A couple of weeks ago, it happened. My kids were gathering eggs and they spied one of the yr old hens grabbing an egg and running away. After she broke it 3 or 4 of the other hens ran after and joined in the feast.
Egg eating by hens is a problem that rarely solves itself.
Hen eating eggs is a problem because it reduces the productivity of the flock, the habit spreads to other chickens, and it costs money if you sell your eggs.
It’s important to stop the habit as soon as possible!
Chickens eat eggs for many reasons. They could be eating eggs out of boredom, dietary needs, or because it’s a tasty, bad habit introduced by another hen.
How do you stop chickens from egg-eating once it starts? First, stop chickens from eating eggs by eliminating all dietary needs such as inadequate calcium or protein. Second, make sure that chickens aren’t introduced to egg eating by yourself accidentally, or by another chicken. Discourage the habit by adding fake eggs, ensuring nesting materials in the nesting boxes, and not feeding whole eggshells or raw eggs to your chickens.
There are 15 steps that you can take to discourage egg eating by your hens. Not all of these steps will be necessary because every flock has different needs. You may need to try 2 or 3 of these steps to curb the bad habit, but it’s definitely worth the effort!
Stop hens from eating eggs:
- Feed Your Flock A Layer Feed To Ensure They Get Enough Protein
- Provide Calcium to Hens And Keep Eggshells Strong
- Don’t Feed Chickens Raw Eggs Ever
- Feeding Hens Egg Shells The Correct Way
- Collect Eggs Frequently
- Use Ceramic or Wooden Eggs In the Nesting Boxes
- Clean Out All Remnants Of The Broken Egg
- Fill An Empty Eggshell with Mustard
- Add or Take Away Cushion To the Nesting Boxes
- Provide 1 Nesting Box Per 4 Chickens
- Keep Nesting Boxes Dim
- Raise Nesting Boxes Up
- Keep Chickens Entertained
- Build or Buy Slanted Nesting Boxes
- Separate the Hen From The Flock
- Clip the Beak
Many people recommend sending offending hens to the crockpot or stewpot, but I am still not to the point of readily culling chickens. Fortunately, these steps will cure chickens of egg-eating almost 100% of the time.
Let’s dive into how to make these steps effective!
1. Feed Your Flock A Layer Feed To Ensure They Get Enough Protein
Chickens that are not getting enough protein will start to eat eggs through instinct. Eggs have a lot of protein in them and hens know that. If your hens are free-ranging. They may not be getting enough protein. Winter, spring, and fall can be difficult seasons for hens to get enough bugs and plant vegetation.
Even free-range chickens can benefit from some supplemental feed. In addition to layer chicken feed helping your hens to lay eggs more frequently, it also keeps them healthier so they don’t seek protein by eating eggs.
My hens are free-range hens, but they also get fed in the morning and at night with layer feed. We’ve found that keeps the production of eggs up and the hens healthy.
- Hens need at least 16% protein in their diet to stay healthy while laying eggs
2. Provide Calcium to Hens And Keep Eggshells Strong
Another dietary need of hens is calcium. Eggs are like bones and they take a lot of calcium to make everyday. Allowing your hens free access to oyster shells is a great way to make sure your hens get enough calcium.
I’ve found that my chickens reguarly nibble from the oyster shells, while only my female duck will eat oyster shells. It confirms to me that nature knows best because my drake isn’t interested and doesn’t need oyster shells like my hen duck.
Oyster shells also help to keep your eggs strong. This makes the eggs less likely to break and makes it less likely that a hen will discover how tasty they are.
- Oyster shells help to build strong eggshells and enough calcium for hens
- Free-range oyster shells as chickens won’t eat too much
3. Don’t Feed Chickens Raw Eggs Ever
Never feed chickens raw eggs- no exceptions. Chickens can eat eggs healthily. They are omnivores, which means they need meat and vegetation to be healthiest.
But, if a chicken discovers and quickly develops a taste for raw eggs, she will start breaking eggs to eat the egg. Feeding your chickens eggs is ok and won’t negatively affect their health, but you should always cook the eggs before feeding them to your flock.
Cooked eggs won’t register with the hens as the same food as raw eggs. Feeding cooked eggs is a great way to not waste eggs that might be cracked, are getting a little old, or otherwise need to be thrown out.
They taste differently so hens won’t start eating raw eggs. Just remember that cooked eggs shouldn’t be salted when you feed them to your girls.
