How to Stop Chickens from Eating Their Eggs
One of the frustrating moments in chicken keeping is wondering why do my chickens eat their eggs. After all, we keep chickens so that we can enjoy fresh eggs for breakfast and baking. Egg eating is a phenomenon any chicken keeper can encounter. As you reach into the nest box to collect eggs, you find a sticky, wet mess instead. If this has happened to you, one or more of your chickens may be an egg eater.
Why Do my Chickens Eat Their Eggs?
Egg facts tell us that eggs contain a unique combination of nutrients and are delicious, too. Unfortunately, if your chickens discover this delicacy, it can be hard to break the egg eating habit. One hen will excitedly begin eating an egg in the nest box, all the while making satisfied clucking sounds. These happy sounds attract other hens. Now the whole flock is participating in cleaning up the egg. A bad habit has been born.
Perhaps a weak-shelled egg is broken when the next hen enters the nest box. The hen may quietly clean up the mess, and snuggle in to lay her own egg. As her egg drops to the messy box, some yolk will stick to the new egg and dry on the shell. This dried egg can encourage the next hen to peck the egg out of curiosity. The cycle continues and you end up getting far fewer fresh eggs from your flock.
Having a curious hen or an alpha hen can also lead to a problem with egg eating. Some hens just have to peck at everything. As she pecks an egg from another hen, she makes a hole. Tastes good! Next thing you know, the egg is being devoured by the flock.
What Can be Done About Egg Eating?
When you’re keeping backyard chickens for eggs and the laying chickens don’t provide eggs, some people will have a no tolerance policy and take measures to cull an offending chicken immediately. Personally, I have trouble with the thought of culling a chicken for being an egg eater. I try other means of stopping the behavior. But what if you are asking why do my chickens eat their eggs and you don’t know which one is the culprit? In addition to searching the flock for egg on the beak, there are a few tricks you can try.
If you can see egg on the beak of one chicken, put that chicken in time out. A dog crate with food, water, and shade can serve as a time out coop for one chicken.
Remove or block off the nest where the eggs are being eaten.
Pick up eggs frequently. I have had the most success with this tactic, but I am on the farm most of the day. If you work off the farm, you may have trouble with frequent egg collection. The fewer eggs left in the coop, the more eggs in your egg basket!
Evaluate the flock’s diet. Are they getting enough protein from a balanced diet?
Place fake chicken eggs in the nest boxes. If a chicken pecks at a fake egg it won’t get the yummy food reward it would from a fresh egg.
Another tactic some people use is to fill a real eggshell with mustard.
Can Boredom Busters Provide a Cure to Why my Chickens Eat Their Eggs?
Boredom can play a part in a flock that turns to egg eating. Crowded chicken runs and coops can also play a part. Chickens are inquisitive by nature. If they have little access to dirt, bugs, weeds, and are cooped up most of the time, they may begin destructive behavior or pecking order disputes. Objects such as swings, outdoor perches, dust bath areas, compost, and chicken treats can help keep them occupied.
Each chicken keeper has a different situation. Some can free range their flock with little worry about predators. Others have to keep their tiny flock cooped up during the day while they work. There are as many right ways to raise chickens as there are chicken keepers. But in each case, learning the needs of your flock is crucial. Free-ranging chickens are going to stay busy roaming and foraging. Chickens kept in a coop and run situation will need more nutrition and activities brought in to them, or risk the effects of boredom.
Treats to Combat Boredom in the Chicken Coop
One of the best methods of combating flock boredom and subsequent egg eating is to provide interesting treats for the flock or boredom busters. There are many do-it-yourself recipes for flock blocks and seasonal winter chicken treats. Often homemade flock block recipes call for simple ingredients baked together into a semi-hard block. A loaf pan is a handy tool to use for baking a flock block. I add oatmeal, black oil sunflower seeds, raisins, and meal worms to a bowl. Flax seed, herbs, and other high nutrition foods can be added too. Peanut butter, honey, and oil can bind the ingredients together. I never make it the same way twice because I use what I have on hand. The usual baking time is 30 to 40 minutes at 325°F.
Empty two-liter soda bottles can also be made into a simple treat dispenser. Add a number of small holes on two sides of the empty bottle. The holes should be large enough for the treats to fall out but not so large that they pour out freely. Fill halfway with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, dried grain, or meal worms. As the bottle is rolled around the ground, treats will dispense. You will be surprised at how fast the chickens catch on to the game!
Does Feeding Cooked Eggs to Chickens Contribute to Egg Eating?
Adding extra sources of protein during molt will help chickens meet the extra demand for protein. Meal worms and scrambled eggs are popular methods of feeding additional high protein snacks to chickens. Since the eggs are cooked and in a different form than a fresh egg, there is no danger of the chickens making the connection and eating freshly laid eggs from the nest.
With a little extra effort and adjustment, you can overcome the problem of why chickens eat their eggs. Your flock can continue to provide you with delicious fresh eggs for the future.