People keep chickens for many reasons: meat, eggs, feathers, ornamental purposes, or breeding.
If you keep chickens for their eggs and you’ve had your chickens for a while, but might notice that they will actually eat their own eggs.
Perhaps there’s been a massive drop in the number of eggs you get from them, or you actually caught some of the chickens eating the eggs.
How do you stop chickens from eating eggs?
Let’s take a closer look at why chickens eat their own eggs in the first place and how you can stop them.
Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?
One of the first few questions that will cross your mind when you discover that your chickens are eating their own eggs is why.
If it’s your first time seeing chickens eat their eggs, you will definitely want to know why they do it.
Chickens eat their eggs for various reasons, and top among these reasons is calcium deficiency.
If your chickens are not getting enough calcium in their diet, their calcium levels will drop. When their calcium levels become low, they seek out an alternative source of calcium.
Eggshells are packed with calcium, and in the search for supplemental calcium, some chickens realize this. These chickens crack their eggs and feed on them.
Calcium is not the only nutrient that can trigger egg eating in chickens. Insufficient levels of protein can also have the same effect on chickens.
Ideally, chickens should get 16-18% of protein in their diet. When they are molting, they should get even more protein.
If they are not getting enough protein, chickens will look for it in alternative food items. One item they may go after is eggs.
Eggs Broken Accidentally
In other cases, chickens can develop a taste for their own eggs accidentally.
If an egg gets broken in their nesting area, chickens may feed on it. This is not surprising since chickens usually eat anything that appears to be food.
After feeding on eggs and realizing how good they are, chickens can keep eating them.
In fact, they may even start breaking the eggs themselves just to satisfy their unusual diet. All it takes is one chicken, then others will follow suit.
Infrequent Egg Collection
Another reason chickens start eating their own eggs is if you are not collecting the eggs frequently.
When the eggs remain in the nests longer than they should, the chances of them breaking is higher.
Chickens need about 4 square feet of space per individual. If their coop is overcrowded, there are very high chances that eggs can be broken.
If eggs get broken, and your chickens acquire a taste for them, they won’t stop. when the coop is overcrowded, chickens will come across eggs more often than they should.
Out of curiosity, they may break the eggs to check them out.
Boredom and Curiosity
In some cases of boredom or curiosity, chickens may get into mischief or seek a new type of food. In their search, they may stumble upon broken or surplus eggs.
If hens are not getting enough feed, there’s every chance they will look for alternatives. Their eggs may just be that alternative.
Insufficient Nest Boxes
Every 4 hens should get at least one nest box. Anything less than this will increase the chances of the eggs getting damaged.
Of course, you can already guess what will happen if the eggs get broken in the nest.
In cases where the eggs have weak shells, they may crack when they are laid. Then the chickens could have a taste and get hooked.
When chickens are stressed, they pick, peck, and pluck more. They could pluck feathers or peck eggs when they are stressed.
Do Chickens Naturally Eat Their Own Eggs?
It is unnatural for chickens to eat their own eggs. In fact, the egg-eating habit in some chickens can be considered to be a form of cannibalism.
This habit is more common amongst deep-litter chickens, and as you would expect, you will lose a lot of eggs if you let it persist.
If you are a farmer who sells eggs, you could also lose a lot of money to your chickens’ egg-eating habit. So, you have to put an end to it as soon as you can.
Signs That Chickens Are Eating Their Eggs
Reduced Egg Production
One of the earliest signs you may notice when your chickens start eating their eggs is a marked reduction in egg production.
Sometimes free-ranging chickens may lay their eggs in new places. This may mask as reduced egg production.
If you do not find any hidden eggs after checking around, you may start suspecting that your chickens are eating their eggs.
Face and Body Stained With Eggs
One tell-tale sign that the chickens have been having an egg feast is finding leftovers on their faces, wings, neck, or belly.
You may not be able to see this from afar. But if you examine the chickens closely, you should find some leftover yoke. You may also find that their feathers are sticky from being stained with egg.
No Eggs When There Should Be Eggs
Chickens usually lay few eggs or none at all during winter and when they are molting.
However, during other times, chickens should be laying eggs, especially in summer.
If you are not getting eggs when you should, you may start suspecting the chickens.
Eggs should not quickly go missing.
If you are collecting eggs out of the chickens’ nests and step away for a few minutes to do something else, only to find eggs randomly missing, you may suspect your chickens.
