Older Chickens Eating Their Eggs

by Wes
(Warren MA)

Question:

I have 4 older chickens 5-6 years old. How do I stop my older chickens eating their eggs?

Answer:
You don’t say how long this has been going on and the longer it has been, the harder it can be to retrain these hens.

Eggs are rich in protein and fat, an essential part of a healthy chicken diet. I would make sure you are providing a good balanced feed for you chickens, high in protein and vegetable fat, and that you also offer a calcium supplement.

Sometimes their need for additional calcium isn’t being met and the egg shells will provide it.

Once you make sure you are doing everything you can nutritionally for these chickens, you can work on their bad habit.

I would start keeping fake eggs in the nests at all times, 2 or 3 per nest. I have done this for years and no longer have egg eating chickens.

You can buy dummy eggs from poultry supply companies or you can buy the plastic Easter eggs available during spring.

Chickens will peck at the dummy eggs and learn that they have no food value and leave the real eggs alone.

You may need to separate these older hens from the younger ones so they don’t teach this habit.

It would be good to collect eggs as often as possible to decrease their opportunity to indulge. You may find that there is just one hen that breaks the eggs open and the others follow her lead.

She may need to be separated from the others for a while or permanently. If you do separate these older hens from the rest, keep fake eggs in their nests and on the floor of the pen. When you are able to collect their eggs again, you will know this has worked.

As chickens grow older, nutritional needs change. Just as with people, older chickens are less able to get and absorb all the nutrients they need from foods.

You can provide vitamin supplements to the whole flock for best health quality and consider a higher quality feed

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Egg pecking

by sharon
(CT)

Question
Egg pecking: What do you do with a chicken who pecks the eggs?

Answer
I isolate her in a good sized pen or cage. She can quickly teach this bad habit to others. Chickens are opportunistic feeders and cannot resist the nutrient rich contents of eggs, especially once broken open.

Hens do eat some egg shell naturally, when eggs hatch, to clean their nest and absorb needed calcium.

So the act of eating shells is not totally unnatural. Egg eating can happen accidentally, if shells are thin and break.

Intentional egg breaking and eating can occur if important nutrients are lacking in the diet, like: protein, fat and calcium. Making sure your chicken diet is complete can break the habit.

To proper diet I would add “dummy” eggs to all nests (2 or 3 per nest), but specifically to the nest and cage of this one hen.

You can buy them from poultry suppliers or get the plastic bunny eggs available in many stores during the spring. Wooden eggs work, as well as golf balls and even egg shaped rocks.

By pecking at these fake eggs, with no food offered by the activity, this hen’s brain may be retrained to believe there is no food reward, and she may give up the bad habit.

You’ll know she is cured when you can harvest her eggs. Then it should be safe to return her to the flock.

Until she is cured, check her enclosure often and remove broken or whole eggs as soon as possible to discourage the behavior.

If she won’t stop eating her own eggs, she must be culled permanently or confined to the type of cage that will roll the egg out of her reach as soon as she lays it.

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Eating Their Eggs

by Valerie Wright
(Burns, OR. USA)

Question:
Eating Their Eggs: Why would my chickens be eating their own eggs?

Answer:
Sometimes this starts completely by accident when an egg shell is thin and breaks open. Chickens are very curious and eggs are very good.

Once they find out there is something good to eat inside, this can lead to chickens breaking eggs open on purpose.

I keep dummy eggs in all my nests. These can be plastic bunny eggs, golf balls, wooden eggs, egg shaped rocks or fake eggs purchased at a poultry supply. These dummy eggs can help chickens learn there is nothing edible about an egg.

To break the habit you must make sure your chickens are well fed on a healthy balanced diet and collect eggs often.

Chronic egg eating may be an indication of a diet lacking in protein, fats and nutrients, including calcium, that are readily available in eggs.

You may find that only one hen is breaking eggs and she must be separated from the group, set up with a good sized pen, fed well and given a nest with dummy eggs, until you can collect her eggs in one piece hours after layed.

Then you should be able to return her to the flock.

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