If you’ve discovered that your chickens are laying in a hedge or bush or suspect that they might be because there have been fewer eggs in the box, don’t worry because the problem can be fixed with some easy steps.
In this article, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to stop your chickens from laying in hedges and bushes and how to prevent it from happening in future.
1- Identify the Nest Location
If you’re here reading this post, then chances are you’ve already discovered the nest location, if this is you, you might want to skip to step 2.
If you suspect that your chickens are laying elsewhere, but you’re yet to find the nest then here’s how to do it:
- When you let your chickens out to free-range watch where they go.
- Check under the most likely places which are underneath/inside bushes and hedges.
- Check the ground (young chickens sometimes lay on the ground to begin with).
Chickens who’re laying elsewhere will often go dashing off to their alternative laying place when you let them out, so by watching them you might be lucky enough to see where they’re going.
Bushes and hedges are a perfect nest location for a chicken so it’s a good idea to check there first, but any private space underneath something could be a potential nest site.
Chickens not laying for another reason
If your chicken or chickens are not laying in their nest boxes, it doesn’t mean they’re laying elsewhere and there might be another reason why they’re not laying, these reasons include:
- Chickens are too young and just haven’t started laying yet (this will happen at around 18-20 weeks old but can take longer).
- Older chickens can stop laying after around 2 years old or laying can become irregular.
- Chickens who’ve just started laying often lay on the ground before they learn how to lay in the nest.
- There’s something which has upset them such as a predator or they’re being bullied by another chicken.
- It’s wintertime – chickens can stop laying in winter when the days are short and the weather is very cold.
2- Establish the Reason Why They’re Not Laying in Nest Boxes
If you’ve discovered that your chicken is laying in bushes or another location other than in the nest boxes, there will be a reason why they’re doing this.
The main reasons why chickens chose to go and lay elsewhere are:
- They can’t get back into the coop – if the coop or run are closed off they’ll lay wherever they can.
- There’s a problem with the nest – such as dirty bedding or a red mite infestation.
- The chicken is young and inexperienced and doesn’t understand that eggs get laid in the coop.
- The chicken is broody – a broody chicken will often go off and lay in the same place alone, they will also sit on the clutch of eggs in the expectation that they’re going to hatch.
- Not enough nest boxes – if the chicken is ready to lay an egg but the nest box is occupied by another chicken, they can find somewhere else to lay.
3- Remove the Eggs From the Nest
If you discover an egg or a clutch of eggs in a natural nest, then it’s important to remove the eggs once you find them to make sure the chicken doesn’t go back to sit on them.
Removing the eggs will also prevent the chicken from thinking this is the place to lay.
Don’t be surprised if there’s a large number of eggs there, its not uncommon for some owners to find 20 or 30 eggs (or even more) in a hedge if it’s something that has been going on for a number of weeks.
If a chicken is broody you might also need to move her away from the nest. This might sound mean, but a broody chicken can be very reluctant to leave the nest, which can lead to them not coming back to roost which puts them at risk of getting taken by a fox or other predator.
Can you Eat Eggs you Find Under a Bush or Hedge?
It can be tempting to bring in eggs that you find under a bush or hedge, but is it safe to do so?
Although I’m not an advocate for waste, I would advise against eating any eggs you find in an undiscovered nest because you don’t know how long those eggs have been there and they could be off.
Also, eggs are porous and are covered in tiny holes where bacteria can actually get inside the egg if it becomes wet, so for this reason, it’s not advisable to eat eggs that have been outside for some time.
4- Block up the Nest
Once you remove the eggs it’s a good idea to block up the nest space to prevent the chicken from trying to come back to that space again.
You can block the area with netting or natural material such as small branches, anything will do as long as it stops them from getting back in.
5- Keep the Hen in the Run Before Free-Ranging
Whenever we’ve had any issues with chickens laying elsewhere we use the following method to get them used to laying in the nest again:
- In the morning when you let the chickens out of the coop, feed them as normal but leave them inside the run.
- Wait to let them out to free-range until they’ve all laid in the nest.
- Keep doing this every day for a few weeks to get them used to their new laying routine.
This might sound a bit mean and your chickens probably won’t be too happy about it, but usually, they lay pretty early in the day, so chances are you won’t need to hold them back for long.
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on March 25, 2021.
Make sure the nest material is kept really clean and that there’s enough nesting space for more than one chicken to lay at a time (depending on the size of your flock).
6- Establish a New Laying Routine
By establishing a new laying routine, for a few weeks your chickens will quickly forget about laying elsewhere.
If it does happen again in the months to come, just go back through step 5 again until they back into the routine again.
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I hope this post has helped you to find out more about how to stop and prevent chickens from laying in hedges or bushes, you might also like the following articles too:
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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on March 25, 2021.