Chickens Eggs Health Issues

Egg Eating: Prevention and Treatment

A freshly eaten egg

Egg Eating, a form of cannibalism, is a terrible habit that some chicken develop over time.  It can start for numerous reasons including nutritional deficiencies, curiosity and boredom.  Chickens are very smart and it does not take long for them to realize that not only do eggs taste good but they are a great source of protein. It is important when keeping a backyard flock that you are aware of this potential problem and take steps in your flock’s living area and life to help prevent this problem from ever beginning.

Here are some helpful tips to help prevent your flock from starting this behavior:

1.  Feed your flock a layer feed containing at least 16% protein
2.  Limit the treats and kitchen scraps that you feed your flock.
3.  Share high protein treats with your flock including dried meal worms, sunflower seeds and plain yogurt (no artificial ingredients or sweeteners)
4.  Keep nesting boxes up off the ground.  This helps keep the eggs out of sight and out of mind.
5.  Harvest your eggs at least 2-3 times per day.
6.  Provide your flock with free access to oyster shells or recycled eggshells to help form thicker eggshells.
7.  Be sure the eggs have a soft place to land in the nesting box.
8.  Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water, some chicken start eating eggs when water is scarce.
9.  Be sure the chickens have plenty of space and if you are able to safely, allow free-ranging.
10.  Never feed your chickens eggs that still look like eggs or shells.  Do not be tempted to toss a cracked eggs into the run for the chickens to devour.  You can feed your chickens scrambled eggs or crush the eggshells into small unrecognizable pieces.
11.  Keep nesting boxes dark.
12.  Be sure you have at least one nesting box per 4 laying hens.

If the egg eating behavior has already begun, it is important that most of the above suggestions have been implemented.  In addition, you can try these added measures to try and treat the problem:

1.  If you know which chicken is guilty, then remove them from the flock immediately.  Others will learn the behavior from them.  If they continue to eat eggs, try rehoming them, sometimes a change of scenery can stop a bad habit.
2.  According to the University of Florida, filling a dish with milk and allowing chickens to drink it decreased the egg eating behavior.
3.  The University of Florida also suggests beating an egg into a creamy consistency, stir in 2 teaspoons of black pepper and pour it on the coop floor.  The taste will stop hens from eating their eggs.
4.  Create slanted nesting boxes that allow freshly laid eggs to roll down into a secret collection area that the chickens cannot access.
5.  Try adding golf balls to the nesting boxes.
6.  Clean up every bit of the broken egg.  Leave no traces behind.  Change out any bedding that has egg on it.
7.  Try filling an empty egg shell with mustard.  The chickens will not enjoy the taste.  Interestingly, hot sauce does not work on birds, they can’t taste it.
8.  Try pinless peepers.
9.  Try adding distractions, such as a hanging ball of cabbage.
10.  Be sure you actually have a hen eating your eggs, it is not uncommon in certain areas for snakes to enter chicken coops and swallow whole eggs.

I think there comes a time in most flocks, for whatever reason, an egg cracks and a curious chicken decides to indulge.  This happened once to our flock when we were on vacation.  My guess, is that the eggs were not being harvested enough during the day.  Upon our return during the following few days, we went out checking for eggs religiously every few hours.  Luckily, this single measure alone stopped their behavior.  Since then, no one has eaten any eggs, well that is, except for us.

Resources:
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=730

http://msucares.com/poultry/management/poultry_eat_eggs.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/Chickens-Eating-Eggs.aspx

http://www.wikihow.com/Keep-Chickens-from-Eating-Their-Own-Eggs

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

This post is linked up to Homestead Revival’s Homestead Barn Hop.

Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

  • I always say if the girls are eating their eggs they are missing something.. Great Advise. Thanks for sharing.

  • Oh dear. I've raised chickens for thirty years and didn't know that I shouldn't give the occasional egg treat. Just this morning I tossed them a few. I've not had trouble with them eating their eggs… I've always thought too that I shouldn't give dairy. So, yogurt is new to me. Even us old chicks can learn new tricks. Thanks.

    • Scrambled eggs are perfectly fine to give your birds. Just don't give them any "sunny side up".