- Cook any eggs you are going to discard before feeding your hens
- Don’t salt cooked eggs as salt isn’t good for chickens
4. Feed Hens Eggshells Correctly
Along the same lines, be careful about feeding hens eggshells. Most chicken owners that I know feed their chickens eggshells. However, if not done right, it can start your hens on the path to breaking and eating eggs.
Recycling eggshells helps to provide calcium to your hens, but it can also show hens that eggs are edible.
If you don’t need to worry about calcium and have enough oyster shells, then use the eggshells for your compost and garden. It’s great for gardening.
But, if you choose to feed eggshells to your hens, make sure that the eggshells are crushed very finely. The more finely they are crushed, them less likely hens are to recognize eggshells as eggs.
Some people like to blend the eggshells in a blender. You can also mix them with oyster shells.
Another factor to be aware of is that some eggshells have enough raw egg residue to introduce the taste of raw eggs to the hens. Consider heating eggshells enough that residue eggs are cooked in the shells.
- Finely crush eggshells
- Mix eggshells with oyster shells
- Heat eggs shells that have a lot of raw egg residue in them
5. Collect Eggs Frequently
Collecting eggs frequently throughout the day helps to curb egg-eating. Eggs that are frequently collected are less likely to get broken. Plus there is a much lower chance that bored chickens will peck at them and discover the treat.
Although many chickens lay in the morning, my flock of 21 chickens lay all day. Check your eggs 3 or 4 times a day and collect any new eggs.
- Frequent egg collecting helps to prevent curious egg pecking
6. Use Ceramic or Wooden Eggs In the Nesting Boxes
Fake eggs serve two purposes with chickens. They train hens to lay eggs in specific places and they help to keep hens from eating raw eggs. Hens that peck at a ceramic egg will find that its hard and uncomfortable to attempt to break.
It also prevents a reward for pecking. Bored hens can accidentally break and egg and discover the tastiness. Ceramic eggs are always available in the nesting boxes.
Since they are available more often than real eggs, hens quickly learn that it’s not worthwhile to peck eggs. Ceramic and wooden eggs can helpt to stop egg eating as well as prevent it.
Another benefit of ceramic eggs is that it helps to discourage pest egg stealers such as snakes, rats and other predators.
A side note:
I have heard it said that golf balls do the same thing. But, I have found this to be untrue with my flock. My broody hens sit on the eggs, but push the golf balls away from the rest of the eggs. The hens don’t peck at the golf balls.
While ceramic and wooden eggs look and feel like real eggs, my hens can tell the difference between golf balls and real eggs.
- Ceramic and wooden eggs won’t break and reward chickens for pecking at them
- Fake eggs help chickens know where to lay eggs
- It discourages egg predators such as snakes and rats
7. Clean Out All Remnants Of The Broken Egg
If you do find a broken egg in your nesting box, clean up all remnants immediately. Yolks, eggs, and egg whites over the nesting box and materials creates an invitation for hens to eat eggs.
Discard all nesting materials that have any eggs on them and replace with new straw or hay. Nesting materials are great for gardens or compost!
- Discard any nesting materials with eggs on them and clean the nesting boxes
8. Fill An Empty Eggshell with Mustard
Another easy and usually effective solution to egg eating is to provide your hens with a nasty surprise. Blow out an eggshell by creating a small hole on both ends with a pin or small nail.
After the egg yolk is out, fill the eggshell with yellow mustard. Most chickens have sensitive tastes and don’t like the strong scent and taste of mustard.
This solution did not work with my hens. The offending hen ate at least 2 full mustard-filled eggs and the mustard. She didn’t mind the taste at all. So I had to resort to other options.
- Fill whole empty eggshells with mustard to create a nasty surprise for offending hens
9. Add or Take Away Hay To / From the Nesting Boxes
Another easy solution you are hopefully already doing is to provide hay, straw, or grass to your nesting boxes. Hens do better if they have a softer place to lay their eggs and a cushion helps eggs not to break or crack.
An accidentally broken or cracked egg can introduce egg eating to an unsuspecting hen. Additionally, if your hens mess the nesting boxes, you will want to clean them out or they won’t lay in the boxes.
Another idea is to take away the hay and straw so that the egg more easily rolls away when pecked at. As every breed of chicken is different, you may need to experiment to see which method works best.
Another benefit is that this helps to eliminate broody chickens.
