When the eggs in the coop continue to go missing, chances are, you probably have an egg-eating chicken. Unfortunately, chickens that taste raw eggs usually continue to break and eat them. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can get your chickens to stop eating their eggs.
Why do chickens eat their own eggs? While there are a few factors why chickens eat eggs. The most likely reason your chicken is eating its eggs is likely because it’s dealing with a calcium deficiency or it’s not getting enough protein and has turned to the egg to provide those nutrients. Hens may accidentally become egg eaters. By nature, chickens are very inquisitive, and most hens will taste an egg if another hen is already eating it. They will also taste an egg if it gets accidentally broken or dropped. Lastly, owners can accidentally influence hens to eat their own eggs.
But, after the first time, it quickly develops a taste for eggs. Once you identify why your chicken is eating its eggs, there are a few measures you can take to stop the problem and prevent it from continuing in your flock. You must act quickly as egg eating can spread immediately and is usually difficult to cure.
As soon as you notice any signs of broken eggs, you must immediately identify the culprits and stop the habit. Egg eating will spread through an entire flock very quickly, and if it’s not taken care of quickly, it often permanently ruins the flock. At that point, you will have to choose between keeping your chickens as just pets or culling them and starting over.
You need to take two main actions: 1- Identify the culprit(s) and 2- Simultaneously take steps to stop the habit.
Chickens Eat Eggs To Obtain Needed Nutrients
Chickens are resourceful when it comes to getting the nutrients they need. If nutrients your chicken are missing, they will often crack the eggshell to get those nutrients. Key nutrients are calcium or protein. Chickens use a lot of calcium to produce eggs, as each shell is made of 95% calcium carbonate. Producing just one egg uses half of the calcium that a chicken consumes in one day.
If your chicken has a calcium deficiency, they know that they can get the calcium they need from eggshells. If they’re not getting enough protein in their diet, they also know that eating egg yolk will give them the nutrients they need… You can rule this issue out by making sure you’re feeding your chickens a feed that provides them with the nutrition they require. It would be best if you fed egg Laying chickens a layer feed. Egg-laying hens need 15-18% protein in their feed.
One immediate way to know that your egg-laying hen has a calcium deficiency is to examine her eggs. If her eggs are soft, transparent, have fragile shells, or no shells at all, you’ve found your problem. You may also notice her struggling when it comes to laying her eggs, or her egg production can also decline.
Chickens will often start breaking eggs before their shells become translucent because they will feel their calcium deficiency before it becomes apparent to the homesteader.
How To Tell Which Chicken Is Breaking The Eggs
First, take an egg that one of your chickens has laid- not a store-bought egg- out of the coop. Head to where your chickens are gathered and calmly crouch down so that you don’t spook them away, and they continue to go about their business comfortably.
Next, set the egg down and gently roll it towards your chickens. You want to avoid breaking the egg when you roll it. They’ll likely go after it, but once they realize it’s not a critter, they’ll lose interest. The egg-eating culprit will immediately go after it and start pecking at it to eat it. Now it’s time for you to damage control by getting into how to stop them and prevent the behavior altogether.
This can take some time and careful observation as some hens seem smart enough not to crack an egg in front of you. If you can’t trick your egg-eater into cracking the egg, then watch the coop in the mornings when your hens are laying eggs. Try to observe the behavior.
4 Ways to Stop Your Chickens from Eating Their Eggs
You must provide for your flock’s needs because chickens quickly develop bad coping habits when their needs aren’t met. Key needs include dietary needs and adequate space. But, occasionally, hens may stumble upon egg-eating accidentally and quickly adopt it as a habit.
Separate the suspected egg-eaters from the rest of your flock while you work to reverse the habit. This helps to prevent egg eating from spreading. You can use a dog cage or separate part of your coop with fencing. You can help to stop and prevent egg eating by taking these 5 crucial steps.
Add Calcium Into Your Chickens’ Diet
Adding calcium to your chicken’s diet ensures increased eggshell strength. But, before you supplement calcium, it’s important to be aware of the various needs of your chickens during different ages of their lives.
First, don’t supplement calcium to chicks as it can hurt their kidneys. Please wait until your hens are laying, or they’re showing signs that they will start laying soon. This happens at around 16 to 22 weeks on average and depends on their breed.
Second, keep in mind that this is not meant to substitute the food and grit needed to stay healthy. It’s best to give your chickens the proper nutrition they need according to their age, which also varies whether they’re laying eggs or not.
The two most common ways to give your chickens a calcium supplement are giving their eggshells back to them (after cleaning and crushing) and/or by giving them crushed oyster shells.
Give Hens A Nesting Box.
Your chickens need to have a designated egg-laying spot. Otherwise, they’ll lay their eggs in random places, or they won’t lay any eggs at all. There should be at least one nesting box for every 3 to 4 chickens.
The nesting box should be dim and cozy, where they feel safe. You can put a curtain on it as well. It can be effective in darkening the nesting boxes. Boxes should also have some bedding to make them soft. Hay or bedding material will work. This serves as comfort and so that the eggs don’t crack when they are laid. You want to avoid cracked eggs because an accidentally cracked egg has often taught hens to eat eggs. It also protects them from bacteria and preserves them if you want to hatch chicks.
Put A Fake Egg In The Nesting Box.
Fake eggs are made out of wood, rubber, or even an egg-shaped rock. This serves two purposes. One is that they’ll peck away thinking that it’s going to crack, but it won’t. They’ll go until they give up and lose interest. Hopefully, they’ll think that other eggs are the same and stop their bad habit. The second purpose is that it’ll encourage your chickens to lay their eggs in there.
