We got two buff orpington hens (about 1 year old) a little over a month ago. Right from the beginning the started laying their eggs in the egg box but we have noticed that they also sleep everynight in the egg box...one in each box. Every once in a while we would find an egg in the coop outside the egg box. Even found one outside in their paddock. The last couple of days they have now consistently been laying eggs outside the egg box. My wife put a golf ball in each egg box two days ago (we read this might help) but still yesterday they laid outside. Any advice/help? Thanks!
Make sure the roost is higher than the nest box...they will usually choose to sleep in the highest place suitable for sleeping. Keep them confined to the coop until around afternoon and then let them out. If this is not feasible, keep them confined to the coop for 4-5 days until they get the hang of laying in the nests. You might also set them up a nest box out in the run if it seems they prefer to lay outdoors...maybe they were used to outdoor nesting where they used to live.
They might not have enough light when it's getting dark to see so they can jump safely onto the perches (even though they can do a good job of "pecking" the perch a few times and then jumping up. If it's too dark in my coop, my chickens won't take the chance of jumping in the wrong spot and falling off the perch.
In my experience birds lay eggs where ever they feel like it and it usually isn't in the space that I have planned for them to lay eggs in.
I used to think my last bunch of layers had a conspiracy thing going on. It seemed that they would lay them in the most difficult places for me to bend over and twist around to get to -- and that spot would change after I had learned how to get to it easily.
You would think that after all of these years I would have learned not to bother going to great pains to build nice nest boxes for them to lay in -- but I just did it again -- and they probably won't lay in these either.
I think we figured it out...the birds were just smarter than us. Since they had taken to sleeping in their egg box they were also pooping in thier egg box. We started mucking out the poop just out of the boxes in the morning when we opened the coop and now they are back to laying eggs in the boxes. I wouldn't want to lay an egg while sitting on poop either!
I free range and with all of the groundcover around here, most every day is an Easter egg hunt.
Periodically we will have a "reset" and keep the gate closed on the chicken run and they'll all return to laying eggs in the nest boxes. For some that lasts awhile and for others they rush back out to their favorite spots.
On the bright side, many of my chickens have a specific "I laid an egg" call that they'll make and when you see one coming out of a bush making that sound then you simply go inspect the bush.