How to Stop Egg Eating Chickens

The last thing you want is for your chickens to start eating their own eggs. That kind of defeats the purpose of raising chickens.

Egg eating chickens are not what you want in a backyard flock. It's a bad habit that gets harder to break the longer you let it go on.

Many say that culling the offender(s) is the only way to stop it but I offer that there are a few less drastic solutions.

It generally starts by accident. An egg gets stepped on or otherwise breaks, one curious hen pecks at it and thinks - hmm this tastes good. And now you've got an egg eating chickens.

She will then start breaking eggs as soon as they are laid, and soon other hens will follow her lead and you'll have a whole flock laying eggs and proceeding to eat them.

Your first clue might be a lack of, or reduction in the number of eggs you collect, although there are other reasons why production slows down.

Other than catching egg eating chickens red-handed with yolk dripping off their beaks, your best clue will be a wet mess in the nests, but no sign of an egg. The chickens will generally eat the egg, shell and all.

Basically, you want to keep the eggs from breaking in the first place, but I have some other tips for heading off egg eating chickens before they start - and then for 'curing' an egg eater after the fact.

How to Stop Egg Eating Chickens

There are several things that can cause egg eating to start:

Weak-Shelled Eggs

Even a good commercial layer feed doesn't always provide enough calcium for really strong shells. If your shells are weak, a hen can step on, and inadvertently break it. Providing free-choice oyster shell or crushed eggshell can help with that.

As long as you crush the eggshells into 1/4" or smaller pieces, the chickens won't associate the shells with eggs, so don't worry about feeding crushed eggshell leading to egg eating chickens. I have been doing it for years and not had once incidence of egg eating. Ever.

And in fact, keep reading and you'll find out that feeding eggs TO your chickens can actually help prevent egg eating as well!

Not Enough Bedding in the Nesting Boxes

There should be at least 2" of soft bedding (straw, pine shavings, shredded paper, etc) in the nesting boxes to prevent eggs from breaking on the hard floor.

A sheet of rubber shelf liner or an old yoga mat cut to size on the bottom of the box can also help prevent broken eggs.

I have tried both straw and shavings, but prefer straw for the nesting boxes. I have found it holds its shape better and often using shavings the chickens will make a 'bowl' in it right down to the nesting box floor and the egg will be sitting on the bare floor.

Update: I recently discovered aspen nesting pads and have been using them since the summer of 2018. They're wonderful and I highly recommend them. They hold their shape, it's harder for the chickens to kick the bedding out of the boxes, and they compost just as well as straw or shavings.

As long as your chickens aren't sleeping in the boxes (which they shouldn't be anyway...) the pads stay clean and can be used for weeks and weeks with maybe just a quick shake out every so often.

Not Enough Nesting Boxes

As a rule of thumb, you should provide one nesting box for every 3-4 hens, although they still will want to use the same the same time.

But it can cut down on scuffles and broken eggs to provide enough boxes. You also don't want your nesting boxes to be much larger than 12-14" square.

Just enough room for one hen, but not enough that two might be tempted to squeeze in there - that can lead to broken eggs as well.

 High Visibility Nesting Boxes

Out of sight, out of mind. Believe it or not, hanging curtains across the front of your nesting boxes can deter egg eating chickens. The curtains not only shield the eggs from open view, they make the boxes darker. If passing hens can't see the eggs as well they aren't as tempted to investigate.

Broody Hens

Broody hens can contribute to broken eggs as they fight to hold their ground and not give up a nest. Yet another good reason to break broodies if you aren't hatching eggs.

Cooped up Chickens

Not opening up your coop first thing when the sun comes up can lead to broken eggs. The early layers are laying eggs, and the other chickens are milling around - bored. One broken egg, even by accident, and that can lead to the bad habit beginning.

So try to let your chickens out as soon after sunrise as you can. If you're not an early riser, installing an automatic chicken door might be a good solution for you.

Leaving Eggs in the Nesting Boxes After They are Laid

Eggs should be collected as quickly as possible to avoid having them sitting in the nesting boxes creating a temptation.

Replace the eggs with golf balls, plastic Easter eggs, ping pong balls, wood or ceramic eggs so they will start to find that when they peck at 'eggs' they don't break and tasty yummy inside after all.

In extreme cases, or if you aren't home to collect the eggs, the nesting boxes can be replaced with the roll-away type of nest box where the floor is slanted and the eggs literally roll out into a collection tray as soon as they are laid.

Not Enough Protein

Ironically, feeding your chickens eggs can actually get them to stop eating their eggs.

A protein deficiency can often be what is making them crave the egg and start eating them in the first place, so add some cooked scrambled eggs to their diet and see if that puts a stop to it. 

Other causes of egg eating may be boredom which can be 'cured' by providing outdoor roosts or logs for your hens to stand on, piles of dirt, leaves or weeds to rummage through, a hanging treat feeder or even a mirror in the coop or run.

Urban Chicken Legend: Something often mentioned on the internet to stop egg eating is to blow out some eggs and fill them with mustard and/or hot sauce.

The theory is that hens will learn pretty fast that eggs don't taste good. However, it's been proven that hens taste buds aren't designed to taste or feel 'hot' or 'spicy', so don't bother.

However, the hot sauce or mustard trick can be used to deter rodents or snakes from eating the eggs, if that's a problem in your coop.

With a little persistence, it is possible to break a hen of egg eating. Culling should only be considered as a last resort.

Have you ever had any experience with egg eating chickens in your flock ? How did you handle the problem? I would love to hear!

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