Every once in a while you may find broken eggs in your coop, nesting box or run. Predators that like eggs may be the culprit. These predators include weasels, rats, skunks and snakes. If that is the case then you need to take steps to keep them from entering your coop and run. More than likely, though, you probably have an egg eating chicken. It is important to stop this behavior before it is taught to your entire flock. Hens will copy each other and suddenly everyone is eating your family’s eggs.
If this habit is not broken immediately, it will be harder to break them of the habit later. You can usually figure out who the culprit is by the tell tale yellow yolk on its beak. Carefully check each chickens beak and you should be able to find the one or ones who have been doing it. Isolating the chicken from the rest of the flock for a few days can help them to forget about how much they like to eat eggs and while they are isolated they won’t have access to other hen’s eggs. A dog kennel works well placed in the coop. They can see others but not get too close to the eggs. But, preventing in the first place is easier than trying to stop it.
The first thing to prevent egg eating is by reducing egg breakage in the first place. A broken egg is an open invitation for a quick, tasty meal for a chicken. Most hens use nesting boxes when laying eggs. However, not all, especially young pullets who will begin by just laying their eggs anywhere on the floor of the coop.
Provide at least one 12 inch square nest box for every 4 to 5 hens in the flock. The boxes should be at least 2 feet off the ground and 4 feet from roosts. Keep at least 2 inches of clean dry nesting material in the box at all times. Nesting pads at the bottom are soft and prevent egg breakage. They can also let you know if you have an egg eater in that box as the pads will be stained with yellow yolk.
If there is a lot of congestion in your nesting boxes, you may want to remove any broody hens that are taking up valuable space and place them somewhere else. Hens like privacy when laying eggs. If you have an egg eater eating right from the nesting box you may want to invest in a roll away nesting box. These are designed to gently roll away the egg after it is laid so that other birds can not get at the egg and you can pick them up when it is convenient for you.
Eggs that have a hard shell will be more difficult to peck open than thin shelled ones. Make sure that you are offering oyster shell as a calcium supplement in a bowl by itself. If you feed back egg shells to your hens, make sure that they are smashed up so that the hens won’t associate them with other eggs.
Make sure that your hens are eating enough protein. Layer feed should be 16% or higher. Gamebird feed is good. Your chickens may be missing something nutritionally which is causing them to look for it in raw eggs. You may want to serve them some cooked or scrambled eggs to up their protein. You should not give them raw eggs as they could learn to view this as a good food source.
Collect eggs early and often. Most eggs are laid before 10 am. Collecting them early doesn’t give other chickens the chance to get bored and start pecking at them. Giving them other things to peck at such as Flock Blocks or treat toys can relieve boredom.
Over crowding can lead to stress in a flock, which can lead to egg eating. Make sure that there is enough space in your coop for all of your hens. Always have food and fresh water available and set up a second feeding station if you have a bully hen guarding the first station. Give your hens the opportunity to be outdoors in some kind of run or free range situation.
Try not to startle your hens. Gently remove eggs from under them. Sudden movements can lead to egg breakage. Keep the nesting box area darkened with curtains and low lighting. Bright lights lead to stressful birds and other hens will be able to see the eggs in the nesting boxes and might try to break the eggs open.
Placing ceramic eggs or wooden eggs in nesting boxes or around the coop can also be a deterrent to egg eating. Pecking a ceramic egg and not receiving a snack can re-train a hen into thinking that eggs may not result in a meal. Golf balls will also work.
I would not get rid of a hen just because she was caught eating eggs. I find that these eggs are almost always thin shelled to begin with. Provide them with a healthy diet and adequate space and egg eating should diminish.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson