Hens Eating Eggs Habit Explained | How Do You Stop It?

Naturally, there are many reasons as to why Hens eating eggs habit occurs. So, if your chickens are eating their own eggs, you need to break this norm immediately. Because, of course, the longer they do it, the harder it becomes to fix.

It’s a behavior that needs to be stopped quickly as other hens may decide to join in and that is a difficult thing to stop. This is one of the last problems you want as a chicken keeper because many of us raise chickens solely for the eggs! In fact, preventing egg eating in the first place is easier than stopping it after the habit is formed.

Hens Eating Eggs
Is there a Reason Why Chickens Eat Eggs? – Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Therefore, nip this bad habit in the bud with a few tweaks to the hens’ nest boxes and living situation. Egg eating can have a negative effect on the business of chicken farmers as it reduces the number of eggs you can sell. A chicken may begin eating their eggs if their calcium levels are low.

Calcium deficiency causes a chicken to seek out a supplemental diet of eggshells. Chickens may also eat their eggs due to accidental discovery. If a chicken coop is crowded, a chicken can very easily break an egg. Once the egg is broken, the chicken may begin to eat the yolk and develop a taste for eggs.

Why Do Hens Eat Their Own Eggs?

Important to realize, if a chicken coop is crowded, a chicken can very easily break an egg. Once the egg is broken, the chicken may begin to eat the yolk and develop a taste for eggs. Therefore, even if the initial egg-breaking was an accident, it may gradually become a behavior in your chicken.

And, if left in the coop with the rest of the chickens, the hen’s behavior may rub off on the others further reducing the number of eggs you can collect. So first of all, why do they eat their eggs?

There are numerous things that can contribute to or encourage egg eating.

Overcrowding and Inexperience: 

The recommended space per bird in the coop and run is 4 square feet per bird if they are not able to free-range. If you can free-range, the space allotment is not quite so important since they have the outside to explore.

Hens new to laying can often produce eggs with weak or thin shells. Sometimes these will crack on impact and the hen will sample the goods. Curiosity is a hen trademark!

Not enough Nestboxes: 

There should be a minimum of one nest box for every four hens. Too few boxes mean that everyone will use the same boxes and eggs may get damaged by treading, rolling, etc. If they break open- a hen is going to eat the contents.

Lack of Water and Hunger: 

Hens have been known to crack eggs if they are thirsty. Ensure clean, freshwater is always available.

Not enough feed available to the hens. A free-feeding’ policy should ensure this doesn’t happen. A good quality 16-18% protein feed should be sufficient during the laying season. Unless the bird is molting, in which case, higher protein content is needed.

Unbalanced diet or Stress: 

If the hen has an imbalance in her diet, she will try to correct it. If there is not enough protein available, egg-eating is one way to supplement the diet with protein.

Stressed hens tend to pick and pluck more- eggs, feathers, etc. To avoid stressing her while on the nest, don’t be rummaging around under her looking for eggs. Let her lay in peace.

Too much Light or Boredom:

Hens like a darkened, private area in which to lay their eggs. Try to cut down the light by using curtains or dimming lights. If the hen can’t see the egg, she won’t peck at it.

Hens get into mischief when they are bored! Try to keep them occupied, if they free-range, you likely won’t have a problem. If they are confined, you need to offer other activities to keep them busy- tetherball, scratching, etc.

How do you Break the Hens Eating Eggs habit?

Hens eating their own eggs is a form of cannibalism and it needs to be stopped. It can be time-consuming to try and break a determined hen of this habit, but it can be done. We all know how good fresh eggs taste, so we really can’t blame them!

When it comes to raising chickens, collecting eggs is best done in a timely fashion in order to avoid egg breakage and egg eating. Most hens have typically finished laying their eggs by 10 AM. Therefore, collecting eggs earlier in the morning and during the day is good practice to ensure your eggs’ quality.

Hens Eating Eggs
How do you Combat Egg eating in Chickens? – Image by Congerdesign from Pixabay

Not forgetting, egg breakage is one of the main reasons hens begin eating eggs. Reducing or eliminating egg breakage minimizes the chances your hens will get a taste for raw egg. Practicing egg breakage prevention may be all it takes to stop your hens from eating eggs, even if they’ve already started.