- Pad nesting boxes with hay, grass, straw or other soft materials to prevent cracked eggs
- Take away bedding to make the nesting box more uncomfortable for hens and eggs harder to crack
10. Provide 1 Nesting Box Per 4 Chickens
Too little nesting boxes for your flock of hens can introduce egg eating. That’s because if there aren’t enough nesting boxes hens will be crowded while laying eggs. The jostling, squishing and movement will make it more likely for an egg to break.
A broken egg will get sampled by hens.
You should provide at least 1 nesting box for every 4 hens. Not all the nesting boxes may be used- my hens still prefer 3 nesting boxes and a hidden location. But, to be fair, I have only had 1 nesting box for every 6 hens. So I am working on additional nesting boxes for my hens.
This is probably the main issue with my hens.
- Provide one nesting for every 4 chickens
11. Keep Nesting Boxes Dim or Dark
Darker nesting boxes help to discourage egg eating because hens don’t stay in the nesting boxes for longer than they need to (unless they go broody). It also helps hens not to see the nesting boxes as clearly.
Avoid installing lights near the nesting boxes and if possible shield them from sunlight. This can be done with curtains or by placing the nesting boxes toward the back of the coop so sunlight doesn’t come in as much.
- Avoid bright lighting near the nesting boxes
12. Raise Nesting Boxes Above Ground Level
If your chickens can see the eggs in the nesting boxes as they are wandering around, they are more likely to peck at them. Raise the nesting boxes several inches above your tallest hen so that chickens have to fly into the boxes to lay eggs.
This will discourage chickens from finding the eggs and experimenting with them. Remember, chickens are super curious birds.
It’s fairly easy to raise nesting boxes. Raise them on cement blocks, 5 gallon buckets, or screw them higher on the wall of your chicken coop.
- Raise nesting boxes above the head of your tallest chicken
13. Keep Chickens Entertained
Bored chickens can often resort to pecking at eggs out of boredom. Keep your chickens entertained and they will be less likely to discover egg eating. Check out this article on how to entertain chickens.
Free-ranging chickens helps with boredom. In the winter, provide additional treats and toys for chickens to play with. Old stumps, cabbages, and grass piles help to entertain chickens.
- A bored chicken is more likely to peck at eggs and taste them
14. Build or Buy Slanted Nesting Boxes
Another option is to create slanted nesting boxes. The eggs roll down the nesting box away from where the hens can reach it. Nesting boxes like this can be purchased or made.
If you already have nesting boxes, you can add a second floor that slants even though it may not completely hide the eggs from the girls.
One easy way to slant the boxes is to use a paint tray with legs. Paint trays will slant downward at about a 5 degree angle. Then use a piece of wood to cover the lower part of the tray. This will hide the eggs from the hens so they can’t peck at them.
- Use nesting boxes that roll the egg out of sight
- Slanted nesting boxes shouldn’t have nesting materials in them as it will prevent the eggs from rolling
15.Separate the Hen From The Flock
If egg-eating still persists, take the offending hens and separate them from the flock. Often a change of scenery and companions makes a difference in bad habits. This can be done by putting your offending chickens in a chicken tractor if they are used to free-roaming.
Or, you can split up the flock.
Monitor the offending chickens and use some of the other tools in this article to break the habit when they are isolated.
If the bad habit persists when the hens are reunited with the flock, then consider giving away your offender. Many times the offender won’t continue the bad habits in another flock.
As a last resort, offending chickens may need to be culled and stewed.
- Separate offenders from the rest of the flock
- Possibly give away offenders or cull them from the flock
16. Clip The Beak
Another extreme measure is to clip the very end of your hen’s beak. If the very end is clipped, it won’t hurt the chicken and will make it more difficult for her to break eggs.
I have never tried this method as I’m a little wary of accidentally clipping too much. But, many chicken raisers are able to clip the sharp part without harming or hurting the hen.
- Trip the point of the beak to make it harder to crack eggs
Resources Used in This Article
Nestbox camera: Catch your offending chicken with a wildlife camera found on Amazon. Just attach it and aim at your nesting boxes.
Eggroll box: Here’s an example of an eggroll box you can purchase. You can also make your own and use this one as a model.
Clippers: These animal clippers are a little more than the cheapest options on Amazon, but the quality makes them worth it!
Nesting Pads: Purchase nesting pads on Amazon here.
Egg Basket to Collect Fresh Eggs: An egg basket makes gathering eggs a lot easier than other options.
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