Learn how to prevent and stop chickens from eating eggs.
It all starts innocently enough. An egg gets cracked in the nest box. Another chicken decides to have a taste. Yum. So they alert their flockmates. Here come the other chickens for a taste. And before you know it, you have a whole flock of egg-eating chickens. And unfortunately, once a hen gets started it’s hard to stop chickens from eating eggs.
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Prevention Is The Best Way To Avoid Egg Eating Chickens
The easiest way to not have to worry about chickens eating eggs is to prevent egg eating from happening in the first place. There are several steps you can take to hopefully avoid this problem altogether.
Ensure Your Chickens Have A Healthy Diet
First, be sure your hens are getting enough protein. Your laying hens should be fed a complete layer feed regardless of whether they free range or not. You should limit treats such as scratch to less than 10% of your chicken’s diet.
Collect The Eggs Often
Second, collect the eggs frequently. At least once a day, more often if you already have an egg-eater. Throw away any eggs that have cracks or are broken. Immediately clean up any sticky egg residue from broken eggs.
Dispose of any pine shavings that have egg on them and add new pine shavings if needed. Your chickens will even eat the pine shavings with egg on them.
Have Plenty of Nest Boxes
Be sure you have plenty of nesting boxes for your chickens. While many times, chickens seem to prefer a single nest box, you should have at least one nest box for every 4-5 hens. Provide plenty of cushion in your nest boxes in the form of pine shavings or nest box pads. This will help to prevent an egg from accidentally cracking or breaking in the first place.
Maintain Thick Egg Shells
Provide supplemental calcium in the form of crushed oyster shell to keep your laying hen’s eggshells strong. If your chickens have thin shells, they will be much easier for the chicken to peck into. They will also be more likely to crack if a hen steps on an egg coming into or out of the nest box.
How To Identify The Egg Eater
If your prevention steps didn’t work and you think you have an egg eater on your hands, it is a good idea to try and figure out which chicken is responsible for the egg eating. Often, you will find a bit of egg yolk on the hen’s beak. Or, their beak may look dirty where a bit of the yolk has dried and attracted dust and dirt.
Another way you may be able to identify the egg eater is to spend some time in the coop. If you see a chicken pacing in front of the nest boxes while another chicken is laying her egg, it is possible that she may be the egg eater. (It is also possible she is waiting on that particular nest box.)
When the laying hen leaves the nest box, watch the other chickens carefully to see if one goes into the box to lay herself or if she starts poking around looking for an egg to break.
A final way to test to try and determine who is eating the eggs is to take an egg and place it on the ground and see which chickens come to investigate and start pecking. However, be sure to watch closely and immediately remove the egg if a chicken starts to crack the egg.
How to Break An Egg Eating Chicken
If you do think you have an egg-eating chicken you need to get it stopped immediately. Otherwise, the chicken may teach this bad habit to the others. They too will develop a taste for the eggs. And if you think one egg eater is a problem, multiple egg-eating chickens can really cut your supply of fresh eggs.
It can be rather difficult to break a chicken from eating eggs. It is especially difficult if you have more than one egg eating chicken. But there are several things you can try, but you must act quickly.
Suggestions For Nest Boxes
First, as I mentioned earlier, ensure that you have plenty of nest boxes. Provide curtains for your nest boxes so the chickens can’t see in. Chickens prefer to lay in the dark anyway so a dark nest box will suit them well. If an egg does accidentally get broken, the chickens will be less likely to see it and start eating it.
Another thing that can help is to put a golf ball (or a wooden egg) in the nest box. If the chickens do start to peck on the hard golf ball, they will be in for a shock. Sometimes, that is enough to stop an egg eater. I would put a golf ball in every nest box in case they decide to switch boxes.
Another method to deter an egg eater is to fill an egg with mustard. Crack a hole in each end of an egg. Blow into the egg, pushing the contents of the shell out the other end. Fill the shell with mustard. Place the mustard filled shell in the nest box where you have found broken eggs.
Chickens don’t like the taste of mustard and this can deter them from eating the egg. However, this is a messy option. You will have to clean up the entire nest box if they do indeed break into the egg.
One bonus to this method though is that you might be able to discover which chicken is eating the eggs by the mustard on their beak and feathers.
Keep Your Chickens Entertained
Sometimes, chickens will start to peck at things because they are bored. They will peck at their eggs for entertainment. Then an egg gets broken and they enjoy the taste. So they continue to peck and break other eggs.
This problem is even more common during bad weather or during the winter when your hens are “cooped up” indoors. To provide them with entertainment, you can purchase a swing for your chicken. (Yes, really!)
Another fun thing to break up the boredom is to provide some vegetables in a treat feeder. Cabbage is a favorite vegetable and relatively cheap. The chickens can peck at the ball getting small amounts of vegetables and maybe will leave the eggs alone.
Employ Roll-Away Nest Boxes
If you are the do-it-yourself type or don’t mind spending the money, you can purchase nest boxes that will roll the eggs out of the way once they have been laid. This is definitely not the easiest or cheapest solution but one you may wish to consider if the above suggestions aren’t working and you don’t like the last resort suggestions below.
There are two last tactics to try if you can’t get the chicken to stop eating eggs. If you only have one egg eater, remove that chicken from the flock. Keep this hen separate while you try to reform her using some of the above methods. At least this way, the only egg she can eat is her own.
This method may or may not work, but it is worth a shot if you want to keep the chicken and have a safe place she can stay while you work with her. Add a golf ball or wooden egg to her new nest box and if she does lay an egg remove it as soon as possible. Remember that by altering the hen’s routine, she may stop laying for a while anyway.
Keep in mind, when you return her to the flock, she will probably be at the bottom of the pecking order. (To learn more about pecking order and removing chickens from the flock read: How to Deal With A Bully Chicken)
And while this may be unpopular with some, sometimes the only way to stop an egg eater is to cull the chicken. If you are raising chickens for eggs, you can quickly see how an egg-eating chicken can cut into your egg supply. You MUST get a handle on the egg eater before other chickens start. If not, you will end up feeding a flock of laying hens with nothing in return.
So while prevention is best, stopping a chicken from eating eggs can be done if you are persistent. Have you ever had an egg-eating chicken? What did you do to solve the problem?