Why Do Chickens Eat Their Eggs?
The simple answer: You’re doing something that pushes them over the edge to become egg-eaters.
Before it gets worst, let’s find out the real reasons why your hens are eating their eggs. The answers can vary – but you’ll soon have this problem sorted once and for all…
4 Reasons Why Are Chickens Eating Their Own Eggs
Several reasons could begin the dreaded egg-eating in your flock. Once you figure out the reason causing your particular issue, you can create a remedy to the problem.
Reason #1 – Overcrowding
An overcrowded coop is the most common culprit of egg-eating behavior in chickens. Just imagine you’re cooped up in one small, confined room with your entire family. Wouldn’t you feel stressed, annoyed, and exhausted?
The same thing happens with chicken, and it can get pretty ugly. The stress is too much for the chickens to handle that they’ll start pecking the egg shells until it breaks and the egg yolk spills out. In other cases, they’ll resort to feather pecking and cannibalism (1).
Placing too many chickens under one roof is unhygienic. In case you haven’t noticed, chickens poop all the time. Small space + dirty chicken house and you have a recipe for disaster – not only several pieces of broken eggs but a breeding ground of diseases – yikes!
Solution: Fixing overcrowding is straightforward – you need to upgrade your chickens’ house. The more room you have for chickens to freely move around, the better (2). Unless you have space to free-range, chickens need at least four square feet per bird. Take note this is only for floor space – the nesting box and nesting area are excluded.
If you need some inspiration, you can take a look at our free DIY Coop Plans.
Reason #2 – Not Enough Nesting Boxes
Eggs easily break if multiple hens are trying to squeeze into the same box – just two to three steps and crack! broken eggs. Of course, there is one possibility that you have an egg-eater in your flock but if you’ve harvested without broken eggs before, then there’s an issue with nest boxes.
Even when it’s not egg-laying time, chickens will access the nest box and display pre-laying nesting behavior (3).
Hens have been found to work harder to access a discrete nest site prior to egg laying than they do gaining access to food following 4 hours of food deprivation.
So, it’s no surprise that one of your hens, due to hormones and ovulation, will go to the nest box and not lay a single egg. If there are already eggs in the nesting box, well, you might as well say goodbye to two to three eggs. And, once she gets the taste of that yolk, the habit of egg-eating will kick in.
Solution: Harvest fresh eggs daily. For every four hens, you need one nest box. The boxes should be at least a 12-inch square and positioned four feet or more away from the roosts. Make sure to harvest every day to give your pre-laying hens a chance to
You can also add fresh bedding to the nest boxes and coop often. If an egg does happen to escape from nest boxes, fluffy bedding should provide adequate protection.
Reason #3 – Unbalanced Diet
Now if you already have a spacious coop and the right number of nest boxes, but your hens still have the nasty habit of egg eating, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Egg-laying chickens require higher calcium intake in their diet (4). Naturally, they will try to figure out a way to solve the problem themselves by pecking and eating the egg shells – the egg shell is pure calcium. Then, they’ll accidentally (and unknowingly) discover that the contents of the eggs are tasty and jumpstart the egg-eating habit!
A low-calcium diet can also mean thin-shelled eggs and fewer eggs to harvest. If prolonged, calcium deficiency can lead to paralysis and even death.
Solution: There are three things you can do to stop your birds from becoming egg eaters. First, you should provide the hens with a balanced diet (5).
A quality feed contains 16 to 18% protein content. Look for a complete diet designed for laying hens. For feed recipes and more information, see our ultimate guide to Chicken Feed Here!
Now if you’re already feeding the hens with quality chicken feed, they’ll still benefit from adding more calcium to their diet. This leads us to the second solution – feeding crushed egg shells to your chickens.
That’s right. You can feed your hens crushed-up egg shells for extra calcium. Not only it is economical, but it’s also hassle-free to obtain and the easiest solution to fix their egg-eating habit. If you provide eggshells for additional calcium, be sure to crush them up thoroughly. You don’t want an unbalanced diet affecting your chickens’ gizzard!
