It’s frustrating to gather eggs and discover broken shells and a gooey mess in the nest. The culprit is often an egg-eating hen.
For chickens to deliberately break open an egg to dine on its contents is rare, but every once in a while it happens. If you drop and break an egg the hens will gobble it up. So, use care when collecting eggs, keep nests clean and watch for predator chickens. Sometimes many eggs are lost to just one or two culprits and the bad habit continues.
Egg eating is most common in crowded coops. Squeeze too many hens into a small space and all sorts of squabbling and bad behavior result. Reducing the flock or expanding the coop may solve problems, including egg eating.
Some chicken keepers believe feeding eggshells as a source of calcium for their hens encourages egg eating. Others disagree, but it’s wise to avoid feeding shells if egg eating is suspected. A commercial oyster shell supplement is inexpensive and can simply be kept out for free choice feeding for your flock.
The best way to solve an egg eating problem is to prevent it from happening. Some simple preventative measures include:
- Provide plenty of nestboxes so several hens don’t need to crowd into a nest. Nest cramming usually results in a broken egg and eating temptation.
- Provide chickens with nutritious food so they aren’t tempted to find nutrients in eggs. Laying hens should have free access to a commercial layer ration as well as free choice oyster shell.
- Put soft clean material in the nest to reduce breakage. Hay, wood chips, or manufactured nest cushions help.
If you already have an egg eating problem in your flock there are a few things you can try to stop the behavior. Some tips to stop an egg eating hen are:
- Make sure you have the reason for egg eating identified and remedied.
- Collect eggs frequently to give less chance of them being eaten.
- Identify the egg eater(s) and isolate her so she can’t pass on her bad behavior.
- Place fake wooden eggs or golf balls in the nest boxes to discourage pecking.
Once it is learned, egg eating is a very hard habit to break. If your offender doesn’t change her ways, your only option may be removing her from your flock.