Hens peck open eggs


Why do hens peck open eggs?
Eggs are an excellent source of nutrition. Just as we enjoy eggs for their excellent source of nutrients, so do chickens.

The shell provides calcium, the white protein and the yolk good fat and nutrients.

Sometimes hens accidentally discover ther good food in an egg, which has somehow been opened.

Reasons can be a thinly shelled egg, or an over used nest that has lots of hens trying to make room for their own egg. A good sized hen can break an egg standing on it.

Occasionally an egg is laid with no shell, just the white membrane sack enclosing the white and yolk.

The membrane may break open in the laying process or after laid. This can be a fluke, a sign of calcium deficiency, or possible disease (if chronic).

Other animals can start this problem, like a skunk or raccoon, by leaving broken eggs behind. I’ve had Blue Jays come into the coop and crack eggs open, leaving it easy access for the chickens.

Hens generally have motherly instincts towards eggs; but many Production Bred chickens have little to no motherly instincts, including lack of broodiness, which might lead to failure to protect eggs and this bad habit.

I know of egg eating hens that have been successfully cured of this bad habit. The first step is to make sure your hens have all the necessary nutrients in their diet that eggs provide.

This is accomplished with good water, good quality feed balanced for laying, a good calcium supplement, plus other vitamins and minerals, and enough grit in their diet for healthy digestion, especially if fed whole seeds and grains.

Another vital part of a chicken’s diet is vegetation; free ranging chickens find this on their own, but constantly penned or caged chickens need it provided for them.

A well fed chicken generally avoids desiring eggs as food.

The next step is to make sure you have enough nests of the right size, with soft nesting material.

When having to wait in line, some hens have laid an egg from the roost, which will encourage egg eating if it breaks. You generally don’t need one nest per bird, but that doesn’t hurt if you are able.

Finally, I suggest obtaining any of the following: golf balls, egg shaped rocks, wooden eggs, dummy eggs from a poultry supply or the plastic “bunny eggs” available in the spring at many stores.

Place 2 to 3 of these substitute “eggs” in each nest and leave them there at all times.

I have found hens more willing to return and lay eggs in a nest that hasn’t had all the eggs “stolen” and if they peck at these “eggs” that are always in there, they will get no reward.

Eventually/hopefully their brain is retrained that there is no longer anything edible inside; and if well fed, they will stop opening real eggs for a snack.

One last suggestion is to gather your eggs as often as possible without disturbing your hens (especially before night to deter egg eating predators that might leave broken eggs).

If the problem persists you might need to observe the flock and find out which ones are the egg eaters.

One way you can get a start is to place a dummy egg on the floor of the coop or in the yard and see which one or ones peck at it.

Sometimes it’s necessary to remove these hens from the group to prevent them teaching this bad habit to the rest, and reeducate the naught ones privately.

The bad habit can spread through a flock quickly resulting in a lot of feed and care with no eggs to show for it.

When raising pullets it’s a great idea to raise them around fake eggs. They will learn from the beginning that eggs are not food.

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