When we were kids, many of us probably enjoyed scavenger hunts. Taking direction from clues to guide us to the prize at the end was wildly entertaining to our young minds and we had great fun back then. Now that we are getting older, however, scavenger hunts are not the same good times they once were. Especially high on the 'not fun' list are scavenger hunts for eggs laid by our very own chickens.
A while back we had a Japanese Bantam go missing. We thought she died, but a few weeks later, she surfaced with five chicks in tow. During that time we saw no signs of her; we actually had no idea she even laid those eggs, or any eggs ever for that matter. This was her first effort, and what a secretive one it was. On down the road, one of her chicks grew up and started laying eggs of her own. She, too, could not be troubled with proper locations and I sometimes wondered if this was a trait she inherited. She laid where she felt like it, which was in the horses' feed buckets. While that might seem like an odd location to some, horse feed buckets are a very popular egg laying location around here. After a while you learn to look before you let the horses in and pour feed.
She looks a little annoyed that I found her, if I do say so.
If you wish to keep your chickens laying in the right locations, there are a few steps you can take to encourage good laying behavior. First and foremost, do your breed research and select a breed that is not known for errant egg laying. Believe it or not, some breeds are known for being troublesome layers, preferring to literally step outside of the box when selecting places to lay eggs. One example of this is the White-Faced Black Spanish, which tends to lay in peculiar places. Avoiding such breeds is a step towards having your eggs where you want them to be.
Be sure that you have a proper amount of nesting boxes in a location that is satisfactory to your chickens. Hens prefer space and comfort, so be sure to avoid overcrowding. They also like privacy, so whenever possible, erect barriers between boxes to allow for undisturbed laying. Quiet, dark places with soft bedding make good nesting areas as well. If you have any doubt about the environment your hens prefer to lay in, consider where they lay on their own accord and copy it to the best of your ability.
Keep your chickens in longer in the morning instead of letting them right out to free range. Egg laying generally occurs in the morning hours, but not always the earliest ones. If you have a problem with eggs being laid out and about, keep your chickens in the coop until the egg-laying part of their day has passed will help get those eggs laid in the proper place.
If you've taken all of these steps and still have egg placement issues, try using a training egg for encouragement. This can be a fake ceramic egg or even a golf ball. Place this training egg in their nesting boxes to give them the idea that eggs belong there.
Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration to get your chickens laying properly. Some hens may be more difficult than others regardless of breed, and some may never catch on, giving you a scavenger hunt or even some surprise chicks. When all is said and done, however, most chickens will lay happily as long as you provide an environment that is to their liking. Figuring out what they like holds the key to properly placed eggs aplenty and if you pay close attention, they will surely tell you what that is.