Egg eating, which is also a form of cannibalism is a very bad habit that is hard to break. If you are thinking about raising chickens for eggs you should be aware of this issue so you can plan for it in advance in order to prevent it from happening.
Once your chicken has had a taste of an egg, chances are you’ll start to find busted shells in your nesting boxes. There are a few reasons why they do this. They could be bored, curious, they could be lacking certain nutrients or perhaps have tasted a broken egg and realized just how good it actually is.
Things that you can do to help prevent the habit from starting:
1. Keep your nesting boxes as dark as possible. Set up a dark sheet to cover the front of the nesting boxes and cut vertical strips so it hangs like a curtain. Chickens like their privacy and have horrible eye sight in the dark.
2. Keep your nesting boxes at least two feet off the floor or ground. If they can’t see their eggs they won’t be tempted to jump back in and play around with them.
3. Collect your eggs as often as possible during the day.
4. If you find a broken egg make sure you remove it immediately and properly clean up the nesting box. Water and vinegar works well. Once it’s all dry, put down new clean straw for their beds.
5. Always have clean fresh water available. Also, be sure to also wash out the water feeder often as it will start to smell and have a “slimy” film build up on the inside of it.
6. Make sure your nest boxes have plenty of straw so that when the egg comes out of the chicken it doesn’t hit the solid floor and break. Foam pads are also available that you can use to line the bottom of your boxes. Another good idea is to build a rollaway nesting box. What this is is a box with a sloped floor. Once the chicken lays the egg, it rolls down backwards behind a wall where the they cannot access it.
7. Feed ground up oyster shells to your chickens. This will make the egg shell stronger. You can add it to a separate dish or container or mix it with their regular food.
8. You should have at least one nesting box for every four chickens. I personally have 3 nesting boxes and 4 chickens. Sometimes a few of them like to lay at the same time and they will choose the box they want. The more boxes you have the less chance there is that the eggs will get stepped on multiple times and possibly broken.
9. Make sure your chickens have plenty of space. One chicken needs approximately 3-4 square feet of space in the hen house so if you plan on raising 4 chickens, your chicken coop should be 12-16 square feet. If you are able to, let them free range as much as possible. They will roam around and find insects and worms of all kinds to eat. This will also help reduce the amount of feed they eat during spring, summer and fall.
10. Make sure the feed you’re giving them contains at least 16% protein. I feed mine the lay mash type.
11. Never feed your chickens broken egg shells. This is perfectly fine if you’re raising meat kings but do not feed them to your laying hens otherwise it will encourage them to bust open their own eggs.
Things to try if your chickens are already eating their eggs:
Many people will tell you that it’s almost nearly impossible to get a chicken to stop eating her eggs once she has started and that the only method is to find which chicken is the culprit and get rid of her. For the most part this is true, however, here are some things that you can try before you choose this last resort.
1. If you know which chicken is the culprit you must remove them from the rest of the flock immediately. The other chickens are smart and will quickly start copying the same behavior.
2. Collect the eggs more often during the day so they don’t have the chance to break them
3. Chickens hate mustard. Take a broken egg, fill the inside with plenty of mustard and place it back into their nest. The next time they go and try to eat it they will get nasty tasting surprise that will hopefully discourage them. Keep in mind that hot sauce don’t work as they can’t actually taste it for some reason.
4. Place golf balls or painted egg shaped rocks in their nests. They obviously won’t be able to break these and may give up altogether. You should place at least two golf balls in each nest.
5. Chickens hate mustard. Take a broken egg, fill the inside with plenty of mustard and place it back into their nest. The next time they go and try to eat it they will get nasty tasting surprise that will hopefully discourage them. Keep in mind that hot sauce and other spicy sauces don’t work as they can’t actually taste them for some reason.
6. Clip their beaks. Yes this may sound mean but many people clip the ends of their beaks so it is not as pointy. As the chicken tries to peck and break her egg she will have a harder time breaking the egg and will also feel some discomfort and might stop. This doesn’t affect their regular eating in any way.
7. Add distractions inside the coop such as hanging old cd’s or bunches of cabbage.
8. Giving the chickens a bowl of milk to drink has been said to slow them down from eating their eggs.
9. Add distractions inside the coop such as hanging old cd’s or bunches of cabbage.
10. Change your existing nest boxes over to rollaway nest boxes so that once the chicken lays her egg, it rolls down a gentle slop to an area that they can’t reach.
11. If you find that the egg shell is soft perhaps they are being broken unintentionally. A softer egg can easily be broken by the chicken walking on it. If you have this problem you can mix crushed oyster shells with their food or place it in a separate dish for them to peck at. This will help to strengthen the shell.
12. If you find a broken egg inside the coop you must remove it and clean everything out quickly and properly.
13. 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.
If you have tried everything you can with no success then you will probably have to go to your last resort and get rid of the culprit(s). Perhaps you can give the chicken(s) to someone will simply want them as a pet.
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