We’ve been having a little problem lately – an egg eating chicken. Chickens will eat insects, fruits, vegetables, greens, and just about anything else – including their own eggs (they’re omnivorous).
But having chickens that eat their own eggs is obviously not good for chicken keepers – we want those eggs!
Chickens can develop a taste for eggs in a number of ways, perhaps they lay a weak egg or they are startled and accidentally break an egg, or they become calcium deficient and try supplementing their diet with egg shell.
However it happens, they can quickly learn that the inside of the egg tastes great. Once one bird learns to intentionally break and eat eggs, the rest of the flock can catch on and start copying the original offender incredibly fast.
So, it’s very important to monitor the flock and make sure that any egg eating behaviors are dealt with quickly. If anyone is eating eggs, you’ll usually see evidence of it – they generally can’t get every last bit of the egg yolk eaten. And if you’re watching carefully, you’ll catch the perpetrator with the evidence on her beak (a little bit of yellow residue).
If it’s just one chicken, and you can catch her before others start imitating her behavior, then it often works to just isolate her from the rest of the flock, and remove her egg each day as soon as she lays it. She’ll generally forget about egg eating after a few days. Most chickens have incredibly short memories.
If the problem is worse and several chickens have developed a taste for eggs, then more drastic measures are necessary. One technique is to take a raw egg or two, blow it out (do this by making small holes at the top and bottom of the shell, and use a drinking straw to blow it out), and refill it with mustard – something chickens hate.
Offer the mustard eggs to your chickens, and they should definitely turn up their beaks at that egg variety. Repeat this until they stop their egg eating behavior. Of course, the easiest way to avoid an egg eating problem is to prevent it from starting in the first place. The following are good practices for preventing birds from developing a bad habit:
- Make sure they’re not calcium deficient – offer them free choice oyster shell (oyster shell is very high in calcium).
- Provide enough nest boxes and stock the nest boxes with fake eggs (golf balls work) if necessary to encourage your hens to always lay inside the boxes. This keeps the eggs better protected and it’s less likely an egg will accidentally break.
- Collect the eggs frequently so that the hens don’t have temptation in front of them all day. It can also help to put a small “curtain” at the front of the nest boxes so the hens don’t readily see the eggs in the nest boxes.
- Feed them healthy table scraps and treats regularly. Insure the hens get a varied and interesting diet in addition to their regular layers feed.
- Make sure they’re not bored – a bored hen might decide to peck an egg just for the fun of it. Make sure they have room to roam, things to peck at, and lots of roosts (or something similar) to climb on.