We have 38 pullets, mostly New Hampshires and some Ameraucanas, that are about to start producing eggs. Actually we've had a few "pullet eggs" already; the smaller-than-normal eggs that the birds typically lay shortly before going into full production. Close observation of the birds themselves, especially the condition of their combs, also indicates that a high percentage of them are nearing that stage.
So, this weekend I will be building additional nest boxes for the coops that need them, to make sure there is plenty of nest space for the girls. The typical advice is to provide one nest box for every four hens. However, our experience has been that if you have, say, a row of five nest boxes, the hens will head for the ones in the corners, ignoring the others unless they're desperate and the corner nests are occupied. Hens also prefer to lay eggs in nests that already have eggs in them, so I will be putting wooden eggs in all the nests, to give the newbies the idea.
It's always a challenge, with our free-range situation, to get pullets in the habit of laying in the nest boxes and not out in the bushes. But with adequate nest space, and the older hens setting the example, I'm optimistic. And of course we are looking forward to the increased production; nearly all the eggs we've been collecting lately (chicken, duck and turkey eggs) have gone to the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim. Our other regular customers will be happy about it too!