So, you have a backyard flock of hens and your gorgeous girls provide beautiful fresh eggs for you every week. But suddenly, even though your hens are laying well, you’re getting fewer eggs – and when you go to collect the eggs, you find disaster has struck! Your hens are eating their eggs!
The tell-tale signs are there: a non-broody hen hanging around eggs during the day, broken shell in the nesting box, and traces of egg yolk on the feathers and beak of the culprit.
The whole point of raising a flock of backyard hens is to enjoy the fresh bounty they provide – you most certainly do not want them eating their eggs.
Why do my chickens eat their eggs?
And more importantly, how can you prevent it?
There are Several Reasons why a Hen is Eating her Eggs.
- and Developing a Taste for it – the most common reason for eggs being eaten by hens. Sometimes an egg can accidentally be broken, usually when the hen steps on it and punctures the shell. She will then peck at it and discover the deliciousness inside. Once a hen has tasted fresh egg, she will quickly develop a taste for it, and may intentionally break more eggs to enjoy the treat. Other hens in the flock will observe and learn from her.
Too Few Nesting Boxes
- Too many hens in a nesting box can lead to egg breakage. You need at least one chicken laying box for every four hens.
- This can be stressful and cause hens to jostle for space. Hens that free-range will be less likely to feel overcrowded at night and less likely to break eggs.
- calcium or protein deficiency may be the cause. A chicken that has a calcium deficiency may seek out supplemental calcium in the form of eggshell, while the content of an egg is rich in protein.
- Poor quality feed in inadequate amounts will result in hunger and a hungry hen will seek out food wherever she can find it.
Not Enough Water
- A thirsty hen may crack eggs for liquid.
Too Much Light
- Hens prefer to lay in a safe, dark, private area. Additionally, if a hen can’t see her egg too easily, she will be less tempted to eat it.
- Bored hens are potentially naughty hens!
- Young hens new to laying may produce eggs with thin or weak shells, which crack as they are laid. Natural hen curiosity dictates they will sample the goods.
It’s really important to nip this behavior in the bud very quickly so that bad habits are not formed.
7 Tips to Prevent Your Hen from Eating Her Eggs
- Provide Plenty of Space: At least one nesting box per four birds. Locate them in a dim, dark place and provide slanted boxes so that eggs, once laid, will gently roll away from her and out of her sight.
- Provide Plenty of Protein, Calcium, and Water: feed quality food with at least 16% protein, and supplement this during molting with milk, sunflower seeds, or yogurt. Also, provide plenty of calcium to ensure the eggshells are strong – the oyster shell is great for this. Easily accessible fresh water is also essential.
- Collect Eggs Early: collect eggs twice or thrice daily, giving less time for hens to break/play with/explore their eggs.
- Combat Boredom: provide plenty of opportunities for your hens to forage and also peck at toys and other permissible items.
- Never Feed Chickens Uncooked Egg: clean up broken egg spills quickly and only ever give your hens eggs that you have scrambles or otherwise cooked. Cooked egg is a healthy treat for chickens.
- Cushion Nesting Boxes: ensure there is plenty of natural cushioning material in the nesting box so that laid eggs have a soft place to land.
- Hot English Mustard: in general, chickens dislike mustard. Blow out an egg and fill it with mustard. Relocate it in the nesting box – if your hen that has already developed a taste for her eggs tries to eat it, she will be horrified and hopefully kick the habit.
Alternatively, put a golf ball in the nesting box to deter your hens from pecking at eggs. They will not be able to crack the ball, so will eventually give up.
Hens eating their eggs is possibly the most frustrating thing they can do as far as humans are concerned. Apply the above mentioned tips to ensure that your hens are laying eggs for your benefit – and not enjoying all the goodness for themselves.