“What the cluck?!“
Yup, those are the words that will come out of your mouth when you catch your hens eating their eggs…again.
Egg Eating is a form of cannibalism and it’s certainly a disgusting habit found in young and older hens. It’s an awful habit that some hens develop over time. This has happened so many times and to be honest when your hens’ eating eggs, nobody really wins. Plus, it can’t be denied that it’s annoying.
The other problem is that this kind of habit is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to break. Good thing we figured out different ways to prevent egg eating in the first place and to break and fix the problem.
But first, why do hens eat their own eggs?
There are a couple of reasons why your hens have started pecking at and eating their own eggs. Aside from the fact that the weird yellow stuff is tasty, there are other reasons too.
According to Poultry One’s article, these include the following:
- Hard, solid floors. Research shows that egg layers who are raised in cages are generally less apt to eat their own eggs.
- Overcrowding. If you don’t give your layer hens enough room in your backyard coop, the stress may provoke them into habits such as egg-eating.
- Poor nesting space. If the nests you provide your hens are too small, or if there aren’t enough nests for your backyard chickens to share, the stress may provoke egg-eating and other poor habits.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Farming research suggests that nutritional imbalances, specifically as it relates to vitamin D and calcium, may provoke egg-eating in layer hens. In addition, diets low in protein can encourage egg eating simply because the hens are trying to get the nutrition they need. Make sure you are feeding your flock a good, quality feed, and that you aren’t supplementing with too much scratch or corn, or other low protein treats, either.
Let’s move on how to stop your hens from egg-eating by reducing egg breakage. Minimizing egg breakage lessens the chances your hens will egg-eat again.
- Collect eggs early and as often as possible. To stop egg eating, collect eggs early in the morning. This gives your hens less time for breakage and egg eating. Also, most hens are done laying eggs by 10 in the morning.
- In order for your eggshells to be strong, start by feeding a calcium supplement. Generally, it’s sold as oyster shells in a free-choice feeder.
- In situations like if you supply your hens eggshells for calcium, then it would be better if you break the eggshells into powder. In this way, the chickens won’t relate them to the eggs.
- Provide a spacious place for your hens decreases the stress your hens will experience and as a result, your hen’s egg-eating habits won’t be triggered. A perfect measurement would be at least one 12-inch-square nest for every 4 or 5 hens in the flock or a minimum of one nest for every four layer hens. Recommended measurement for your hen’s nesting boxes should be at least 2 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from the roosts.
- Regularly keep clean, dry nesting material (shavings or straw) in the nest boxes.
- Transfer any broody hens in a different nesting place because they could overcrowd the nesting boxes.
- Provide a well-balanced diet by feeding your chickens a complete feed specifically labeled for laying hens.
If the tips mentioned above successfully lessened the egg-eating but still it didn’t completely stop your hens, here are additional tips you can do to put an end to egg eating.
- As much as possible. don’t use bright lighting near the nesting boxes. If you can, darken the nest. It has been a theory that if your hens can’t see anything in their nest box, they won’t try eating their eggs. I’m not a hundred percent sure if it really works but you can give it a shot.
- Always provide fresh feed and water.
- In order to reduce the stress that results to egg-eating, maintain a peaceful environment for your hens. Don’t disturb them in their nests.
- If you have a spacious yard or field, give your hens some roaming or running time with fresh grass and bugs.
- Set up a second feeding station. This would be applicable if some hens bully the others by guarding the only feeding station.
But what if you really have a stubborn hen that won’t stop from egg-eating even though you did everything. Well, to be honest, there are real cases like this and it would be best that you take a few extreme measures to solve the problem.
- Fill an empty egg with mustard which chickens hate. Create a small hole at the ends of an egg and blow out the contents. Carefully fill the empty egg with yellow mustard. Place the mustard-filled egg in the nesting box.
- Replace eggs with golf balls or wooden eggs in the nests. The hens will get tired of pecking these “eggs” and eventually give up.
- You could buy roll-away nesting boxes. How does it work? When the hen lays an egg, the egg rolls out of the nesting box and she won’t be able to reach it.
- Clip the offending hen’s beak. I know that this sounds worse than it is but you should only clip the tip of the beak. Be careful in doing this because a hen’s beak is like your fingernail or a cat’s claw, the beak contains live tissue; if you cut too far then the hen’s beak will bleed and will be in pain.
I hope that this article helped you and that you have great success in stopping your hens from egg-eating!