Here’s how you should crush egg shells:
Some backyard chicken keepers use oyster shells like this one because it has higher calcium content than chicken egg shells. Plus, you don’t have to worry about finely crushing the oyster shell!
Reason #4 – Boredom
Now imagine this, a 5-hour road trip with the kids. What happens? Are they friendly and nice or are they bickering with each other. We bet it’s the latter.
Chickens are like kids. Keep them together in one space without anything to do, and boom a war ensues. They’ll look for fun and then without any warning they’ll start fighting each other. And once they’ve figured that the eggs’ contents taste amazing, well, say goodbye to your Sunday harvest.
Solution: What do you do to keep peace in your household? Of course, give the kids something to do! That applies to chicken too. There are several ways that you can bust chicken boredom and stop hens from eating eggs. Here are some ideas:
- Turn the coop into a multi-leveled playground by adding several roosts. You can use PVC pipes, ladders, and anything else that you could get your hands on!
- Build their own dust bathing spot. It’s not only great for entertainment but dust bathing also keeps those nasty parasites like mites from ruining your hens’ plumage.
- Add a pile of dirt or hay in the coop. Chickens, including your egg-eating hens, hate the sight of a pile. They’ll stomp the pile down until it’s completely flat.
- Part-time free-range your hens. Consider this as your leisurely walk to the park! Hens can roam around, have an exercise, and of course stop thinking about eating eggs.
Curing The Hard Cases
If you tried the above tips and still have an egg eating rouge or two, you have a problem on your hands.. Unfortunately, there are many circumstances in which that hen must be culled.
It isn’t the result you want, but she will pass the habit onto other hens.
Before deciding to cull, here are some other tips when you want to figure out how to stop chickens from eating eggs.
- Find the culprit. You might catch her in the act of note that she has yolk on her beak and feathers. Remember, there could be more than one! Once you catch the criminals, isolate them for the flock for a few days. The isolation might be enough to break the habit.
- Place ceramic eggs or golf balls in the nests. The hen will tire of trying to break open the fake egg.
- Fill an emptied egg with mustard. She will break it and find the contents offending. You could also add dyed contents if you are having issues finding the egg eater.
Now You Know What To Do If Your Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs
Chickens eating their own eggs is not the end of the world!
The issue could be as simple as needing to change their diet or adding a few boredom busters to their coop. If the prevention tips don’t work, determine your culprit and separate her from the rest of the flock. After isolation, you can determine if culling is necessary.
Have you ever had an egg-eating chicken? If so, how did you solve the problem? Let us know in the comments!
Yes, chickens eat their own eggs in the wild. Like humans, chickens are omnivores. They eat vegetables, fruits, and even meat. But in a backyard setting, having egg eaters can be a result of a poor coop, diet, and overall care.
No, you shouldn’t feed broken eggs to a hen. If you do so, you’re training your chickens to be egg-eaters. If you don’t want the eggs to go to waste, you can cook them first before giving them to your birds. Remember, eggs are high in protein. Giving them scrambled eggs are great for their health.
Yes, a rooster can be an egg eater too. Just like a hen, a rooster will peck and consume an egg because of dietary reasons or he is bored. Good thing, the solution is also the same. Give your roosters more space to roam, change their diet, and bust their boredom.
- Feather Pecking And Cannibalism In Small And Backyard Poultry Flocks. Retrieved from: https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-behavior/feather-pecking-and-cannibalism-in-small-and-backyard-poultry-flocks/
- How Much Room Do You Need For Your Chickens. Retrieved from: https://www.brighthub.com/environment/green-living/articles/102397/
- Why Is It Important For Layer Hens To Express Normal Behaviours. Retrieved from: https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/why-is-it-important-for-layer-hens-to-express-normal-behaviours/
- Timing of the calcium intake and effect of calcium deficiency on behaviour and egg laying. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9231379/
- What Should I Feed My Backyard Hens. Retrieved from: https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-backyard-hens/