Floor eggs are the eggs your hens lay on the chicken coop floor, rather than in the nice cozy nests you provide. Floor eggs are undesirable because they easily get dirty or cracked, making them unsafe to eat and unsuitable for hatching. A cracked egg is likely to get broken, encouraging hens to sample the contents. And guess what — your hens like eggs as much as you do. The last thing you want in your chicken coop is an egg eating hen.
Floor eggs are most likely to occur when pullets are just starting to lay and haven’t yet figured out where the nest boxes are or what they are for. To minimize floor eggs, install nests early enough for your pullets to get used to them before they start laying.
Place the nests low to, or directly on, the floor until most of the pullets are using them. Then elevate the nests 18 to 20 inches above the floor to discourage the pullets from entering nests for reasons other than to lay eggs.
If hens continue laying on the floor, maybe you have too few nests. The rule of thumb is to provide at least one nest for every four layers.
For a really small flock, it doesn’t hurt to have extra nests. As an example, if you have four hens, consider providing two nests. A hen that doesn’t have to wait her turn is less likely to lose patience and lay her egg on the floor.
Maybe your nests get too much light, causing hens to seek out darker corners in which to hide their eggs. Since the primary purpose of laying eggs is to produce chicks, hens have a strong instinct to deposit their eggs in dark, protected places. A properly designed nest, located away from direct light, suggests just such a place.
A nest egg — or fake egg — left in each nest helps pullets learn what the nests are for. Ceramic eggs are ideal for the purpose, because they look and feel just like real eggs. Golf balls are another possibility, although some hens are not that easily fooled.
By the way, the notion that nest eggs encourage hens to lay more eggs is an old wives’ tale. Rather, nest eggs encourage your hens to lay in the nests you provide, letting you more easily find their eggs.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Written by Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens