Time To Open The Chicken Coop Nesting Box For Business…

I just opened the barrier from the chicken coop to their dual nesting box.

Our ISA-Brown hens are supposed to begin laying eggs a bit sooner than others. Maybe as early as 16 – 18 weeks.

They are right around 15 weeks of age at this time, so I figured it was time to open the nesting door barrier. Just in case.

I have a small flock of seven hens. All the reading I’ve done indicate that two nesting boxes will be enough for that quantity – because they often desire to share the same space. So that’s what I built.

Golf Balls in Nesting Box

put golf balls in chicken nesting box

What’s that? Golf balls in the nesting box?

Yes. Apparently a hard fake egg (or golf ball) will teach the hens NOT to eat the eggs. Chickens are notoriously curious. They peck everything with their beaks. That’s their “hands” if you will.

They’re going to see those golf balls in the nesting box and peck at them. Immediately it will become clear to them (hopefully) that “eggs” are hard. Therefore no sense trying to eat them, right? We’ll see.

Erring on the side of caution I grabbed two old used golf balls and dropped them in. It was funny because the minute I opened the nesting box roof, a few hens had to check it out!

access holes to nesting box

So now I check every day. I don’t really expect any production for awhile yet, but you never know.

For you experienced chicken farmers out there — any tell-tale signs that they’re about to get down to business??

[ Read: Nesting Box Add-on For Chicken Coop ]


  1. I look forward to hearing about your first egg, it’s a lot of fun having birds.

  2. And…..they will all want to lay in the same box.. At the same time. Keep the golf balls in there tho. They actually think that is an ‘egg’ already laid and will lay their’s in there too.

  3. They will lay all their eggs in the same box probably 90 percent of the time, at least that’s what mine do and I have the isa browns also, they all lay a different colored egg too, some are dark brown and some are light brown, and some are larger than others, all from the same size hen, had one that was 3 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, that sucker was almost as big as a goose egg. You will enjoy them Ken, and they usually lay one every day, every now and then, one won’t , but it’s rare. I only have five, along with 3 other different breeds, and usually give most of them to the neighbors, but in a shtf situation I would eat more of them, that’s why I keep feeding them those high priced laying pellets

  4. Ken
    When my dad had chickens some of them were your breed.

    One thing I remember is them singing after laying their eggs. It was if they were saying to the other hens “look what I did”. lol

  5. – When I was a little boy, my great-grandmother still kept chickens. She and great-grandfather had set her up with a poultry farm that had ducks, geese, turkeys, quail and pheasant in addition to chickens, but after his death she only kept the chickens. Most of the time when I would collect the eggs, I would find them in one to three boxes of the nine she had. And I also remember them “singing” after laying an egg.

    Great-grandmother lived to be 96 years old, my oldest daughter remembers her. She also remembers the huge garden she kept up until the end of her life.

    – Papa S.

  6. Hey Ken,
    Beautiful nesting boxes with those nice clean woodshavings! I haven’t raised Isa’s, but 17 weeks is supposed to be the magic number. Maybe the golfballs will encourage them to start earlier. When I moved to this area and started my flock, a friend asked if I’d gotten any hen fruit yet. Had no idea that was another name for eggs, funny.

  7. I’ve never had chickens myself, but a friend said they start squatting a few weeks before.

  8. You asked “any tell-tale signs . . .”

    As they begin to lay their pubic bones will separate and the tip of their keel will begin to drop. Your better layers will have largest capacity for ease of developing and laying an egg.

    You hold a chicken in one hand facing you. Your middle finger on her keel, index and ring fingers outside and holding onto legs, and thumb and pinkie finger pinning her wings down. Now you can hold her in any position you need to for a look see.

    Use your other hand to find her public bones on either side of her vent (where everything comes out). They will gradually widen as she lays more. Will close up again as she’s finished for the year. Older hens tend to have larger capacity.

  9. I have not really paid attention to the signs before they start laying…i am just happy when I see eggs. Your coop looks pristine! There is such a sense of satisfaction gathering their eggs and using their “spent” shavings for the garden.

    We have been having fun watching the five chicks that were hatched a few weeks back by one of my broodies. She hatched out five, but another hen was jealous that hers did not hatch (too many hens and only one rooster). Somehow, the two of them worked it out that the original hen has three and the other has two that they take care of, and they all stay together. Momma hens have them perching with them at night with a couple tucked under each wing, body or sitting on their back. It is too cute! Periodically, these little guys jump on the back of any chicken passing by and ride around a bit….and the chickens let them. If they get out of line with a not momma hen, the hen will peck at them and they leave.

