Raising Chickens: How to Stop Egg Eaters

It can start as a mistake – a bird step on an egg with weak shell and it break, or two birds are fighting in the nest box and an egg got broken. Whichever way, once an egg break and a hen taste the yummy content, that hen will embark on a mission of egg eating and others will watch and learn from her. Egg eating can cost you a lot if it goes uncheck and the funny part is that they can eat the whole egg – both the yummy content and shell! Sometimes you might not see evidence of the crime if you don’t pay attention to details.

Signs of Egg Eating

If you notice egg shells (even tiny ones) and wet spots in the nesting box, suspect egg eating. The culprit might have yolk on their beak, feathers and face, so look closely. During peak laying times, egg eaters will be found loitering around the nest box in search for an egg to eat. With my own hens, it happens sometimes that one hen will grab a large chunk of egg and run with others in hot pursuit. Whenever you notice many birds chasing one, go in and grab the one being pursued, you might find her with egg shell held tight in her beak.

This bad habit can spread like wild fire, therefore it is important to break it as soon as you notice it.

How to Stop Egg Eating

  1. Pick eggs often to discourage egg eating. Do so 3-4 times per day.
  2. Fill An Empty Egg with Mustard or Dish Soap: Make 2 small holes at opposite ends of an egg using a small nail. Blow air from one end and the egg content will flow out through the other end. Then fill up the empty egg with mustard or dish soap and keep it in the nest box for the egg eaters. They’ll hate the taste and hopefully this will stop them.
  3. Feed: If you don’t feed balanced diet to your birds, consider increasing their protein intake because they’ll likely go for the eggs if they don’t get enough protein. Examples of protein sources you can use are oil seed meals like soybean meal, cotton seed meal and sunflower meal, fishmeal, meat, earthworms, crickets etc. To prevent eggs from breaking due to weak shell, give the birds a source of calcium (oyster shell, bone meal, limestone, crushed egg shell) and vitamin D3 (e.g. cod liver oil). Feed the calcium source ad libitum (i.e. available all the time).
  4. Darken the nest box by hanging curtains across the doors. If the hens can’t see the eggs they won’t eat them. Hens also prefer to lay their eggs in dark places.
  5. False Eggs: Use false eggs like golf balls, wooden eggs, marble eggs, plastic eggs etc. Place them in the nest boxes and when the eaters peck on them repeatedly without result, they may change their mind. Put about 2 false eggs in each nest.
  6. Roll-away Nest Boxes: This is the best type of nest box you can have. Immediately an egg is laid, it rolls away out of reach of the birds. The eggs will be clean too.
  7. Keep them Busy: Hens will usually peck on eggs when they’re bored. So keep them busy by enriching their cage with perches, scratch and hanging vegetables and CD plates.
  8. Debeaking: Birds with sharp beak can easily crack eggs open unlike when they’re debeaked. Birds can be debeak anytime between 1 day and 18 weeks old. Debeaking will also help prevent injuries and cannibalism when they peck at each other.
  9. Provide one nesting box for every 4-5 hens. For individual nests, the dimension can be: width = 25-30cm, depth = 35cm. For communal nest, it should be about 1m2 for 50 hens.
  10. If you have excess raw milk, give them to drink for a few days. The high protein & calcium content in milk will help break the habit.
  11. Never feed raw eggs to your birds. If you want to feed eggs, they must be cooked.
  12. Break broody hens to free up the nest box and prevent fighting in the nest box.

Sometimes it might be rodents or other predators eating the eggs. Or the hens might be laying their eggs in other hidden places apart from the nest boxes. So broaden the way you look at the problem of missing or broken eggs so that you pinpoint the actual cause.

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