Training Hens to Lay in Boxes

We’ve all had that one or two hens who love to lay their eggs in the most surprising places. We had a hen that sat on the front seat of the side-by-side every single day, and left us a tan egg. There was also our hen Dotty, who loved to lay her eggs in the dog bed, making the perfect organic dog treats. Although it can be funny later, when you can’t find your chickens’ eggs, it can become frustrating very quickly.


There are several reasons why a hen would prefer to lay her eggs anywhere other than the nesting boxes. Sometimes when a hen hides her eggs, she is going broody. Some hens go broody in the summer months. Their instinct to hatch babies is so strong, they will seek out the perfect hiding place to start laying her clutch. After the eggs have reached about 20 in number, she will sit on them to incubate them. The problem is, not all the eggs always hatch, creating a messy situation later on. Nests can be hidden anywhere, but chances are these places are not safe. Many a mother hen has lost her life and the lives of her chicks because it was not predator proof.

Some hens decide to lay in odd places because they aren’t happy with their current nesting boxes. Make sure your setup is pleasing. Hens prefer somewhere cool and dark, with confined walls. Having your nesting boxes up off the ground level deters most predators and hens prefer to be up high. If there are too few nesting boxes, hens may decide the squabbling isn’t worth it, and go off to find a new nest. In some cases, hens in a flock will have a favorite nest box, refusing to use the other boxes.


Resetting your hens is actually a simple fix. Gather up your entire flock and make sure you lock them up at night. If they free-rage and sleep in the tress, you’ll need to catch them at night and put them all in the coop. The coop should be their normal sleeping coop, including the run. Leave your chickens up for 4 days and nights. Refrain from letting them out to free range on these “resetting” days.

The hens will have to lay heir eggs, and when they do, they’ll have only a few choices, in the nest box or in a corner of the coop. Check your eggs daily, but leave them in the nest boxes. Sometimes they will start a nest on the ground. Simply collect those eggs, and add them to the nesting boxes. Be sure to spread out the eggs into all the boxes, so they know all the boxes are good to use.


Lastly, you can use egg decoys! Purchase some fake plastic eggs, preferably naturally colored, and put them in the nest boxes. You can also use white ping pong balls for this. Seeing the “eggs” in the nest boxes will trigger the hens to lay in that particular spot. The ping pong balls are also said to help deter snakes from eating eggs.

After about 4 days, you are free to let your flock outside again, but leave their coop door open so they can come and lay as they please. This method almost always works! We have several hens now that actually sleep outside in the fruit trees at night, but will come into the coop to lay during the day. If your hens start trying to play a game of Easter Egg hunting with you, it may be time to put them in the coop for a simple reset. Good luck!