    We are going to start another batch shortly with a different broody hen to raise the number of new chicks. This next batch will be in the 4×8 ft. enclosed pen so she doesn’t risk having eggs pecked or chicks snatched. We have found that half of the eggs are usually boys so it takes quite a few to get the number of hens that we want.

    We have enjoyed all our poultry with one exception – the guinea hens. We got them to help with tick reduction. They are not worth the squabbling that takes place. They pick on chickens and young birds and chase them away from food. I had three guinea hens chase my rooster round and round the outside of a huge garden area before I ran them off. This last guinea is about to go bye bye because he keeps twanging my last nerve with his meanness.

    As we weeded the garden today I was talking with my 10 yr old grand about why it is important to keep chickens and how they are worth more to get an egg each day than eating it as a chicken. The grands love the chicken but they also really enjoy the fresh eggs! She said that would be a tough choice for her. LOL

  10. Ken,

    We’re about a month ahead of you. We’re getting 5 or 6 eggs a day now. Before they started laying they showed a lot of interest in the boxes. Reminded me of the circles the dogs make before finally settling down. I actually bought a couple of the nesting boxes from TS and then using those as a model, built a total of 10. They only use 2 :-)

    We’re free ranging and we lost one to what I thought was a hawk the other day. Today, I heard a big ruckus, louder screams than usual. Because I just lost one, I ran out to the tree line at the same time as a chicken came running out followed by a fox. He saw me and I chased right after him. Dangers of free ranging. I’m getting a big fox box trap tomorrow and will hope to catch the fox. These ladies have given me more joy lately.

    1. DoubleTap,
      Hard to trap fox when there is so much food around, unless you get a trap with a separate cage attached for an isolated chicken to bring them in. I would do a bit of scouting, find the den, then go out around dusk with a 12 gauge and #4 buckshot rounds. Took out four this spring that way. Snares can also work well if they are legal in your state and you can find their runs into your property. Good luck, get that Fox before he gets your whole flock.

      1. Never having done it before, I was just thinking about getting a big box trap, loading it with a can of chicken, and placing it where he came out of the tree line. That’s where the majority of feathers were and was hoping he’d take the bait. I almost had him when I chased him into the woods. Wife came out and asked what the shooting was :-)

        1. Double Tap,
          You’d be wasting your time and money, that fox will not come into a trap with canned chicken when he knows he can get LIVE chicken in your yard..it is the nature of the beast. IMHO, your best bet would be to get a game camera down there, see if you can get an idea of when he/she is coming and going, then you can ambush it. As I mentioned before, if there is a tight area were it is entering, snares or traps may work, if they are legal in your area, but you have to be mindful of domestic cats and dogs.

        2. Minerjim,

          Thanks, Forgot about the Game Cam’s. Great idea! There are some deer trails that come into the yard. Don’t mind the deer coming in and hanging out, they know they’re safe here. I suspect the fox is using one of those. If it’s the one I think it is I have perfect line of site and can wait it out with a red dot. Thanks!

        3. OMG…. Lost another one this morning. Heartbreaking….. So Pissed off I want to lay out bear traps or booby traps or something. Maybe throw on a Ghillie suit and just wait …

          I’m bummed because I have to go into the office the next two days, it’s too hot to keep them in the hen house, and I don’t want to lose any more…..

          Seems pretty bold that the fox is coming out during the late mornings. I might have to get one of the traps and put a smaller chicken in as bait.

          So Frustrating……

        4. DoubleTap,

          desperate times call for desperate measures. You have to go to work. Can the Wife or one of the kids shoot??? You got the fox coming in now twice, in the late morning. two data points, but enough to figure out a pattern. A morning ambush. put a stake in the ground out in the open, with about a 5′ cord on it. tie out your roughest looking hen, have your shooter with a shotgun and some heavy shot, like #2 or BB, or my favorite, #4 buckshot. make sure you tell the shooter not to worry about the hen, as this fox will come in fast and try to snatch it. just tell them to get a good sight picture and shoot, if you lose the hen, so be it. A fox coming in this often is feeding others, it won’t stop unless you stop it. sorry. have lost far too many birds in my time to foxes. they can be cute, but they are deadly to a flock.

    2. DoubleTap

      So sorry to hear about your chicken losses. A couple of thoughts to share, in case they’re useful. Have you considered suspending ‘free range’ for a while, at least until the fox finds another food source? Now that mama fox knows where to get dinner for the kids, she won’t stop until she’s taken every last one. If forage for the chickens is a concern, and your coop is mobile, there’s electrified poultry netting for protection that can be moved around rather easily. I raise broilers 100 at a time, and use this netting, never losing one to a predator. Granted, I also have a big dog, so there’s that… You would want a solar powered fencer to feed the netting, and a ground rod, which can be shorter than normal. I use a 3′ one and leave about 6″ above ground so I can pull it out when I move the set-up. This may all sound like a lot of work, and maybe not what you want to do. Just hate to see your flock get picked off, and thought I’d mention this.

