In this article we address a fairly common problem found in backyard poultry: egg eating.
This is a very annoying habit that may start out quite innocently.
A hen gets bored and then pecks at an egg and breaks it, she will sample the gooey mess and decide that it is rather good and an egg eater is born!
The problem can grow too.
She may show her sisters her discovery and they may all start to eat their eggs.
Once a habit like this is established within the flock, it is very hard to break. Prevention is the preferred treatment here.
In this article we will explain the reasons for egg eating and 13 ways to stop chickens eating eggs.
Contents and Quick Navigation
- Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?
- 13 Ways To Stop Chickens Eating Eggs
- FAQs about Chickens Eating Eggs
Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?
To be able to stop chickens eating their own eggs, we first need to understand why they eat their own eggs.
Many people think that a chicken eating their own eggs is abnormal behavior and wrong, but in fact it is not.
In the wild a chicken’s main instinct is survival. So if they need a nutritional boost they will eat their own (or other) eggs.
A chicken eating their own eggs becomes a problem for us because of our expectations. So do not feel there is something wrong with your chicken as this is a naturally occurring behavior. However, when this happens frequently there is a problem and it is up to you to try and find out what that problem is.
Why do chickens eat their own eggs?
There are 5 common reasons why and it is more than likely to be one of the following reasons:
- Calcium deficiency
- Protein deficiency
Boredom: This is the number one cause of egg eating. When hens get bored they get into mischief like plucking feathers, pecking and other antisocial behaviors. Pecking at eggs is just one more example of this type of behavior.
Calcium deficiency: Hens will eat their eggs and shell if they are severely deficient of calcium. She needs the calcium to not only lay eggs, but to maintain good bone health. Egg laying uses up a tremendous amount of calcium and if it is not freely available in her body, it will be leached from her bones. This can cause problems such as cage layer fatigue which is often seen in battery cage birds when they are not able to stand or walk.
Protein deficiency: This can be another cause of egg eating. We know that the egg is the ultimate recipe for life – everything a chick needs to grow and thrive before hatching is contained in the egg. A hen that is suffering from protein deficiency will try to get protein from other sources such as feather plucking and egg eating.
Overcrowding: Hens that are overcrowded and do not have enough space can eat eggs as one of several bad behaviors. Chickens should have at least 4 square feet of coop space, read How Much Space Do Chickens Need for more advice.
Accidental: Eggs that are broken on accident is often the way hens are introduced to egg eating. They may hop into a nesting box and accidentally break open an egg already in the box. Curiosity takes over and she will sample the contents, mmmm, yummy!
If you are lucky then she won’t put it all together and decide that eggs can be broken open for a tasty snack. But if she does then you have a problem.
13 Ways To Stop Chickens Eating Eggs
Below we have listed 13 different ways to stop chickens eating their eggs.
It is important to look at each of them since the problem may lie in a couple of areas, for example, a poor diet and boredom. You will need to fix both of the problems to stop the egg eating.
13. Low Lighting
Low lighting in the coop helps the hen to feel safe and hidden when laying her egg. It also helps to camouflage the egg among the bedding once she leaves the nest. The camouflage is important so that predators (or other chickens) do not eat the egg.
Keeping the light low helps to stop hens that are looking for a snack.
A healthy diet is so important in many ways.
Hens that are not getting enough protein or calcium will eat eggs for survival.
You should make sure that you provide your hens with quality layer feed in addition to a separate dish of oyster shell.
Another thing to check is that they are eating properly. Make sure your chickens are not being kept away from the food by other hens. If this is the problem then get another chicken feeder away from the main feeder and show her where it is so she can eat in peace.
11. Rollaway Nest Box
These nesting boxes are a nice idea that work very well.
The general idea is that the egg is laid and rolls away from the nest area into a covered trough when it awaits collection. This prevents the hens from being able to access the eggs once laid so no more egg eating.
If you are a DIY enthusiast then you can make your own rollaways quite cheaply.
10. Nesting Material
If you have ever watched a hen lay an egg you will know that the egg drops to the floor from a squatting position. If the egg lands on a hard surface it may break and invite your hens to snack on the contents.