Collect Eggs Early and Immediately After The Egg Song
Chickens usually lay their eggs in the morning. However, this varies as some chickens prefer to lay at other times. That’s why it’s good to be in the habit of checking your nesting box twice a day. The longer the eggs stay in there, the more likely it is for an accident to happen or an egg to get eaten.
If you hear a hen laying an egg, quickly retrieve that egg, so none of your girls have a chance to break and eat it.
Fill Empty Shells With An Unpleasant Surprise
Several of us at bestfarmanimals.com have tried this method with various degrees of success. You’re going to trick your egg-eating chicken by filling an egg with mustard and hot sauce or soap.
First, prepare mustard and hot sauce mix. You can also do mustard and dish soap, which is said to be very effective as well. Make sure the mix has the look and consistency of egg yolk.
Next, take one of their eggs as a store-bought egg won’t fool them. If you find one that has a hole pecked in it, feel free to use it. If it doesn’t, wash off the egg and use a sharp drill bit to manually put two small holes in the egg, one on the top and another on the bottom.
Next, blow at least half of the yolk out of the egg by blowing through one of the holes. You may need to stick something small and sharp enough like a needle to burst the egg yolk so that it will come out more easily.
Finally, use a turkey baster or a liquid measuring syringe to add your unpleasant mix to the egg. Sneakily place the egg back in the coop and watch the magic happen. Once your egg-eater pecks at that egg, it will be so disgusted it will be doubtful that it’ll eat an egg again.
If you find that it didn’t work, do it again, as some chickens need this trick to be done a couple of times to learn their lesson. At bestfarmanimals.com, we discovered that some chickens could actually develop a taste for mustard…
Egg Eating Prevention Habits
It’s much easier to prevent egg-eating than to stop it. Sometimes, egg-eating becomes so prevalent that no amount of reaction will stop the habit.
Train Hens Young.
When it comes to egg-eating, prevention is key. It’s best to start training them from when they are chicks. When they’re young, don’t allow them to get into the habit of eating eggs by providing them balanced nutrition and keeping eggs away from them.
Don’t Throw Used Egg Shells Back to Chickens Without Prepping Them First.
If you’re on a budget or simply looking to be more sustainable, the easiest way to give your chickens some calcium is by keeping your eggshells. When cooking eggs for yourself, keep your eggshells, rinse them, and set them aside.
When you’ve got a good collection going, place them in the oven at 280 degrees for about ten minutes to kill any bacteria. Then, crush them in a mortar and pestle or use a coffee grinder to grind them down. Grind them in your blender, but be aware that they may scratch the container.
Finally, place the shells in a separate feeder for your chickens to eat at will or mix it into their feed. This may seem like a lot of work, but cooking and blending the shells help your chickens not to develop a taste for the rawer-tasting eggshell and recognize that they are eating eggs. Many hens who get used to eating cracked, raw eggshells eventually start cracking eggs.
Provide A Calcium Supplement
Have a calcium source available for them at all times in a separate place, and they’ll take what they need when they need it. If they don’t have it, they’ll likely try to get it from their eggs.
Provide nesting boxes
Your chickens should always have a designated egg-laying spot. When a hen wants to lay, she’ll find a place to lay even if it’s not available. However, if her eggs are in random places, they’ll be vulnerable to breaking and being eaten.
Don’t let broody hens lay on only one egg at a time.
If you have a broody hen and want to give her eggs to incubate, wait until you have at least 8 – 10 (or what comfortably fits under her) and give them all to her at once. That way, she’ll protect her eggs from the other hens who may want to peck at or steal her eggs. If you give her one egg at a time, she may abandon the nest leaving the eggs vulnerable, or the eggs won’t incubate on the same schedule, causing many other problems. Check out this article on how to stop a broody hen from being broody.
Regularly Examine Eggs TO Make Sure Shells Are Healthy
Every time your hens lay eggs, take a few seconds to examine them. Are the shells soft and easy to push in or fragile? Are their eggs transparent? Is there no shell at all?! This is an immediate indicator that a hen has a calcium deficiency, and her current diet isn’t providing her what she needs to develop strong shells.
Always provide hens with fresh, cold water.
Chickens always need water to keep them cool and to produce their eggs. Keeping them hydrated is a surefire way to make sure they’re prepared for healthy egg production and to keep them from pecking at their eggs to get a drink.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my chicken a cannibal?
Unfortunately, chickens become cannibalistic very quickly. Cannibalism develops in a flock due to bullying, which is more extreme and different than a healthy pecking order. Egg eating, another form, can easily be prevented by providing an adequate amount of food, preventing overpopulation, and giving them the housing and space they need. Check out this article for signs of bullying and this one on steps to stopping bullying among your flock.
Can chickens eat raw eggs?
Chickens who devour raw eggs develop a taste and often a preference for them. If hens are laying eggs with salmonella, it can affect the hens. If this problem is not addressed within days of its first occurrence, it will likely spread to other hens and become impossible to stop.
To conclude, while egg-eating chickens can be a daunting problem to overcome, it is preventable and completely reversible. As long as your chickens are getting the food, space, and entertainment they need, they’ll have no interest in eating the eggs you’ve raised them to give you. By spending just a few minutes a day looking at them for unusual behavior and examining their eggs, you’ll quickly spot any issues and be able to nip them in the bud quickly.