Free-range chickens hiding eggs is something homesteaders have been dealing with for many generations. You give them a nice cozy little nesting box for their convenience but instead they decide to lay them in some random place that you don’t find for months.
Free range chickens like to lay their eggs in a place where they feel safe and comfortable. This place isn’t necessarily the same spot the homesteader intended. Egg hiding places for free-range hens can sometimes be solved by providing adequate nesting boxes and using fake eggs to encourage laying in them.
With all a chicken keeper’s best efforts though, chickens will still decide to find their own nesting area. When this happens homesteaders need to become part private investigator to keep surveillance on them and locate the hidden nests.
From asking all of our friends who also raise chickens, a poll I did on a homesteading Facebook group, and our own experience having free-range chickens, I’ve compiled a list of some likely hiding places and some very odd ones too. I’ll also share a few tips to help encourage them to lay in the coop instead.
Why Chickens Hide Their Eggs
Like most birds, chicken mothers have a natural instinct to protect their babies from harm. Chicken hens lay eggs in a hidden location to keep herself from being harassed by a rooster, predators, or other hens trying to lay eggs too. Even if there is no rooster in the flock and her eggs aren’t fertilized she still thinks they are and is trying to raise a family anyway. She may not even by “broody” but she still has that instinct to find a safe secure hiding spot.
Likely Hiding Locations for Nests
Here’s a list of likely hiding spots that chickens typically find to lay their eggs. There were a lot of common locations from all the information I gathered compared with what we’ve seen here on the Country Family Homestead.
I got this response from several people and we’ve experienced this ourselves. Actually our girls lay eggs in the dog house so often that we make it part of the routine of collecting eggs to check the dog house if they’ve been out in the yard that day.
This is another common spot. I have a “shed in a box” which is a metal frame with a tarp over it basically where I store one of my tractors and some long handled tools. One spring when I went in to pull the tractor out I had quite a surprise – A pile of over 30 eggs on the ground in the back corner of the shed on the gravel. It’s lose enough where the door zips down for a chicken to squeeze through and I don’t go in there during the winter months. I guessing one of the girls probably started laying in there in late fall and continued through the winter. We don’t let them out of the run everyday in winter and also don’t use artificial light to induce laying otherwise that pile may have been even bigger!
Mary Jane from Facebook said one of her hens laid and hatched a brood of chicks in a tiny shed where the dog slept. She said the dog was a chicken killer when they got it but he never bothered the hen and chicks even as she brought them back every evening to sleep.
A nice soft bale of hay or straw is a tempting spot for a hen to scratch out a nest and lay her eggs. We had two straw bales stacked up under the lean-to which must have enticed one of our hens because it was a favorite spot for her for a few weeks until we needed the straw. Checking here was also part of the routine for that time period.
Flower Pots & Back Porch
A few people told me they find eggs in their flower pots on the porch quite often. We usually have a couple flower pots on our back porch but we’ve never found an egg in them. We did find however, an egg on top of an Amazon box that the UPS driver left on the back porch. That was quite a surprise.
Under a Bush or Shrub
For a keeper of free-range chickens it’s hard to even have any sort of nice landscaping because the chickens find it irresistible to scratch the area up looking for tasty treats. It could be more out of laziness to walk back to the coop, but they seem to think it’s also a good spot to lay an egg. Our experience is that it’s more random than anything and we don’t usually find them in a pile or a consistent location.
Back of the Truck or Trailer
This may seem like it belongs under the strange locations heading, but it turns out it is quite common. This happened to us twice and both times the truck was just parked earlier that day. The first one was when i backed the truck to the back of the pole barn during construction. The tailgate was down and back filled with sheets of OSB. The next morning when I went to start pulling the OSB out of the truck to work on the barn, I found an egg in the bed. The same hen tried several more times to lay there but I think the construction disturbed her too much so she finally gave up.
The other instance for us was when I got back from the store with drain tile for the barn. I opened the tailgate when I got home and went in for lunch. When I came out to unload, there was a hen sitting on an egg in the back of the truck. They sure are quick to take advantage of a cozy nesting place.
Jonathon, Carol, Rosdan, and Mandy from Facebook all told me of similar instances where leaving the truck or SUV open for only a short time led to a chicken laying an egg. Tiffany said a plumber came to fix some broken pipes and their hens laid eggs in the open tool drawers while he was inside working.
Strange Locations Chickens Hide Eggs
In the Boat
My 12′ aluminum boat is stored under my lean-to. I saw a chicken jump down from it several times so I thought I should take a look for eggs. A quick glance found nothing, but after I saw the same hen up there again I investigated a little further. This time under some life jackets I found a handful of eggs.
Amanda from Facebook told me she had a duck that kicked the cat out of the litter box and took over to hatch a clutch of ducklings. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone had a similar story about chickens.
Pile of Junk
Here’s some strange locations people told me about: a box of nails, a bucket of chain, a leaning pile of sheet metal where the egg rolled of and broke every time. On top of or even inside old vehicles parked out back is another popular location for them.
Our own chickens never really seem to rummage around out by the compost pile, but I see our neighbor’s chickens out there quite regularly. One day when I took the kitchen scraps out to the compost pile, I saw a little nest hollowed out in the compost with 4 chicken eggs in it. I told the neighbor if they’re short on eggs to check the compost too.
In the House?
I was very surprised to get a couple of responses that said the house was the strangest place their chickens lay eggs. My first thought was “why are chickens in your house?”, but who am I to judge. If you want to let your chickens in the house, it’s none of my never mind, I won’t say a word.
Angel Marie said the sliding door was open a jar to the guest bedroom. It didn’t take long for a hen to realize that the bedspread is nice place to lay an egg.
Patricia said her hens like to lay eggs on the landing halfway up the stairs in the house. She said it makes her feel like Ma Kettle! I guess it makes for a shorter trip to go fetch fresh eggs.
Tips to Encourage Laying in Nesting Boxes
When chickens are young and just start laying eggs, they will sometimes lay them in the corner of the coop or out in the run because they are just not sure where they should lay them. One trick for that is place golf balls or fake eggs in the nesting boxes to give them a visual clue. Here’s some ceramic nesting eggs from Amazon if you need some.
The other thing we like to do is keep their nesting boxes clean to make them inviting. We also sometimes mix up the boxes with straw in some and pine shavings in the other in case the girls have a preference. We get eggs in both so there must be some truth to that.
If your chickens free range a lot they will still lay eggs all over the homestead no matter how hard you try to prevent it. You will just have to accept the girls for who they are and each time you go out to gather eggs your path might end up looking like Jeffry’s from the Family Circus.