But, despite the timeliness of your egg-collecting, damage can still occur. Chickens are omnivores and if left to their own devices may eat just about anything. Chickens commonly eat fruit, vegetables, insects, and their own eggs.

However, other things you can do to put a stop to egg eating is to take steps to lower stress. Many of the ideas mentioned here can be quickly implemented with little fuss and disruption.

Beak Clipping and Isolation

A little more draconian is clipping the beak. Only the very tip of the beak is trimmed so that it is more difficult for the hen to break the egg. Care must be exercised when doing this since the beak is living tissue and cutting too far down will cause bleeding and pain.

If all of these measures have been tried and the habit persists, you are now down to your final option- isolate the bird. You should follow the process outlined within the broody hen article. This can be tried for as long as it takes to break the habit.

Give Them Enough Space

Now that we know some of the causes, what can we do to deter or stop it from happening? Many of the causes can be dealt with quickly and easily. For instance, we know that overcrowding is probably the number one cause for egg eating. To fix this, we need either more room in the coop or fewer chickens.

But, always remember, for confined birds at least 4 square feet per bird, preferably more. Can you add on or extend a coop or run? Perhaps get a second coop and split the flock.

Nesting Boxes

There should be one nest box for every four hens. My girls have ‘favorite’ nesting boxes, so I have put out a few more boxes so there is room for all. My ratio is ten boxes for twenty-seven hens, so roughly one box per three hens.

Too few nests will result in ‘heavy traffic’ to those boxes increasing the likelihood of eggs getting trampled or cracked. Make sure there is sufficient nesting material for them too. Nest boxes should also be in darkened areas of the coop, not in direct sunlight. As crazy as it sounds, putting up ‘curtains’ can help tremendously.

Feed and Water

Food and water should always be readily available for your flock. Sometimes bully birds will guard the food and water, so put out a second or third station so the more timid flock members can safely eat and drink.

It is important to ensure that the feed you are giving them is well balanced. Most commercial feeds are precisely formulated, so it should not be an issue. Homemade rations can sometimes lack vital nutrients such as vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium.

These vitamins, in conjunction with calcium and protein, are metabolized by the body and produce sturdy shells. There are vitamin D supplements for chickens available on the web. Calcium in the form of the oyster shell should be given as a side dish.

Finely crushed eggshells can be fed back to the hens, but make sure the shells are not recognizable as eggshells!

Stress and Boredom

Boredom is the number one enemy of hens and teenagers! I can’t help with teenagers, but for hens, there are a few things you can do to keep them out of mischief. But, there’re various discussed measures in the boredom busters’ article. In that case, ideas such as cabbage tetherball, rolling treat dispensers, and chicken wings.

Employ all these methods and more of your own making. Hens are curious about things, they are smart too. Once they have sampled an egg they know how good it is, so keeping them busy is important.

Young or in-experienced hens may lay weak shelled eggs at the start of lay. If the egg cracks and breaks they will naturally sample the contents. Always ensure that if you find a broken egg to clean up every last speck of it. Change the bedding out too.

Make sure the youngsters have sufficient areas to nest in- the older birds may jealously guard their favorite box. A stressed hen may eat her own eggs simply because she is stressed by the other hens.

Blowing Eggs and Changing the Bedding

A favorite deterrent is ‘blowing’ eggs. You make a small hole at the ends of the egg and blow out the contents. Replace the content with mustard. Chickens can’t stand the taste of mustard and this will stop them in their tracks.

A friend tried Plaster of Paris filled eggs- the hens ate them! So calcium was possibly a deficit. However, you can try using ceramic or wooden eggs, even golf balls. The theory is the bird gets tired of pecking with nothing to show for it.

Equally important, removing all bedding in the nest box is said to help since the egg will roll away when pecked at. Roll away nesting boxes can also be used. When the egg is laid, the egg rolls out from the hen and cannot be pecked at.

Additional Dos and Don’ts;

  • Avoid bright lighting near the nesting boxes.
  • Don’t disturb hens in the nests.
  • Make sure you have enough space for each hen in the coop.
  • Keep fresh feed and water available at all times.
  • Set up a second feeding station if one hen is bullying the others by guarding a single feeding station.
  • If possible, provide hens with space outdoors to roam or at least a run with fresh grass and bugs.

