By: Lisa Steele - Fresh Eggs Daily
Why, oh why, do they do it? Why will chickens literally sit on top of each other in the same nesting box - or stand just outside the box and cackle and carry on until the offending hen in the box is done - when there is a row of identical boxes completely empty and at their disposal? Nesting Box Wars is what I call it. Here's why the wars are waged and a simple solution to end them...
Why Nesting Box Wars Break Out:
Chickens prefer to lay their eggs in safe, private places that they feel are safe from predators. After all, in their eyes, every egg they lay is a potential baby chick to help propagate the breed. So, when they stroll past a nest and see an egg (or hen) in that nest, they think that since another hen felt it was a safe place, it must be a safe place for their egg.
A second school of thought is that in a flock, all the laying hens will lay their eggs in a communal nest in order to accumulate a 'clutch' which one of them will then sit on to hatch. The faster the clutch is completed, the sooner the hen can start sitting, the more fertile the eggs and the better chance at hatching them.
(Now, remember in the world of the chicken, whether or not the eggs are actually fertile and whether or not there is even a rooster in the flock is irrelevant and doesn't figure into their reasoning at all.)
Why Wars Are Bad:
Chickens fighting over nesting boxes can result in broken eggs, which not only reduces your yield but can tempt the hens to start eating their eggs. Wars can also get pretty loud and heated, something you want to avoid if you have neighbors close by. Warring hens also are prone to peck at each other which can result in injuries.
How to Peaceably End Nesting Box Wars:
Regardless of exactly why chickens like to lay their eggs in a nest with other eggs, it's pretty clear that they do. So ending nesting box wars is pretty simple. Just rig all your nesting boxes with 'dummy' eggs. You can use wooden or ceramic eggs, golf balls or even stones. If you use plastic Easter Eggs, fill them with dirt, sand, or rice and tape them shut to give them similar heft and weight as a real egg. Place one in each nesting box.
Now when your chickens are ready to lay their eggs, they will stroll past the row of nesting boxes and be met with multiple choices for a safe place to lay their egg. Chances are if there's a hen laying in a nest already, they'll just pass that one by and go on to the next one. You can leave the fake eggs in the boxes indefinitely if need be. They are also handy to deter not only egg eating hens, but also egg-eating predators such as rats and snakes.
You can also try blocking the 'favorite' box for awhile and force everyone to choose another box. That sometimes helps them realize that yes, they all are identical after all! Good luck!