We believe that all of you have at least heard about this problem of chickens eating their own eggs or in the worst case as chicken keepers have already experienced it by watching your hens destroying their own eggs.
Most probably you have questioned yourselves why and when this happens? Additionally, which are the main grounds for such a behavior? Then, is this appearance kind of self destruction for the hens to their own products? How and can it be stopped once we know the reasons why? Are there any preventative measures and if yes which are they?
Why do chickens eat their own eggs?
As we all know that everything happens with a reason so does this problem as well. Don’t justify your hens or claim this appearance on a bad hen habit that soon disappears, because hens can’t be aware of the problems they made or about the consequences the keeper faces with, once they start eating their own eggs. This appears as a huge problem especially for those who keep the hens solely for the eggs. So, this article is not only meant for those keepers, but it includes all of you who are interested in this problem and want to learn which things contribute egg eating and how to prevent it on time.
The first and biggest problem seem to be overcrowding among the chickens. City ordinances, vets and even the chicken magazines and articles recommend providing at least four square foot space per bird.
Bear this on mind and avoid raising crowding chickens, otherwise you will create nothing good, but a dirty smelly coop filled with stressed hens that may be unhealthy and aggressive. In this case, when it comes to personal space, chickens and people are alike. They want to have their own intimate personal space to hang around, feed, sleep, or just relax. If you crowd them be ready to face the following problems:
- Egg killers in your flock
- Broken and dirty eggs (when too many hens use just a few nests they feel like they do not have the needed comfort and personal space, thus start breaking the eggs, then the content of broken eggs soil the unbroken ones and encourage chickens to begin the nasty habit of eating their own eggs)
- Crowded chickens are dirty, have broken feathers and sometimes even have sores resulting from other chickens picking at them.
- Chickens spend much time dust bathing, but in case they are crowded it is impossible.
2. Lack of nest boxes
As we already mentioned above, the chickens need enough space and comfort so they can live and be productive as well. They really do, otherwise we can expect variety of problems.
The most important problem for us in this article is having chickens eating their own eggs. We tried to find out all the possible reasons for this problem and present the supportive arguments here. There we go, after the overcrowding, the second reason for chickens eating their eggs may most probably be the lack of nest boxes.
Firstly, did you know that there should be a minimum one nest box for every four hens? Not too many hens can use few nests, or by doing this, the result will be damaged and broken eggs, or the eaten content of an egg by the hen. How to stop this?
Some of you may think that by making enough nests for your hens you solve the problem. We would say it is definitely the first step, but not a whole solution to the problem. You should also ensure adequate nest box material, which will reduce the likelihood of eggs cracking on the hard floor. Plastic nest pads are much better choices than pine shavings or straw.
Employ roll – out nests, which roll eggs out of the nest when laid. So, these are some of the possible measures one can take, which will bring a positive outcome.
3. Lack of water and hunger
Hens have been known to crack eggs for liquid if they are thirsty. So always ensure fresh and clean water to the hens.
Same problem of eating their eggs appear when the hens are hungry as well. Provide layer feed for laying hens and limit treats in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Ensure access to fresh, clean water and food at all times.
Another interesting fact about the hens is that not only eating their own eggs when being hungry or thirsty, but they can easily start picking on each other too. Once blood appears, the problem gets worse, and can result in death to some of your hens.
The consequent appearance is known as cannibalism. Once it starts it is very difficult to stop, however, there are always ways to stop it as soon as possible. Therefore, some of the causes of cannibalism are lack of water and food, the overcrowding, changes in the environment, overheating, too bright lights or introducing new chickens to the flock usually younger, weaker and inexperienced yet.
To conclude, in order to stop the possible problem of your hens eating their own eggs, satisfy their basic needs first such as: water and food. Secondly, collect eggs frequently or in case you find a broken one remove it immediately and clean it up thoroughly. Then, in cases when you find an injured hen, remove it from the flock and remove all the aggressive hens as well. Change your lighting to a red light (it will calm the hens down).
4. Unbalanced diet
Hens need a quality amount of food intake, just as humans do.
Various nutritious values should comprise their nutrition. It means that if the hen has an imbalance in her food, she will try to correct it.
More precisely, when there is not enough protein to intake, then egg eating is her solution to supplement her diet with a protein.
Chickens are usually regarded as innately, curious creatures, in constant motion and investigation. Assuming that you have enough space for your flock (we have written four square foot space per a bird above) what follows are some interesting ways to keep your chickens from being bored.
- Watermelon and pumpkins can be always a good choice that will keep your hens busy for hours. The vitamins they contain are beneficial and good to be part of hens’ nutrition too.
- Put them a good amount of green weeds, and they will have good things to eat from and stay busy for hours too.
- Although chickens don’t fly, they want height options, it is always a good idea to put some branches so they can climb up.
- Remember chickens are like little kids, they just want playing with dust or sand. When locked, they are easily bored and often destructive or aggressive, so give them something to do, for example a litter box filled with sand.
- You can always set up a game of cabbage tetherball and amuse them for hours.
You can try some of these things on your hens, entertain them and prevent from eating their eggs out of boredom which unfortunately has been noticed as a chicken problem so far.
6. Too much light
Too much light definitely affects hens in a bad way. You can replace the lighting with red bulbs, because hens like darkened and private area to lay their eggs safely.
You can also cut down the light by using curtains or dimming lights. If the hen doesn’t see the egg, she can’t destroy it.
Just like humans feel stress, chickens do as well.
Stressed hens tend to eat their own eggs. Leave them lay in peace. Don’t interrupt them while laying their eggs.
Through this article on chickens eating their own eggs we explained some of the possible reasons for its appearance and thus mention some preventative measures to stop this chickens’ habit.
We can all conclude that egg-eating is a bad habit that should be discouraged as soon as possible after its discovery. Not only it reduces the amount of the eggs for the chicken keepers, but it is such a habit that is quickly learned by other flock members.