As hilarious as it is to find eggs laid in odd locations around your property, you can’t help but start to wonder what’s going on.
Why do chickens hide their eggs in seemingly strange and counter-intuitive locations instead of the nice nesting box we’ve provided?
Well, as it turns out there are several reasons why your chickens might not lay in their own nesting box.
Here are the main 5 reasons why chickens hide their eggs instead of laying in the nesting box, and how you can encourage them to lay where they are supposed to!
Why Do Chickens Hide Their Eggs?
It’s natural for a chicken to make a small nest, or rather, find a small cozy comfortable place to sit and lay their eggs.
But, in a normal circumstance, a nesting box is just that!
So, if your hens are choosing to hide their eggs somewhere else instead, then there must be a problem with the nesting box.
This can range from things like insufficient nesting boxes, to cleanliness, to temperature, or even placement.
In full detail, and with solutions for each problem, here are the top five most common reasons your chickens will hide their eggs.
Insufficient Nesting Boxes
The life cycle of a chicken owner goes like this. You get some chickens, so you get a sufficiently sized coop for them. Then, you get some more chickens. Then you get some more chickens.
Eventually, you have pushed your current coop to its capacity. It’s during these times that it becomes very evident that you need to have enough nesting boxes for your sized flock.
If your hens need to lay an egg but the boxes are all occupied, then it needs to find a backup plan. Particularly if it’s on the bottom of the pecking order, it can’t simply ask another hen to move.
So, to ensure you always have enough nesting boxes for your flock, the general rule of thumb is one nesting box per five chickens, plus one extra at all times. If you have 3 chickens you can get away with just one nesting box, but it’s better to have one more than one fewer!
Nesting Box Cleanliness
Chickens are very particular about where they nest and lay their eggs, which is why they may hide their eggs if their nesting boxes aren’t comfortable or clean enough.
This doesn’t just mean that it’s clear of chicken waste, but it should also be dry, and not emit any foul odors. For this reason, try using absorbent materials for your bedding, such as wood shavings (except cedar), straw, or even pine needles.
You should also look to change your bedding in your nesting box every 2 weeks. More or less depending on how many chickens you have and how many use it!
Chickens prefer to nest and lay eggs in warm areas. So, if it’s winter, or If their coop isn’t warm enough or insulated, they may seek warmer places to lay their eggs.
It’s in a chicken’s instinct to retain as much energy as they can in cold temperatures, so it’s natural that they also stop laying as many eggs.
Nonetheless, by keeping your coop nice and insulated throughout the winter, you’ll be getting more frequent eggs, and your chickens will lay much more comfortably in their nesting boxes, rather than someone else they find that’s warmer!
If you’ve had a broody hen before you’ll know just how stubborn they can be with their eggs. Often they will plop themselves down on top of their eggs and refuse to move at all, even for long time periods without food or drink.
But, if your broody hen believes that the eggs are not in a safe enough space, she will actually lay them somewhere more secluded so she can “hatch” them undisturbed.
It’s always tough dealing with a broody hen, but so long as they feel safe enough in the nesting box they won’t often try to move their eggs or lay them somewhere else.
Laying hens may hide their eggs for the sole purpose of protecting themselves and their eggs from predators or other threats.
If your hen simply believes the nesting box isn’t safe enough for her to lay her eggs, she will inevitably try to find somewhere else that is.
To encourage the right behaviors, ensure your nesting box is adequately placed, tucked away, sheltered, insulated, and hidden from the outside environment. Be sure to have nice bedding laid out too!
If you can convince your hen that it’s the safest and best place for them to lay then they won’t try to hide them anywhere else!
Where Do Wild Chickens Lay Their Eggs?
Yes, there are wild chickens. However, they are limited to areas which they were reintroduced into, such as the wild chickens of Hawaii.
So, we can learn a bit about our hens laying habits by learning where a wild chicken chooses to lay its eggs.
As you’d expect, chickens always look for the darkest, most comfortable, and private place they can find. Wild chickens will find holes in trees or hidden under heavy bushes and shrubs. Sounds comfortable, right?
For more info, check out more about wild chickens and their behaviors.
So, it’s not a chicken’s best interest to purposefully lay in strange places. But, they will lay in the places that are dark, secluded, and feel safe for them to do so.
The main reason your chickens will be hiding their eggs rather than laying them in their nesting boxes comes down to insufficient nesting boxes per chicken, overall cleanliness, temperature, and general placement of the nesting box.
If your chickens have started laying elsewhere, it’s important to try to find the fix for it. Otherwise, you are going to be missing out on fresh eggs, and loose eggs around the property will likely encourage predators like snakes, rodents, or even hawks.