How do you Prevent Hens Eating Eggs habit?

Before ruling your hen’s egg-eating behavior as a character flaw, be sure they’re not suffering from a health issue. Provide your chicken with a free-choice oyster shell, which is high in calcium, in the event that your hen is eating their eggs because they are calcium deficient.

Another issue that may be the cause of your hen’s egg-eating is boredom. Be sure to provide your chickens with enough space and pasture to roam around. Additionally, collect the eggs at least twice a day to keep your chickens from being tempted to break them.

A great way to ensure the safety of your eggs in the vicinity of your egg-eating hen is to utilize a metal chicken nest box. Best Next Box provides the sale of a metal chicken nest box, which is not only easy to assemble in contrast to other chicken nest boxes but also is able to convert into a front or rear-facing rollaway nest box. With a rollaway feature and an egg guard that is faced toward the egg-laying area, your eggs will be protected from damage and egg-eating.

Egg eating can reduce your farm’s productivity and egg sales. Ensure your chickens are healthy and happy and that they are getting enough exercise. When a chicken begins to eat their eggs, check for calcium deficiency and utilize the benefits of chicken nesting boxes to protect your eggs from damage.

Here are the Best Methods of Combating with Hens Eating Eggs habit;

  • Provide at least one 12-inch-square nest for every 4 or 5 hens in the flock and never fewer than six nesting boxes. Nesting boxes should be positioned at least 2 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from the roosts.
  • Keep at least 2 inches of clean, dry nesting material (shavings or straw) in the nest boxes at all times.
  • Relocate any broody hens, which cause congestion in the nesting boxes.
  • Keep eggshells strong by feeding a calcium supplement—usually sold as oyster shells—in a free-choice feeder.
  • Feed your chickens a complete feed specifically designed for laying hens.
  • If you feed hens eggshells for calcium, smash them to a powder so the chickens don’t associate them with the eggs.
  • Collect eggs early. Collecting eggs early in the day leaves less time for breakage and egg eating. Most hens are finished laying eggs by 10 a.m.

All in all, be diligent with this behavior. Some people initially think it’s cute, but change their minds when they don’t have any eggs! Once you have a couple of hens doing this, it becomes a much more difficult thing to remedy.

How do you Raise Chickens on your Backyard?

Nothing could be more tricky for starters than raising chickens cheaply in the backyard. Eventually, with increased congestion in the urban environment, there is more demand for food as well. But, instead of having your backyard laying around lazily, why not consider poultry farming with a little investment cost.

Lucky for all of us, there are ways to cut costs and save money raising chickens. Because if you’re anything like us, you got yourself a flock of chickens for the free eggs. And then found out you were spending way more money on your chickens than you ever did on store-bought eggs.

Start Raising Chickens
How you can start raising chickens in your Backyard – Image by Klimkin from Pixabay

Basically, apart from utilizing your home garden or backyard for kitchen food produce, such as herbs, you can as well make money raising chickens too. Whether you want to grow a kitchen herb garden as a hobby or to save money or just for healthier eating, there are plenty of herbs you can grow in your backyard. Whether on your patio or even in your windowsill.

Fresh herbs make recipes taste even better and are great to have around for soups, stews, and salads. Not to mention, while actualizing that, you can simply incorporate the project in raising chickens to make ends meet and make a living.

Here: Read more about Raising Chickens Cheaply In Your Backyard Guidelines.

Resourceful References;

I hope the above guide was helpful in considering the best way you can utilize to prevent the habit of hens eating eggs. Especially, on your backyard, while at the same time make money while raising chickens.

However, if you’d like more guidance with more relevant information, please Contact Us. Not forgetting, you can also share your thoughts, contributions or even additional information in the comments box below this post.

Finally, below are more useful and related to the topic links.

  1. The 8 Best Chicken Coops of 2019
  2. Medicinal Herbs For Your Kitchen Garden
  3. Why Chickens Eat Eggs and How to Stop It
  4. Chicken Mite Treatment and Prevention
  5. How to Start an Egg Business
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