This might seem an odd question, but here goes. I use nice straw in my nest boxes and about as fast as I put it in there, my hens kick it out. Is it the bedding, or some other issue that is making them do this? Eggs get broken in boxes with no bedding. Any thoughts?
My nesting boxes are set up so that they'd have a hard time kicking it out. How are your nesting boxes set up? Perhaps your gals have decided their pampered behinds prefer a softer material to lay in? Straw is definitely more rough to sit on than hay, but a thick layer of shredded paper is even more cushy.
I use a combination of hay and shredded paper, because I notice my hens end up pushing all the hay up the sides of the nesting box, exposing the bottom. Adding shredded paper has definitely helped with that and they seem to like it better.
They might also scratch the straw for grains left in it...
I also use hay and my girls like it.
A local bio-dynamic farmer here uses deep boxes filled with hemp-litter. The eggs get really buried in it, to other chickens aren't tempted to pick them to get a snack.
Hens naturally scratch around and form "their" nest as opposed to one that is already formed, some hens do it more than others. If you have an old established flock, they eventually get that exact "bowl" shape they like and that rearranging of the bedding stops, everyone uses the same "bowl".
To decrease kicked out bedding, the nest boxes need to be small enough to help them form that bowl shape they love so well or have deep enough bedding that they can form the bowl shape in the middle, so if your boxes are too wide or too shallow, they will continually dig and build until they get the desired shape that will cup their eggs and not allow them to roll about when the hen dismounts from the box.
Deeper nest box, smaller width and deeper depth, or deeper bedding with a box that will contain it all when it is rearranged~these changes can help you. Just imagine a bird's nest you find and then imagine that your chicken needs to make the same shape, then make her a box in which she can do that without kicking out the bedding. Chickens like to sit down into a box or nest as opposed to perching up on one and visualizing the world about them...they sort of like to hide while they lay, so some people even place light curtains over the opening of the box to create this feeling for them.
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
posted 7 years ago
Quite a high 'lip' on the box entrance helps keep stuff in. The hens think it's just a landing pad into a nice, snug, dark box...
Like Jay, I think a box that snugly fits your fattest hen is ideal: any larger and they just keep shuffling bedding around trying to make the space smaller.
I find hay from long grass in unused spots is great. All it takes is few pulls with a sickle, keeping the grass in 'hanks'.
Dry it in the sun (or under cover), then curl a big bundle around in a nesting box. I let the hens do the rest.
I use pine shavings in the coop for litter and nesting material. For the boxes, I just took a couple of used plastic Rubbermaid tubs and cut a hole in one side. The hole is cut about 4 inches from the bottom so that the bedding stays in the box. Leave the top on it and you're good to go. At times I'll find 2 hens in one box. There's plenty of room and they seem to get along pretty well about it. No broken eggs ever.
I chose a tote with a lid that locks down with handles so that the front won't pop off when a hen climbs in, cut an oval opening in the lid and also cut a section out of the back for outside access. I chose to cut the hole in the lid so that the lid could be removed entirely for cleaning out of the nests or easy removal of the broody and her eggs if the occasion occurs.
I lined these totes with heavy cardboard as insulation from the hot sun and the cold of winter...really keeps the boxes insulated from both and from light and sounds, as the birds seem to like the quiet and dark.
This shows the outside access for the nests. The door slides in the grooves of old tongue and groove lumber scraps I had lying around. Seals tight when closed, so rain and snow does not enter in.
I've been using fine sawdust pet bedding in my coop with good success. Clean up every few days with a kitty litter scoop is pretty easy (since the hens group together at night). I sift the bedding onto the floor and the poo goes into a 5 gallon bucket to be emptied later in the compost pile. New bedding is added to the laying boxes from time to time.
I've used leaves before that I shredded with my lawnmower (with the bag on it's easy). They really liked them! Now I've got one hen that insists on nesting on a shelf in the barn. The eggs kept rolling off, feeding my dog. I put one of those rubber feed pans they sell for livestock on the shelf with some waste hay from the goats (they only ever eat half the hay I give them so the rest goes to the rabbits, normally). She loves her new nest "bowl".
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