Egg eating hens – 5 ways to deal November 18, 2012

Dealing with egg eating hens is a very frustrating problem—one I’m trying to deal with right now. I prefer our hens leave their eggs for us to eat, so I have some work ahead of me!empty shell left by egg eating hens

Let me start off telling you about our problem chicken, Isa.  She is an ISA Brown chicken (a sex-linked variety, similar to the Red Star or Golden Buff), a variety known for having large brown eggs and excellent production.   She is the only remaining member of our original flock of three chickens we  started with  in the fall of 2009  and has always been our best layer.  My daughter was five when we got her and chose the unoriginal name, but Isa is my daughter’s favorite chicken.  The whole family is especially fond of Isa, who is very friendly, and my daughter has shown her for the past three years at the county fair.  You get attached to a bird when the whole family participates in bathing her and buffing her nails!  Even with this bad habit we don’t want to get rid of her.

Isa should be ashamed that she is one of those egg eating hens!

Although Isa knows she is in trouble, scolding didn’t solve the problem!

There are various reasons that a chicken will start eating her eggs and in our circumstance it was stress. So what was the stress that started this problem and caused her to become an egg eating hen?  We had predator attacks two nights in a row and Isa was the only bird that survived.

At first we were just happy that she was smart enough to get away, and amazed that my daughter’s favorite was the only one that lived.  The day after the second attack,  in her temporary coop in our garage, she laid an egg.  I was thrilled since I know stress can have a negative effect on laying.  But the next day she didn’t lay or the next.  We went a week without eggs and I was thinking the stress had pushed her to molt early.  Then I found the remains of an egg—just a bit of shell–so we realized that Isa was still laying, but she was eating her eggs before I could retrieve them.  She had become one of those dreaded egg eating hens!

I researched online about what to do with egg eating hens, and I talked to friends and farmers we know who raise chickens.   I got a number of ideas that I’ll share here, but most ended with “… but that didn’t work with my egg eating hens, so they became soup.”

Well, Isa is our pet and we don’t want to resort to the most drastic measure for egg eating hens, so we are trying everything we can to break her habit!

  1. Gather the eggs early!  This is an easy one—get the eggs before your egg eating hens have the chance to eat them.  This helped for awhile with Isa; I had her schedule down to a half hour window that I knew she would lay… but when we had to leave town for the weekend, we couldn’t get someone to check on her with that kind of precision.
  2. Diet.  Make sure your egg eating hens are getting good nutrition. I have made sure she has enough protein and calcium since deficiencies can lead to egg eating.  She has a high protein feed and oyster shells always available all the time.  We also cut down on treats to make sure she wasn’t filling up low protein goodies.
  3. Fake or filled eggs.  A friend suggested a marble egg, with the theory that Isa would attempt to peck it open but  it would hurt her beak so she would stop.  Well, I didn’t find any marble eggs but did place a wooden egg in her nesting box.  This combined with prompt gathering has seemed to help the most.  We currently have about an 80% success rate—which means she is still eating one or two eggs a week… not perfect, but better than no eggs from her. Something I have yet to try are the mustard filled eggs. That was going to be my next step until I decided to try…
  4. Nesting box adjustments.  A roll-away nesting box is what we’ll soon be trying.  This idea is used commonly in commercial egg production (not that I want to keep my chickens anywhere close to commercial standards!).  The idea is that the nesting box floor is sloped and there is a double back wall (open slightly at the bottom) so the egg will roll to the back section where the chicken can’t reach it.  You can buy them pre-made, but I’m a DIY kind of gal so retrofitting our coop with this nest box design is my project for the weekend. If that’s beyond you, you can also try simply darkening the nests with a make-shift curtain, with the idea that if they can’t see the eggs well, they won’t be as tempted to eat them!
  5. Soup? NO!  As I said at the start of this post, many people have told me that once egg eating hens start this bad habit, it is nearly impossible to break them of it.  Logically, I understand this option—but emotionally, I couldn’t do it. Isa is our pet.

So those are our options and I am hopeful that the combination of the first four will work.  We even have discussed  keeping her, knowing she will eat her eggs—but we don’t want her teaching this bad behavior to other chickens or eating their eggs, too.

Have you ever had to deal with egg eating in your flock?  Do you have other suggestions to try?  I’d love to hear your success stories and will update soon to let you all know how well it is working for us.  We have two Ameraucanas that should start laying in the next month and our hope is to have a happy flock of three all laying well so WE can eat their eggs!

17 Comments
Michelle Zabell November 18th, 2012

I had this problem, and read everything and anything I could find. The solution that seemed to work, and had university based data (I think University of Florida) to back it up, was to fill the water container with raw milk and let them drink us much as they want. The study said it would work after a day and it did! We still do the other things (oyster shells, collect early and often, etc.) but never had the issue again. Raw milk can be found at Whole Food type stores. Good luck!!

