Egg-eating among your chickens can be a huge problem. Many fowl keepers breed chickens because of the eggs. So it can be frustrating when you want to collect fresh eggs only to find out the hens have eaten them. In this article, we will discuss why chickens eat their eggs and how to stop them.
Why Do Chickens Eat Their Eggs, And Is There A Solution On How To Stop Them?
Egg eating may begin by an accident like you slipped one from your hand and fell to the ground and broke, or one of the chickens stepped on it and cracked the shell.
Chickens, in general, are omnivores, eating primarily vegetables, fruits, and insects. Occasionally, they might eat eggs. If left to their own, they eat just anything. Once a chicken has tasted a fresh egg, it may begin to break others on purpose. Then, other hens will learn and follow her.
Having a regular schedule of collecting eggs is one of the ways to prevent egg eating and even egg breaking. Most hens finish laying eggs by ten in the morning. So, collecting eggs in the morning is an excellent routine to make sure you get the freshest and best quality eggs.
Ten Reasons Chickens Eat Their Eggs
A coop filled to capacity is usually the most common cause for chickens’ egg-eating behavior. Chickens get stressed being in an overcrowded coop. When chickens get tensed, they’ll begin to jab the eggshells until it breaks and the contents spill out.
2. Lack of Nest Boxes
For every four hens, there should be at least one nest box. When you lack nest boxes, every hen will use the same boxes, and eggs may break open due to treading, rolling, and many other reasons. Thus, it’s susceptible to hens eating them when they break open. [How Many Chickens Per Nesting Boxes?]
3. Lack of Water
Chickens will crack eggs when they’re thirsty. So, provide clean and fresh water all the time.
Make sure that your chickens have enough food for them. 16 – 18 percent protein feed is enough through the laying season except when the chickens are molting, requiring higher protein.
5. Unbalanced Diet
Hens know when they have an unbalanced diet and will try to correct it. If they lack protein, eating their eggs is one way to supplement it. [16 Healthy Things to Feed Your Chickens – They Lay Eggs All Year]
Provide other activities to chickens in confinement. You likely won’t have the same dilemma with free-range hens. So, make sure your confined hens have other activities to do inside their coop.
7. A Lot of Light
Hens prefer a private and darkened area to lay eggs. When hens can’t set eyes on the eggs, they won’t peck on them. You can use dim lights or curtains to cut down the lightings.
Let your hens lay in peace, or you will stress them when you grope around under her for the eggs. When your hens get tensed, they will pick on their feathers or eggs.
9. New Hens
Hens that are new mothers can sometimes produce eggs with thin or weak shells. It’s easy for these eggs to crack, then curiosity will drive the hens to sample the goods inside the eggshells.
Sometimes, chickens will play or peck the eggs out of interest or boredom. They break the egg when they see a crack or speck. Hens certainly check out anything that interests them.
How To Spot Chickens Are Eating Their Eggs
Egg on the Chickens’ Face
Eventually, you’ll find an egg on the face and neck of your hens. Even with a close examination, it may be difficult to notice when you have fluffy chickens like the Buff Orpingtons. However, if you check them closely every day, you’ll soon find the egg on them somewhere.
There Are No Eggs Left
When you have hens, you can expect to harvest eggs unless they’re molting or it’s the winter season. Although some chicken breeds lay eggs in winter, most of them don’t.
During the summer months, younger hens lay eggs. So, if you don’t see any eggs, something must be going on.
No Signs of the Eggs
When another predator takes eggs, you might find signs like eggshells or evidence of a breach in the chicken pen or coop. But when a hen eats her eggs or the eggs of another hen, it eats the whole egg, including the shell. You’ll find no signs of the eggs somewhere.
The Egg Was Here A While Ago
You may have a lot of things to do first, or your hands are full; you can’t harvest all the eggs straightaway. When you do want to gather the eggs at the end of the day, the eggs disappeard. This picture is another warning that your hens may be consuming their eggs.
Removing the eggs as soon as you see them in the nest box is a great idea. An egg that may accidentally roll over or fall off and break is an invitation to become a chicken meal. More so, your chickens may get bored and peck to check what happens and taste and consume its content.
A Drop in the Egg Production
When you observe a drastic drop in egg production, it’s evident that the chickens aren’t just hiding the eggs somewhere. The case differs for free-range chickens that may be laying in different locations the breeder hasn’t found yet.
Nine Ways To Stop Chickens With Their Egg Eating Habit
1. Fixing Overcrowding
In the coop, it’s best to provide at least four square feet of floor space per bird. This measurement doesn’t include the nesting area and box yet.
2. Nesting Boxes
Provide one nest box of at least 12 inches by 12 inches for every four hens. The nesting boxes should be at least four feet away from the roosts as well.
Soft bedding will give protection to eggs that roll down so they won’t crack or break. More so, purchase or build slanted nesting boxes, so when the hens lay eggs, they only roll away out of their sight.
4. Balanced Diet
Provide a balanced diet intended for layers. A quality feed for laying hens includes an 18 percent protein supplement.
Some breeders feed eggs to their chickens, but they ensure the eggs are never raw. Cooked eggs are OK for chickens to eat.
5. Chicken Activities
Make sure you provide them several things to peck and do. When your chickens are bored, they tend to peck at many things, including their eggs. Provide toys for chickens to keep your fowls busy.
6. Keep The Nesting Boxes Dark
Chickens have limited visibility in the dark. One way to darken the nesting boxes so they won’t see the eggs is to sew and install (or purchase) nest box curtains.
7. Make Sure The Eggshells Are Strong
When your hens get enough calcium, they produce eggs with eggshells that don’t break easily. You can supplement your hens’ diet with oyster shells or eggshells. Also, when an egg breaks, clean it up immediately.
8. Dummy Egg
Put a golf ball or a wooden egg in the nesting box. When they can’t crack the egg, it conditions the hens not to peck on the eggs because they’re unbreakable.
You can also fill an empty egg with mustard, as most hens dislike it. This technique will also condition your hens to think that eggs have a nasty taste and never try to eat them again.
9. Collecting Eggs
Harvest eggs two to three times regularly a day to get them first before the curious hens do.
It’s not the end of a chicken breeder’s world when your hens eat their eggs. All you have to do is follow the guidelines above to find out why chickens eat their eggs, so you can also find the solution to how to stop them.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.