Having thick bedding in the boxes helps to prevent breakage and gives the hen a comfortable place to sit while she is laying that egg.
9. Nesting Boxes
The design of your chicken nesting box is important in stopping egg eating.
It should be big enough to accommodate one standard sized hen (10x10x10 inches). Two or more hens in a box may look cute but it can easily lead to broken eggs which in turn can lead to egg eating.
You should have one nest box for every 3-4 hens so that they are not inclined to lay in odd places or have to wait for a box.
8. Flavor The Egg
This method involves making a hole in the egg, removing the contents and replacing it with a mustard and hot sauce mix.
You should then put the egg back in the nest and wait for the egg eating hen to find it.
When the hen tastes the mustard mix it puts her off eggs. You may have to repeat this for a few days until she decides that she does not like eggs anymore.
7. Pinless Peepers
You can use pinless peepers on chickens that are persistent peckers.
It stops them by blocking their vision directly in front of them. Peepers do not always work but it is certainly worth trying them out in this situation. The peepers are left on for several weeks and can be removed whenever you feel the time is right. It is important to know that the peepers do not hurt or harm the bird in any way.
6. Keep Them Busy
Boredom is the number one cause of mischief in the coop.
Just like small children, chickens will start acting up if they are bored.
You will need to keep them busy and active. Use straw bales, leaf piles, more perches, cabbage pinata and a handful of scratch thrown into the bedding will help to keep them amused.
5. Fake Eggs
You can place fake eggs into the nesting boxes.
These eggs are made of wood or ceramics and are too hard to peck into. The idea is to frustrate them so that they won’t try to peck other eggs.
Sometimes this works and other times not so much.
4. Collecting Eggs
This is one of the most important things to do.
If you leave the eggs in the nest box all day then it increases the chances of a problem occurring. You should try to collect eggs at least twice a day to reduce the likelihood of egg eating.
If you cannot do this you could try something like a rollaway nest box to protect the eggs.
Too many chickens kept in a small space is bad news for lots of reasons.
Hens at the bottom of the pecking order will get picked on (feather plucking, pecking and food guarding). Plus overcrowding your chickens can cause them to eat eggs too. You should make sure each chicken has at least 4 square feet of coop space.
2. Remove Repeat Offenders
You should remove the culprit from the coop for a couple of days.
Doing this will help for a few reasons.
Firstly, she is away from temptation except for her own eggs (so make sure to retrieve eggs as soon as she has laid it). Secondly and more importantly, when she gets back to the flock she will have to work to re-integrate herself and move up the pecking order again. This should be enough to take her mind off egg eating.
Unfortunately this is the ultimate remedy for a repeat offender.
Personally I would not entertain this idea but some folks do cull chickens that are persistent egg eaters.
FAQs about Chickens Eating Eggs
Is it ok to feed chickens their own eggs?
Lots of people think that feeding eggs to hens will encourage them to eat their own eggs. This is not true.
It is ok to feed chickens eggs providing you feed them correctly.
Always scramble or mash hard boiled eggs when you feed them to your chickens. Chickens do not equate scrambled or mashed egg with an egg.
Why do chickens peck holes in their eggs?
They usually do this for curiosity or because they are bored.
It tends to be the younger birds that are curious once they lay their first egg – they get over this phase fairly quickly. Boredom on the other hand, will need to be dealt with otherwise it can become problematic. Read our boredom buster ideas earlier in this article.
How do you increase calcium in chickens?
It is important to provide oyster shell in a separate bowl for your chickens to take as needed. Not all hens will need extra calcium so it is best that they self-administer extra calcium.
There is a lot of information to digest here, but just remember that once you have found the cause of egg eating there are several ways to tackle the problem.
Sometimes you can get lucky and can stop the culprit quickly. And sometimes you can get a very determined hen who is extremely hard to stop.
If the habit has gone on for a long time before discovery, it can be a really hard habit to break and will require all of your patience and ingenuity. If you are unfortunate enough to have a flock with several egg eaters then you really have your work cut out for you and the only thing I can offer you is my sympathy and encouragement!
Not all hens are egg eaters and even some who have sampled egg contents straight from the shell do not go on to become egg eaters.
Let us know in the comments section below how you stopped your chicken eating eggs…