Friday, December 1, 2017

How to prevent (or stop) an egg eating chicken

Many chicken keepers only have chickens for the eggs. Imagine the dismay when you find that the hens are eating the eggs before you can! Egg eating is not terribly common in backyard hens but it can become a huge problem. Once a hen starts eating her own eggs, she may move on to eating all the eggs. Since chickens are of the 'monkey see ~ monkey do' variety, once egg eating starts with one hen you can very quickly end up with an entire flock with egg on their faces! 

Luckily there are a few simple steps to prevent egg eating in chickens. It's a little harder to stop egg eating once hens have started, but it's possible. Obviously though, it makes more sense to try to prevent egg eating then to have to stop egg eating in chickens. While it's not bad for your chickens health to eat their own eggs, it's certainly counterproductive for the chicken keeper!

Prevent egg eating | chickens

Let's begin with why chickens eat their own eggs. Generally it starts with a broken egg. Whether it falls onto the floor, or they just smash together and break in the nest box ... once a hen sees what deliciousness is inside, she's sure to gobble it straight down. That's not to say that one dropped egg will start your flock on the road to egg eating. Repeated incidences could though. 

Preventing egg eating in chickens

Have enough nest boxes. Yes, I'm well aware of the phenomenon that happens with chickens and nest boxes. No matter how high your nest box to laying hen ratio might be, the majority of the hens will all want to lay their egg in the same nest box. You still have to try! Lol Seriously though, having enough nest boxes can keep the eggs for accumulating in one nest box. A good number is 1 nest box for every 4 laying hens. If a hen tries to lay in a full nest box, the eggs could bump together and crack as she situates herself. Cracked eggs ooze and once they realize there's food in those eggs it could be hard to get them to stop eating them.

Well padded nest boxes: When the nest box is full of straw or shavings the eggs have a lower chance of breaking on the bottom or sides of the nest box. Make sure each nest has a few inches of clean bedding.

Move the broody hens out: A broody hen spends the entire day in a nest box. To keep her from crowding the other girls by taking up space, provide extra nest boxes or move the broody to a separate area. 

Correct diet: Make sure your hens are getting enough calcium and protein in their diets. A balanced egg layer feed should have at least 16% protein and added calcium. Lack of calcium causes thin shelled eggs which break easily. A hen will eat a broken egg and it could start an egg eating habit.

Have food available: Don't let your flock get so hungry that they turn to egg eating out of desperation. 

Low light in nest boxes: Adding curtains like these to block the light coming into the nest box can prevent egg eating. Since they can't see terribly well in the dark, the hens will probably leave their egg and get out instead of hanging out looking for a snack (which they now can't see in the dark!)

Stop a chicken from eating eggs

Collect eggs regularly: Collect eggs first thing in the morning. Check for fresh eggs frequently. The sooner you remove the eggs the less chance there is a hen will try to eat one. Read more: How often should you collect eggs? 

Prevent boredom: Chickens do funny things when they're bored and egg eating can be one of those things. If they must be penned up for long periods of time, provide them with distractions. A handful of scratch tossed into the coop litter can keep them busy digging and scratching. Hang apples with twine or fill a treat ball or suet cage with greens to peck at. 

Stopping an egg eating chicken

Separate the culprit: Remove the egg eating hen from the flock while you try to correct her behavior. This prevents other hens from seeing her eat eggs and joining in. Try to collect her eggs as soon as she lays them for a few days before returning her to the flock. This may be enough to derail her egg eating behavior. If you're not sure which hen it is, it's usually fairly simple to tell. Their not terribly clean about egg eating and they often have yolk on their faces. You could also lay an egg on floor of the coop and watch the hens to see which one goes for it.

Ceramic eggs or golf balls: Some people swear by adding ceramic eggs to the nest box. In theory the chicken pecks the egg, it doesn't break so she gives up. Chances are she will try more than once though and if she eventually gets a real egg, it will reinforce to her that there's food in them. Make sure to collect the eggs regularly so she only has the fake ones available to her when she decides to be naughty.

Mustard eggs: This is a piece of old timers advice, but it usually works pretty well! Poke a hole in each end of an egg and blow out the contents. Fill the egg with mustard. Chickens hate mustard. Weird, I know because they eat everything else! Anyway... Put the egg back in the nest box. Chicken pecks egg, gets mustard instead and decides to never do that again. This could take a few tries, but it usually works. There's also a variation of this method using hot sauce which does not make sense because chickens lack heat receptors in their mouths so they can't taste the heat. Stick to the mustard, we know they hate that. A third variation uses dish soap but that's just cruel.

Pinless peepers: These funny looking blinders were created to stop feather picking among the flock, but they can often prevent egg eating too.

If all else fails you may have to cull the hen. Some hens just don't stop egg eating once they get started, which is why the preventative measures are a good idea for all flocks. It's better to not let the egg eating start then to try to break it!

~L

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2 comments:

  1. I had what I think was 2 egg eaters recently but I found that a combination of adding a china egg and regularly collecting eggs seems to have stopped them. I also give them ash to scratch around in. Fingers crossed I have stopped them.

    ReplyDelete