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    16 Ways to Prevent Chickens from Eating Their Own Eggs

    Authored by Gail Damerow

    Egg eating is a frustrating vice chickens can develop, in which they peck open and eat their own eggs. It often starts when an egg accidentally breaks and a curious chicken explores the tasty fluid oozing out. Thereafter she decides to deliberately break and eat other eggs. Flockmates watch and learn. Eventually the chicken keeper gets no eggs, but has a mess of sticky nests to clean up. Once started, egg eating spreads fast and is difficult to stop. Prevention is easier than cure. Here are 16 ways to prevent chickens from eating their own eggs:

    1: Collect eggs often

    Depending on how many hens you have, collecting eggs only once in the morning may not be enough. If you think you didn’t gather as many eggs as you should have for the size of your flock, collect eggs again at noon in case any were laid later in the morning. Check again during evening chores.

    2: Darken nest boxes

    Nest boxes placed in a dimly lighted area of the coop encourage hens to lay in them. Dim lighting also discourages hens from lingering in the boxes, or entering them to scratch around in the nesting material. An easy way to darken nests is to drape curtains over the nest fronts.

    3: Furnish enough nests

    Given a sufficient number of nests, hens are less tempted to lay on the floor or to crowd into too-few nests, breaking previously laid eggs. Minimizing breakage is an essential way to prevent chickens from eating their own eggs. Furnish at least one nest box for every four to five hens. In a small flock with five or fewer hens, furnish at least two nests.

    4: Mind nest size

    Some chicken keepers prefer community nests, and indeed some laying hens seem to enjoy company. But most hens prefer privacy. Plus multiple hens using a single nest can lead to broken eggs. Nest boxes that are just big enough for a single hen would be about 12 by 14 inches and 12 inches deep for Leghorn-size layers, 14 by 14 inches and 12 inches deep for larger breeds, and 10 by 12 inches by 10 inches deep for bantams.

    5: Position nests off the floor

    Nest boxes sitting directly on the floor invite activities such as scratching and pecking, causing shells to crack. You can easily raise nests off the floor by setting them on a platform or securely fastening them to a wall. For nest boxes that are more than 18 inches high, install a series of perches, positioned so hens can hop from one to the other to access the nests.

    6: Provide soft nesting material

    A hen stands up just before laying an egg, so the egg drops into the nest. The shell is less likely to crack if the egg encounters something soft. Excelsior nesting pads are a popular option. Personally I prefer well dried shavings. Either way, check nesting material often and replace as need to keep it clean and fluffy.

    7: Add a sill

    Chicken keepers often complain that their hens scratch nesting material out of the nest. Sometimes eggs roll out of the nest and break when they hit the floor. A 4-inch sill along the front bottom edge of each nest solves both problems.

    8: Use fake eggs

    A ceramic egg left in a nest box tells a hen the nest is a safe place to lay her own eggs. It also discourages egg eating when a hen finds that after a few pecks the egg won’t crack. So ceramic eggs may be used both to preventing the start of egg eating and to try to stop it if it does start.

    9: Install roll-away nest boxes

    Roll-out or roll-away nest boxes have a gently sloped bottom. A freshly laid egg rolls into a covered container, where hens can’t see, step on, or peck at it. This type of nest completely eliminates egg eating. If the problem starts with other types of nests, replacing those nests with roll-aways is a sure way to prevent chickens from eating their own eggs.

    10: Supply plenty of water

    The average chicken normally drinks one to two cups of water each day. As temperatures rise, hens need more to drink. In cold weather, the drinking water may freeze. A hen that runs out of water gets thirsty, and a thirsty hen looks for ways to hydrate. An egg is 65% water, making it a potential source of moisture. Keeping drinkers full eliminates a chicken’s need to seek alternatives.

    11: Provide good nutrition

    Make sure your hens are getting a proper layer ration with sufficient protein to satisfy their bodily needs. A layer ration should contain at least 16% protein. Eggs are rich in protein and other nutrients, making them a temptation for chickens fed a deficient diet. Excessive feeding of treats can dilute the overall protein in a hen’s diet. Treats should always include a high-protein option such as dried mealworms.

    12: Feed oyster shells

    Strong shells are less likely to break than thin shells resulting from too little dietary calcium. Hens don’t always get enough calcium from layer ration to keep eggshells strong. An oyster shell calcium supplement allows them to consume as much as they need from a separate hopper. You can also dry and crush eggshells for some of the supplemental calcium, but they won’t provide all the calcium your hens need. Never feed large pieces of fresh shells, to avoid their association with eggs.

    13: Never feed raw eggs

    Feeding eggs back to your chickens is okay, as long as they aren’t raw. Presenting raw eggs to your chickens is a really good way to entice potential egg eaters. Instead, cook the eggs either scrambled or boiled and mashed. I cook whole eggs, shell and all, making sure to smash the shells small enough to make them unrecognizable.

    14: Avoid overcrowding

    In an overcrowded coop, timid flock members looking for places to hide may seek refuge in nest boxes. They not only trample eggs that have been laid, but also occupy space hens need for laying eggs. Stress induced by crowded conditions also can cause a hen to prematurely lay an egg with a soft or missing shell, which then easily gets broken and eaten. Avoid acquiring too many chickens for your facility, and provide lots of environmental variety where timid flock members to get away from others.

    15: Prevent boredom

    Make sure your chickens have plenty of opportunities to explore things to peck, relieving the temptation to peck at eggs. Free ranging both prevents boredom and provides good nutrition in the form of fresh greens and protein-rich bugs. Chicken swings make good boredom busters. Treat balls keep chickens entertained and busy while giving them something to peck at.

    16. Trim beaks

    If all else fails, a beak trim can prevent chickens from eating their own eggs. No, a temporary beak trim is not the same as debeaking, which is a traditional industry practice of removing the end of a beak so it permanently remains short. Beak trimming involves removing no more than one-fifth of the upper beak only. The hen can eat, but has trouble poking holes in eggshells. A properly trimmed beak should grow back in about six weeks, by which time the hen hopefully will have forgotten about eating freshly laid eggs.

    Gail Damerow has written many books about chickens. Those available at Tractor Supply include Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Hatching and Brooding Your Own Chicks, The Chicken Health Handbook, and more. Visit Gail’s blog at gaildamerow.com

    More from Gail Damerow

    Laying an egg is a big job! Read more to find out how your eggs are produced in a hen's reproductive system.
    Gail Damerow gives us the details on hatching eggs - whether you plan to purchase eggs or collect and hatch from your own flock.