Nesting Box Drama

Three of the Literary Ladies (the pullets in the LIttle Barn) are regularly laying: Twiggy, Owly and Beatrix. I’ve also found, on a few mornings, a light brown egg. I’ve been surprised not to see more of those. Perhaps something was keeping the chickens from laying. Perhaps it was a very small, very determined, very bad-tempered bantam White Leghorn. Betsy has been ensconced in the nesting box for two weeks. She hisses at anyone who comes near. There are three nesting boxes, so I figured that she couldn’t keep the hens out. But, she is intimidating. I was deciding what to do about it, when I found her with egg yolk dripping down her chest. She had smashed another hen’s egg and had eaten all of it. Perhaps that was where the brown eggs were going. I tossed Betsy into the anti-broody coop, where she is currently sulking.



It will take about four days for Betsy to stop being broody. At that point she will no longer stomp around the nesting boxes in a rage, she will no longer break eggs and she will no longer eat them

I thought that I had solved the nesting box issues. But, early this morning I chanced to see Owly do something totally out of character. She chased Phoebe out from under the nesting boxes! Phoebe has made herself a cozy home there, where there’s not much room for more than a small rabbit.



The hens never go into Phoebe’s space. They never bother her. What the heck was going on with Owly? I shooed her away. She came back. I popped her in a nesting box. She determinedly jumped down and scooted under. I sat back and reconsidered. Why did Owly want to lay an egg under the nesting boxes instead of in them, where she’d been quite content to go for the last few weeks?

I’ve found that hens are sensitive to the angle of light coming into the boxes. The morning light is lower and hitting her favored box differently. Phoebe’s corner is darker and more inviting. Also, the pullets have been in and out of the boxes, the non-layers trying them out. They’ve kicked out much of the shavings. Phoebe’s hay was more inviting than a thin layer of shavings. So, I deeply bedded the nesting boxes.



I also returned the wooden eggs that I thought were no longer needed. When Owly saw the decoy egg and the fluffy shavings, she settled right into the nesting box (her favorite, the one on the right)



and within five minutes laid an egg. (The wooden egg is in the front, and you can see Owly’s pretty blue egg under her, still upright.)



She’s no longer laying pullet-sized small eggs. This one is large and beautiful!



Her work done, Owly went back outside to join her friends. But what of Phoebe, kicked out of her home? With the typical insouciance of a rabbit, she settled in elsewhere. No worries.



  1. Betsy does not look happy with you at all lol I love Owly’s pretty blue egg.
    We are finding eggs, early in the morning., directly under where the young girls roost at night. But they aren’t very small. Have you ever had hens that lay fairly large eggs right off the bat? Then we have one ( not sure who yet, but suspecting our RI Red because she has been squatting) who goes in the nest box just like she should and is laying the teeniest dark brown beauties. Some day soon I hope to catch them in the act so I can figure out who is laying what? It’s tough at first.

    • One of my Gems – also a RIR – lays an egg wherever she happens to be. Some hens are like that and there’s not much that you can do. But, most pullets can be trained to go in the boxes. The vast majority of pullets lay small eggs to start, but once in awhile they’ll do a double-yolker which makes for a very big egg.

  2. Wow – never a dull moment at Little Pind Farm! Do you think that Phoebe will return to her home under the nest boxes now that Owly has returned to laying in the favoured nest box again?

  3. I was thinking about keeping chickens but with all this drama, I don’t know – I think I’ll stick to soap operas!

    • Yep, there is a lot of Drama from time to time, for sure. Today I had 4 Hens all decide they wanted to lay at the same time. My 2 nest boxes are usually enough for the 7 girls, but not today because they all want the same box for whatever reason? I think they like to have something to b—- about some days…….. just like the rest of us?

  4. Goodness they can be so fussy! I have two nest boxes and five girls and they too will kick up a fuss when they want to lay at the same time and all want either one or the other nest box, whichever one is current favourite, the other one will be ignored. The second nest box is actually what is called “a small animal house” and I installed it to stop the arguments. They could all actually fit in there together but will they share!! Not likely!!

  5. You are such a Chicken Psychologist!! I surely do love to read about your adventures and wish Phoebe would kick some feathered bottoms!!

    • Phoebe is much more mild-mannered than the late, great Empress Candy. But she is fast and scoots out of the way. She’s revving up for snow season. I expect to see bouts of joyous zoomies from her.

  6. I have a hen that sometimes lays in the coop in a corner but not in a nest box. She does this every so often. The only time Its ever disturbed is when a hen goes broody and steals it. So much always going on with the ladies lol.

  7. Love reading the stories from all of you. Especially love seeing what the Literary Girls are up too. I’ll have a blue egg one year! Right now, I’m anxiously waiting for my first egg. My girls are eighteen going on nineteen weeks old and nothing yet. My barr rock is the only one that looks mature enough to lay an egg. I still think she may have a couple of weeks to go. My leghorn, I believe, is going to be a late bloomer. She hasn’t got a comb to speak of and just to little imprints where one would assume the waddles will be. But I’m patient. It will happen. Terry, I’m worried about my Delaware. She mouth breaths. Has been doing it for a couple of weeks now. Everything else seems normal. She also sounds a little hoarse. She’s eating, drinking and her stool is formed and normal color. I’ve cut out any snacks that aren’t nutritious at 15 weeks and give small servings of greens, vegetables and fruits. Any thoughts on this. I would appreciate it.

    • Delawares are a heavy breed, and at that age is growing rapidly. She might just be panting. If everything else is fine, let her be. BTW, you can give big servings of veggies – let them at it! Right now they’d all like a fat pumpkin.

      • Thanks for answering and I’m going out to get them a pumpkin. I was hoping it was just panting too. Our weather has been a little warm. Stayed in the 70s all summer and now were finally getting into the mid 80s.

  8. About a month ago I was in the back of my coop where the rollout nest boxes are, when out popped a little blue egg. I was excited that I’d get to peek around the door and see which easter egger started to lay! (My ee’s are about the same age as yours, Terry.) But alas, it was one of the older red hens who merely kicked that little blue egg out of her way so SHE could lay HER egg in HER nest box. I do enjoy the egg laying drama!

  9. not one of my hens lay eggs in their very nice nesting boxes. Instead, they all lay under the nesting boxes. I’ve tried different kinds of bedding, coaxing them onto the boxes when they’re getting ready to lay, and finally decided to let them lay their eggs where they want to. They don’t roost on the very nice roosts in their big hen house, either. They sleep in the nesting boxes…silly hens. A neighbor today gave me several bales of straw for bedding, so my hens have a very clean hen house tonight, with fresh bedding. and one of my gardens that’s done producing for the year, got 16 wheelbarrows of old bedding and I covered the entire area with tarps, and next year, that will make for a great garden.

  10. Out of 18 laying hens all lay in the nesting boxes but my 2 white silkies they refuse I have been fighting with then for a year about it, they win i give up…

  11. Terry,
    My thoughts on them wanting to lay under the nest box. It is too cozy. If the “issue” continues I bet if you raise them a bit and not make it so inviting they will not want to lay there. My two cents worth.
    Phoebe is just beautiful.

    • It’s cozy, but really too low. Owly had to do an uncomfortable, crouched duck walk to get in. I think she was relieved when I told her to go elsewhere! But, I will alter things a bit if this behavior keeps up.