      1. Thanks Farmgirl,

        We have a 12 x 8 room off the garage that I’ve turned into the hen house. I open the door at 6a and they all run out to free range, mostly staying close by the house, under some bushes, etc. It’s when they go to the tree line that I suspect is when the fox makes it’s move. It actually ran out the other day until it saw me charging at it. I think I’m going to have to put up something temporary tonight. Hate to drive t-posts and chicken wire into the yard.

        How do the chickens know not to touch an electric fence? Learn the hard way I suspect :-) Thanks for the info, guess I’m heading to tractor Supply tonight. :-)

        1. DoubleTap

          You’re going to love poultry netting – no t-posts, no pounding, very adaptable shapewise. Netting is woven poly/wires, attached to light-weight poles with step-ins at the bottom – all one piece! There are different lengths, so you can get one that’s right size for you. It will have up front cost, but the stuff lasts for a while – I’ve been using mine 3 years now, and still works great. Yes, they learn through experience. It’s not too hot though, just hot enough. You could also go the t-post and chicken wire route, but that’s not easily mobile, and a fox can and will defeat that.

        2. Foxes can defeat just about any kind of fencing, and they are excellent climbers. I have seen foxes several times during the day, so they are definitely not strictly nocturnal. I have seen them at high speed dive through field fencing, farm gates etc., without breaking stride, and the other day one ran through the opening between the chain link gate and the post without slowing down. Of course the high speed of the fox was caused by a very fast and determined farm dog who at about 80 pounds can’t fit through things the fox can. Usually after a couple of close encounters the fox does not come back. Chickens are locked up tight at night because there are too many varmints around here looking for chicken dinner. Oh yeah, I also have a huge black snake that likes to visit the nest boxes on occasion.

        3. I’m using premier1’s portable solar energizer. It’s got the ground rod included and very easy to set up. You can put it anywhere-great for rotational grazing.

  11. We have raised a few hens over the years and I noticed that their combs become bright red then they are laying. The eggs will be small for the first few weeks and then gradually get larger as the hen’s oviduct matures. Our girls lay 2 then skip a day. When they molt or go broody they stop laying for a few weeks. You can tell the ones that are not laying by the paleness of their comb. We have 2 nest boxes for 6 hens and they prefer to share only one. Occasionally, first time layers don’t quite get it and you might find eggs in odd places for the first few days. For dark, rich yolks, give the girls grass clippings and other greens, fruits, and veggies. During the winter, we throw a flake of alfalfa hay into the pen. The hens pick through the stems and eat the leaves. It’s amazing to see the yolk color change from yellow to orange. Start slowly with any new food so their digestive system isn’t overwhelmed. Their favorite treat, besides dried meal worms, is leftover brown rice. It won’t be long before you’ll have a frig full of cackleberries!

  12. Ken, we have 52 producing hens and they use a mere 5 laying boxes!
    Eggs WILL be small at first, but within a week of laying will be glorious.
    We feed ours hot peppers when they slow down or if shells seem less than sturdy….within the next laying, the shells are firm and yolks bright yellow (no pepper taste).
    Chickens will lay eggs roughly every 27 hours. works out to 5 or 6 per week. I collect roughly 4 dozen eggs daily. We have Plymouth Barred Rock variety. Big tan eggs. Yum.

    1. 4 dozen eggs a day, wow!
      What do you do with that many eggs? Do you sell them?

    2. PIOW
      Nice looking breed, been considering changing over to something like that,
      Curious what sort of feed you are giving,,,

      1. We have a large family….but I do sell some eggs to colleagues and neighbors.
        We use a high protein pellet, but augment daily with heads of cabbage (they like to play ball and eat at the same time, as well as chili or other peppers! They also get ALL fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen and especially like watermelon and cantaloupe edges and rinds! BTW they HATE potatoes and/or potato skins so do not bother with those….they end up in the compost.

        1. PIOW
          Sounds familiar,
          Ive been feeding mine layer pellets, the young birds get an all purpose crumble. I have two batches of birds, 18 one year old hens and another batch of 3ish month old mixed.
          They have been getting a pretty steady supply of zucchini and kale too, going to be tossing in older and small corn soon, One good thing with having a big garden is lots of veggies for the chickens. So when stuff is too buggy or bolts it can still feed the chickens.

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