How to Stop Chickens from Eating Their Own Eggs
It’s a chicken owners’ nightmare. You walk out to your coop to feed, water, and gather your eggs. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day, and your girls are busy chasing down bugs and scratching for hidden titbits. A smile creases your face as you gaze upon your happy, healthy flock.
You finally get to the wonderful part of raising chickens, collecting those still-warm eggs from the nesting boxes. Suddenly, your gaze settles on the horror before you. There she is. One of your prized ladies, in a fit of madness, is in the nesting box eagerly devouring one of her very own eggs!
Backyardchickenproject.com relates a story from chicken-raising friends at Reformation Acres who experienced the egg-eating phenomenon when their entire flock learned to devour their eggs. They knew they had one or two chickens involved in the debauchery. However, one day, the extent of participation in the bizarre ritual became apparent.
One cold morning, they found a half an egg frozen in the midst of being cannibalized. Accidentally, a fresh egg was dropped on the floor. In a feeding frenzy, the entire flock immediately pounced upon and fought to devour the shattered egg.
It was then the family realized that the egg-eating problem was bigger than they had imagined. Their 13-year old son tried infusing hot sauce into some Trojan Horses to undo the taste for fresh eggs, but that only added fun seasoning for the egg-hungry hens.
5 Most Common Reasons Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs
Animalwised advises the best solution to egg eating is to identify the problem. If you can recognize the root of the behavior, it can be treated.
The five most common reasons for chickens eating their eggs are health and nutritional problems, lack of water, stress or anxiety and problems with the nesting area.
Poultry diseases such as bronchitis can alter a hen’s behavior and possibly cause her to eat eggs. Parasites can cause health issues that can cause problems.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
If a hen is lacking a balanced diet or essential nutrients, she may resort to supplementing her diet. One theory is that if a chicken is lacking in calcium, this will result in weak shells. When a hen checks her eggs and finds a weak shell, she will eat it to cull out those that lack strength.
3. Lack of Water
Water is essential for keeping a chicken healthy. If she becomes dehydrated, she may turn to egg eating to ingest the liquid she requires.
4. Anxiety and Stress
Overcrowding is a common source of anxiety in chickens as is poor lighting. These are issues usually found in larger chicken farms. A stressed-out chicken may peck more and have repetitive movements that can cause the eggs to break. Eating those eggs once they are broken is common practice for an anxious bird. Once a bird gets a taste for fresh eggs, it can quickly turn into a bad habit.
5. Poor nesting area
If your nest boxes are too small, have too little bedding, and not the right lighting, this can lead to egg-eating.
There are many reasons a chicken will begin eating eggs and adopt this unwanted behavior. These carnivorous birds will certainly feast on an egg that has accidentally broken. As a result, a hen can develop the habit of purposely breaking and eating eggs. If other chickens in the vicinity watch this behavior, they may learn from it and develop a taste for eggs.
If you are feeding egg shells to your chickens to supplement and recycle their calcium supply, make sure you boil and crush the eggs to remove any likeness to the originals. If the shells you are serving are too muck like their own eggs, you may be teaching them to peck at their own eggs. There are benefits to feeding your flock their own shells if done properly.
Another culprit may be an older non-laying hen who simply is lazier in finding food and picks up eating eggs as a bad habit. Older hens and hens who are just bored or lack the space to run around may find other sources of entertainment. If you are intent on raising older birds that may be problematic, you may need to put them in a separate area.
7 Tips on How to Stop Chickens from Eating Their Own Eggs
Since the objective of most backyard chicken raisers is to produce eggs, having chickens who eat their eggs is very counterproductive. If even one of your chickens begins to show this tendency, think about the various reasons for this behavior and apply one of the solutions.
1. Take a Look at Your Chickens’ Health
They need to be getting at least 16% protein. You can supplement their diet with more protein like milk, sunflower seeds, or yogurt. In addition, your chickens need enough calcium to support egg production as well as to keep their bones strong. You should be offering your chickens free-feed calcium daily. Do not mix it in with their regular feed as too much calcium can cause problems. If they are lacking either protein or calcium, this may be the reason they are resorting to eating eggs.
Check your chickens routinely for parasites. Actively monitor for mites and parasites. If your chicken is acting erratically you may have a parasite problem. Do your research for products to eliminate unwanted pests that may be causing your chicken to break and eat her eggs.
2. Make Sure Your Nesting Box is Properly Cushioned
If the bottom of the box is not soft enough, the eggs could be breaking on contact. Once an egg is compromised, the hen will certainly finish it off. If you are just using shavings, try softer bedding like plenty of straw. You can even put a nesting mat down under your nest material to ensure the eggs have a protected landing.
Read more about what kind of nesting box material you should use here.
3. Place a Wooden or Ceramic Egg in The Nesting Box
If your chicken is in good health, she may have accidentally stumbled on egg eating and picked it up as a bad habit. The idea is that she will peck at the fake egg hoping to break it, and when she fails, she will give up. Fortunately, chickens don’t have great memories so you can trick them into forgetting about an unwanted habit.
Some chicken owners have had luck with discouraging chickens from liking the taste of their own eggs. They have filled an egg with spicy mustard. After a few eggs filled with mustard, the chickens have decided that eggs are not such a tasty treat.
4. Collect Your Eggs 2 or 3 Times a Day
This is a very simple solution if you have ruled out health and bedding issues. Collect the eggs several times a day. This may not be possible if you work a 9 to 5 job, but you should at least be able to collect them morning and evening. This disruption to the time spent with the eggs may break the egg-eating cycle.
5. Slant Your Egg Boxes
A chicken can’t eat an egg that rolls out of the nesting box. Find some DYI plans for slanting the nesting boxes so eggs roll out as soon as they are laid.
6. Modify Your Nesting Area
Remove any source of bright lights around the nests, you can make nesting curtains to dim the lights. Increase the size of your boxes to make them roomier and more padded. If chickens feel cramped and restless due to too much light or too little space, this may be causing the egg-eating issue.
7. Make Toys For Your Chickens
Your chickens may simply be bored and have too little space and too much time on their hands. If you can’t increase the size of their area and give them the freedom to run and chase bugs, try some DYI chicken toys. Give them toys to peck, swings, or even fistfuls of fresh greens and grasses to pick through when you pass by the coop. Picking and throwing weeds into the coop is easy and will distract bored hens.
More From The Hen’s Loft
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- The Best Plastic Nesting Boxes for Chickens (Reviews with Pros and Cons)
- Chicken Stop Laying? How To Get Chickens to Lay Eggs Again
- 7 Tips How to Stop Chickens from Eating Eggs (And Why They Do It)