No Sign of a Predator
If there are no signs that a predator is stealing the chickens’ eggs, your suspicion should grow stronger.
Also, if you notice blood and lots of feathers around, you should be on the look out for predators.
If this coincides with the disappearance of some of your chickens, you should really suspect predation.
How to Figure Out Which Chicken Is Eating the Eggs
Sometimes, the culprit may just be one or a few chickens, not all of them. In such situations, how do you identify those eating the eggs?
Egg Yolk on the Face
One indicative sign that reveals the egg-eating chicken is the presence of egg yolk on its face.
Sticky Feather and Bill
Besides having egg yolk on their faces, you’ll find that chickens that eat eggs may have sticky feathers and bills. The stickiness stems from the portion of the egg that stains the chickens while they eat.
An Egg Test
Another way to figure out the culprit is to test them with an egg or a dummy egg. All you need do is place the egg or dummy egg before the chickens, then watch out for those who go after it.
If you have enough time on your hands, you could sit around the coop and monitor the chickens. It won’t be hard to tell which of your chickens is eating the eggs.
11 Ways to Stop Chickens From Eating Their Own Eggs
After all is said and done, how do you stop chickens from eating their own eggs?
Here are 11 tips to try to discourage the behavior:
1. Assess and Improve Their Diet
Your chickens may be eating their eggs because of calcium deficiency. They could also be going after their eggs if they are not getting enough protein.
If you detect that the chickens are eating their eggs, assess their diet for inadequacies.
If the diet does not have enough protein, you can improve it by adding mealworms, fish, lentils, or sunflower seeds.
To increase calcium levels in your chickens’ feed, you can add crushed mussel shells or crushed oyster shells.
2. Use Slanted Nesting Box
Another way to stop your chickens from eating eggs is to install slanted nesting boxes in their coop.
With this, the eggs will roll out of the reach of the chickens when they are laid so they do not have a chance to eat them.
3. Use Hard Dummy Eggs
You can deter the egg-eating habits by replacing real eggs with hard dummy eggs. You could get ceramic eggs, golf balls, or wood eggs and place them in their nest.
The expectation here is that as the chickens try to peck these dummy eggs, and they will find them impenetrable.
Seeing that what they consider to be eggs cannot be broken, they would learn to not eat them.
4. Increase the Space in Their Coop
Chickens need at least 4 square feet of space per individual. Increase the space they have in their coop, and the egg eating may come to a stop.
5. Increase the Number of Nesting Boxes
With too many eggs in the nesting box, chickens are more likely to trample on them. If they trample on the eggs and they get broken, they may eat them.
You can provide more nesting boxes in the coop. If there aren’t enough boxes, you may end up having too many eggs in the few available.
Provide at least 1 nesting box for every 4 hens.
6. Always Provide Water and Food
Your chickens may have found eggs as a solution to their general hunger.
Your chickens may just be eating eggs because they are hungry. Providing regular water and food to them will help in this case.
7. Provide Amusement for the Chickens
If the issue is boredom, then you should provide some form of amusement for the chickens.
You could install a chicken swing for them to play on. You may also fix a cabbage tetherball for them.
Besides these options, there are many other toys you can get for your chickens. You can also let them range freely more than usual as long as you have low-risk space.
8. Use Mustard Eggs
Another way to deter the chickens from eating eggs is to trick them with mustard eggs. Chickens hate the taste of mustard.
To make mustard eggs, drill a tiny hole into an egg, and empty the contents. Then fill it with mustard, and place the eggs with mustard in the chickens’ nest.
The expectation here is that when they break the eggshell and taste the mustard, they will be discouraged.
9. Collect Eggs Frequently
Infrequent collection of eggs will lead to a pile up and an increased likelihood that they will crack. Collecting eggs frequently will reduce the chances of this happening.
If you have chickens that already eat eggs, frequently collecting eggs allows you to get the eggs out before they’re eaten. In this case, you may even have to fetch the eggs multiple times a day.
10. Darken the Nest Area
Chickens do not see well in the dark. When it’s dark, they probably will not see or eat the eggs.
One way to make the nest area dark is to install nest box curtains. Another way to do this is to install dimming lights.
11. Isolate the Culprit
In persistent cases, you might have to figure out which of your chickens is eating the eggs.
Once you’ve identified the culprit, you’ll have to take it away from the rest of the coop.
You may keep the egg-eating chicken isolated for as long as need until the habit stops.