and we have gotten so much pleasure watching their antics!

  10. One of our girls gave us her first egg early last week. Teeny tiny little thing. Left it on the floor of the coop. Two more since then were found outside in the run. I’ve since put golf balls in the nesting box. Last night, our fourth egg….IN the nesting box. Smart girls. :)
    All of them have been out of sorts….talking a lot, eating a lot and they never look like they know where they want to be at any given moment. One of them, I have found each night sleeping in one of the nesting boxes so I have been kicking her out. Think she will get the hint? Or could she be there because she knows she has an egg brewing? Now I feel bad. :)

  11. I have three boxes for my 8 hens in the coop. One is plastic and hangs up almost 3 feet off the floor. The other two are homemade from plywood. However…half of the girls lay in a tiny 7 inch gap between the wooden nest box and the wall of the coop. They sqeeze in and then have to wiggle out backwards. My biggest hen, a black australorp, uses the high up box by leaping to/ from the roosts…which are 3 to 4 feet away! I have only found eggs out in the yard when the hens first started laying. Now they all lay in (or next to) the nest boxes.

  12. My young (28 weeks) hybrid lays wherever she happens to be. Usually in the orchard. The eggs are nice little brown things and that is the problem: so too are many of the windfall apples and an awful lot of the leaves now coming off the trees. The eggs are now very hard to spot. I nearly ran one over with the mower today.

    • I would keep her in the coop for a couple of days and put a dummy egg in the nesting box. Once she gets the hang of it she will likely want to lay inside. When my Gems were at point of lay I kept them confined to their pen so they’d learn to lay in the right place. Now when they free-range, they go back to the henhouse to lay.

  13. Augh, we are STILL in the temp coop, a 10 by 10 dog pen, inside is a mini coop we made for the chicks, which barely fits the now 7+ month old pullets. Actually they have to duck to sleep on the lowest roost in that little box. In the back are 2 nest boxes with a space in between. Usually all but one egg is in one box, and the last remaining egg is laid in the other box. Once all 4 eggs were all in the middle “space” which was too narrow to fit a third box (before the 5th hen started laying). Yes, there is drama. One hen, with black laced hackles (I haven’t named them, terrible with names…) paces back and forth in the dog pen, outside the little wooden coop’s door, loudly saying “oooooohhhhhhhh, oooooooohhhhh…” as though she is moaning “oh dear, ooooohhhh dear!” It definitely is a stressful sound that goes on and on until she gets the box de jour to lay her egg. Once the egg is laid, everything is peaceful.

    I’ve always wondered about that great egg song. A couple of hens sing it loudly and repeatedly but I look and there is no egg in the box. I have since learned to NOT look too early because it disrupts the comfort of their routine. The new coop will have roll out boxes, but I intend to block them up so the hens can see their egg before it disappears. Also, pecking order aside, the ladies seem to respect each other when in the boxes. There is a way they can look into the wooden coop from the yard and peek to see who is in the nest box. They look with a quiet calm about them.

    Terry that egg laid behind the top roost is laid by one very cool lady! It’s a bit dark in there and I cannot see who is on that top roost, unless I catch a glimpse of that white Polish hat now and then, but it’s too big for their egg, right?

    And, I’d like to say here that when I look at those eggs in my hand I just have to wonder at the miracle they are. I wonder if that “wonder” ever wears off?

  14. I found one of my husband’s golf balls out in the north fourty where he practices his has been there for a was shaped EXACTLY like an egg…I gave it to a friend of mine who just got hens for her 3 girls and she put it in the nesting box for a giggle,,,,it was great…

  15. We’re only getting three eggs a day from nine girls right now … and they’re all in the nest box. Just occasionally someone gets caught short and I find an egg on the floor. But I’ve no idea who it is …

  16. I checked at 06.55am your time and nothing doing then! One of mine is blind and sleeps in the nest box (and poops) but she is old and crusty so I let her sleep where she wants :o)

  17. One of our bantams has been flying over their 8ft tall fence and laying eggs in my garden under the rhubarb. Little stinker.