Easter egg hunts are fun on Easter morning, but hunting for eggs on a daily basis is probably not something you are going to enjoy. Chickens who are not trained to lay their eggs in a specific location will lay their eggs wherever they want to.
If left to their own devices, chickens will spend their days searching your yard for food and their nights roosting in a location that is relatively safe from predators. Chickens do not have a strong desire to wander. As long as all their needs are met in one general location, your chickens will more-or-less stay put in that location. You can take advantage of this natural behavior when you start training them to lay their eggs in a specific location.
Your chicken coop is going to be the easiest place to start training your hens where to lay their eggs. Close your hens inside the coop so they cannot leave the coop to lay their eggs elsewhere. Your hens need to get used to the idea of laying their eggs and roosting inside the coop. Place nesting boxes inside the coop to give the hens have a safe, secure place to lay their eggs. Some people choose to put a fake egg or two inside the nesting box so hens get the hint of what they are supposed to do with the nesting boxes. You can try relocating your hens eggs into the nesting boxes when they lay them in other locations. Hens kept completely inside the coop should get into the habit of laying their eggs in the coop, specifically in the nesting box, once they have been doing it for a few months.
Chickens who live outdoors are considered to be free-range birds. It is more difficult to train free-range chickens to lay their eggs inside the coop because they have significantly more options as to where they can lay their eggs. You will need to start off training your chickens to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes that are inside the coop. If your chickens are sufficiently coop-trained then they will continue to return to the coop to lay their eggs even after you allow them outdoors. If your chickens continue to lay eggs wherever they please, you may have to make them live in a chicken coop full-time, long-term.
The younger your hens are, the easier they will be to train to lay their eggs in a specific location. When you add new hens to your flock, you will need to coop-train them. New hens in your flock will not automatically figure out where to lay their eggs without training. You may periodically have to remind your chickens of their training by returning them to the coop if they start laying their eggs in undesirable locations.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.