  • Excellent information! Thanks

  • So glad you all liked this post. I too learned new things when I was working on this one. I love learning new things from old and new chicken keepers.

    Cody, I give the girls about 1 cup of yogurt spread between two bowls for 8 chickens about once every week to week and a half. I believe it is a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It also introduces probiotics to promote gastrointestinal health.

  • Great info! Thanks!

  • I don't have any chickens and never have (I live in a postage stamp sized apartment in NYC with two dogs and two cats), but I'd like to someday thanks to your beautiful and informative blog. I love reading posts like these!

  • Thanks [email protected] On Hollyhock Farm. Always glad to share.

    Thank you so much 10 Reasons to Visit. It was so nice to read your lovely comment. I'm glad to see that someday you might keep chickens. I love the visiting the city. It is always so much fun. My favorite things are eating and shopping when I am there 😮

  • I have cared a pair bantam that eat their eggs. I separated the roosters and the hen. I took the eggs each time the hen laid.

  • Melissa
    Another GREAT way to stop a chicken from eating eggs is this:

    Blow out an egg, and refill it with mustard mixed with hot sauce and tape the ends. Place into the nest box. One mouth full breaks the egg eating habit.✿◠‿◠

    • Thank you Kelly for sharing the tip! It is always so lovely when others share their ideas here.

    • Anonymous

      I have found that this does not necessarily work, especially if she is eating her own eggs. Our culprit is eating them right after she lays them We caught her in the act with our game camera. Our next move is to try the trifecta. Hot Colman's mustard egg, golf balls and a cabbage in front of the nesting box. We don't want to get rid of her. She's our best layer and unfortunatley my husband will not let me butcher her. He has become attached to our hens. (city boy)

  • Ill have to try the mustard trick, we've had eggs that first had a small peck, and they got bigger and bigger, yesterday was an egg that had been dragged outside and demolished, I suppose it could still be a gutsy jay, but we're separating out the hens to find out.

    We've also got an aracauna that lays huge eggs, they'd give ducks a run for their money. She acted egg bound, then stopped, and has since stopped laying, she has always laid huge eggs, but usually seems to get them out, any recommendations to encourage her to lay again?

    • Hi Mike. I wish you luck in solving the mystery. It might even be possible that she is still laying but her eggs are being eaten. I might suggest for chickens that stop laying eggs to stop giving them treats and be sure that their diet comes mostly from their layer pellets. A decrease or cessation of egg laying can be common when chickens receive too many delicious treats and scraps from the kitchen. Good Luck and keep us posted.

  • Melody Norris

    The local store gives us yogurt and milk that is 3 days before its experation, for our chickens. We also supply fresh veggies from the store and layer pellets yet we still have egg eating problems. My friend suggested the hard wooden eggs because, according to her, the hens peck at them, can't get through the "shell" and give up on egg eating forever. I have yet to try it but it sounds like a reasonable presumption. I've also been told to put vinager in their water. That didn't work for us though. I'm just desperate at this point, orders are coming in and I have no eggs to fill them!!

    • Oh wow! I hope the milk helps and the eggs return soon!

  • Anonymous

    You can also put curtains over your laying boxes. Chickens cannot see well I have been told. The darker the box the better.

  • I had a 4'x1' nesting box and had a lot of eggs eating incidences. They were all fighting for one corner of the nesting box. After dividing the nesting box into four a few weeks ago, I had not noticed any egg eating yet. My guess is that the egg eating incidences were the outcome of broken eggs.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for posting this list of tips. I tried several of them, including golf ball/wooden eggs, some modifications to the next box, some blown-out eggs filled with dijon mustard, and collecting the egg literally the moment after she laid it. after using all of these in combination for about 3 weeks, she stopped eating her eggs (as did a problem rooster who was joining her). with perserverence it can be done! Thank you.

    • I am so happy to hear this news. Yes, it most definitely can be done. You are most welcome!

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  • Kristen

    My egg eating chicken has stopped eating eggs but does not lay any eggs either. She is almost a year old, will she ever lay again?

    • Yes it is possible for her to begin to lay again. She should lay eggs pretty regularly until about 3 years of age. It’s winter now (if you live in the US) and egg production always slows down now. I bet come spring she will be laying again.