When you keep chickens you might find that egg eating can sometimes become a problem. It can even escalate to the point where the chicken or chickens will wait for the next egg to be laid so they can dive right in, meaning no eggs for you!
Chickens can sometimes eat eggs because they either get a taste for them or it could be a sign that they’re hungry or have a calcium deficiency. If one chicken gets a taste for eggs this can lead to the whole flock copying the behaviour.
Egg eating is better prevented, but it can be stopped if the problem occurs, read on to find out more about egg eating in chickens and what you can do about it if it happens in your flock.
Why chickens eat eggs
Egg eating chickens might not sound like a major issue especially if you get plenty of freshly laid eggs every day – you can spare one right?
The problem is it doesn’t usually stop at one once the chicken or chickens get a taste for the treat which they usually ignore. Chickens will copy other chickens and it could lead to the whole flock becoming egg eaters. The problem can get so bad that they wait for their next treat to be laid so they can dive straight in.
Chickens can start eating eggs for a number of reasons, here are the main ones:
- The chicken gets a taste for raw eggs once they eat one which may have been accidentally broken in the nest.
- The chicken is hungry and looking for food.
- Calcium deficiency – eggshells contain a source of calcium which the chicken could seek out if it’s not getting enough from other foods.
- Boredom and or lack of space – if the chickens are bored and live in a confined space this can lead to pecking and ultimately egg eating.
How to prevent chickens from eating eggs
Preventing chickens from eating eggs in the first place is key and the main way to do this is by collecting the eggs soon after they’ve been laid to avoid any breakages or temptation.
Chickens generally lay in the late morning, although you may find that some are earlier than others. We find that our chickens have all laid at around 11 am.
If it’s not possible for you to collect eggs at this time, you can make some adjustments to the nest box if the eggs are going to be sitting there for a while, these include:
- Consider using more nesting material and structuring the material so the eggs sink down and out of sight.
- Placing a fake egg made from clay or rubber or two in the nest can help to distract the chickens away from the real eggs.
- Depending on your coop set up you could consider a roll away egg tray so the eggs can roll out of reach once they’re laid.
Other ways to prevent egg eating are to ensure the reasons for egg eating are removed and you can do this in the following ways:
- Make sure your chickens are getting enough calcium – either from layers feed or from a calcium supplement such as oyster shell. A calcium deficiency can also lead to softer shells, making eggs easier to eat.
- Feeding chickens in the morning will mean they’re not hungry when they lay.
- Making sure the chickens have enough space in the coop and run area and allowing them to free-range for part of the day where possible.
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It’s also important that any broken eggs are cleared up as soon as possible before the chickens get a chance to eat them.
How to stop chickens eating eggs
If prevention methods have failed and you have a chicken or chickens eating eggs there are some methods you can put in place to stop the offenders from doing going forward.
As well as putting the prevention methods above in place you can also consider doing the following:
- Make the nest area as dark as possible using curtains or coverings on any windows or around the boxes themselves so the chickens can’t see the eggs.
- Use deeper nest boxes so the eggs can sink down further when they’re laid.
- If possible, separate the offending chicken for a few days.
- Give the chickens more free-range time to distract from egg eating.
- Provide them with treats in interesting ways, such as hanging vegetables which they can peck at.
- Create a larger run space.
- Fill a blown-out egg with something which chickens don’t like such as hot mustard or hot chilli sauce.
- Prevent egg breakages by making sure the hens aren’t disturbed when they lay.
When a chicken is new to laying or if you introduce ex-battery hens to the flock, they won’t be used to laying in a nest box, in this case, eggs may be laid on the coop floor.
While the hens get used to laying in their nest boxes it’s important to collect the eggs as soon as possible so they don’t get kicked and broken by the other hens.
Chickens will understand where to lay in time especially if others are laying in the nest boxes. Rubber eggs are also helpful to promote laying in nests.
Feeding chickens eggshells for calcium
Some chicken keepers prefer to feed chickens with eggshells as a source of calcium rather than buying alternatives such as oyster shell.
While this mainly causes no issue in some cases it can encourage a chicken to eat eggs because they recognize the egg as something they normally eat (but in the form of shells).
If this is the case you may want to disguise the eggshells by crushing them very finely which can be done by bashing them inside a bag with a rolling pin or you can grind them up in a food processor.
Chickens eating eggs faqs:
It’s not bad for chickens to eat their own unfertilized eggs as part of their diet providing they’re given a chopped cooked egg which they don’t recognize as an egg which they see in the nest. Eggs are a good source of protein for chickens and are particularly good for young chicks.
Chickens will peck holes in their eggs if they’re trying to eat them which could be a sign of hunger, a calcium deficiency, boredom or frustration due to a lack of space. It could also happen just because the chicken has got a taste for eggs or has seen another chicken do it.
Chickens can eat boiled eggs and they enjoy them as a treat food to supplement their main feed. Many breeders feed chicks with finely chopped eggs once they’ve got used to their chick feed because eggs are a good source of energy, protein and nutrients.
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Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.