Pam November 18th, 2012

I broke my hens (it was more than one – you can see the yolk on their beaks) of this habit by getting a lot of wooden eggs – that’s all it took. A week later, no more eating eggs!

SusieQ November 18th, 2012

We have three hens, Tammy, Erica and Ginger. Ginger regualry eats Erica’s eggs, but never eats her own or Tammy’s. Erica’s eggs are usually the biggest and have the thinnest shells.

I plan to try the raw milk idea and sloped nesting boxes as soon as possible! Thank you for the informative article.

Heather {Gottes Belle Farm} November 18th, 2012

We had a hen eating eggs in the coop. She didn’t care whose eggs. It wasn’t started by anything as far as I could tell.
I went out to the coop one night when the girls were all roosting. It was about a week after finding all the eggs half eaten every day. Sigh. I had a stern talking with the hens. Totally weird but they stopped.
Now after reading the raw milk comment I wonder if maybe the stern talking coincided with giving them our extra raw goats milk? Hmm
But we give them raw milk regular. Now I wonder if my threats were any good or not. Lol

Heather November 18th, 2012

I have a flock of 33. Two of my first hens were already 18 months old when I got them. Little did I know they were egg eaters. They are dedicated egg eaters. The younger hens learned it from them but don’t eat eggs very often, thank goodness. I use roll-away nest boxes and they work out pretty well. I will warn you though, sometimes those pesky hens reach their heads down through to where the eggs are and pull them back out. Usually the ones that are pulling the eggs back up are broodies though. My biggest problem is trying to collect these hens eggs for hatching. Still working on it. I like the milk idea.

Solway Recycling November 19th, 2012

We’ve had good results with the use of a golf ball as a dummy egg. It’s not kind but quite effective.

Lindsey December 6th, 2012

What worked for us was blowing out a few eggs and filling them with hot mustard. End of problem after one day.

Locklear December 21st, 2012

It is not are hens that eat the eggs. Well they do eat the egg. It is are roosters!!! I have watched the rooster go in the hen box and call the hen I was calling the rooster trying to distract him but he did’nt listen. 🙁

Kevin December 21st, 2012

Fortunatly, I have only had to deal with this one time, and it was a friend’s flock that I was helping with. Using a couple ceramic eggs stopped it (although we cought it fairly quickly). Those ceramic eggs have been in our family for years, so unfortunatly I don’t know where to refer folks to get more!
I’m not sure if you feed shells back to your birds, but I have heard that if they are not crushed enough, that can lead to egg eating. I feed shells back regularly but take a couple extra steps. First thing I do is to dry them in a low oven (to save power, I usually put them in the oven after I have taken something else out and turned it off- they just stay until its cold). Next thing I do is to crush them using a mortar and pedestal. So far, so good! Watch, I’ll have four start eating eggs tomorrow… 🙂
I have never heard of roos’ eating eggs- that is very interesting!

ken March 4th, 2013

ive got a white maran rooster with my rhode is. girls and he got in nest box today and started eating eggs for first time. they have everthing imageable to eat . help.

shelby April 16th, 2013

we made the mistake of feeding shells (from boiled eggs) that were not crushed enough and all of a sudden production was down. we collect twice a day and we actually opened the coop to find a free-for-all egg eating frenzy so at least eight hens were in on it. we got wooden eggs from a craft store and the problem immediately stopped. good luck finding a solution that works for you.

Denny April 3rd, 2014

This has become a huge problem. I have 7 hens. Unless I am there when the eggs are laid I am out of luck. I believe it was stress induced as it followed two consecutive dog attacks. No girls were killed but several lost feathers and I retrieved one from the dog’s mouth. They have commercial high protein feed, a 16×16 run, but are loose most days to free range our 3 acres. They have oyster shell, meal worm treats, grit and dust bath available. One hen started and the others have joined in. I have tried wooden eggs, ceramic eggs (you may find them in craft stores now for Easter time) and personally guarding the nest boxes but I don’t have that kind of time. I broke the habit for two days by being vigilant, but it started up again. I was considering a combination of the the soup cure combined with replacements, but these are my girls! Maybe the mustard and if that doesn’t work, then soup?

Denny April 19th, 2014

I decided to try the mustard egg, but never one to follow a recipe I stepped it up by adding a blend of hot mustard, Sriracha hot sauce, and horseradish. I figure what the heck I am at last resort time. I carefully sealed the egg holes with candle wax, placed the egg and waited for the free range ladies to return to the coop. Twenty minutes later 6 0f the 7 were headed that way. I left the garden and by the time I got there the egg was in the last stages of gone. All 6 had mustard on their heads and they were looking at me as if to say, that was awesome can we get some more? They still eat every egg they find.

Lissa April 20th, 2014

Chickens don’t have receptors for capsaicin, which is the “hot” in peppers. In fact, some commercial wild bird feeds include hot pepper because it drives off mammals (like squirrels) but doesn’t affect the birds. So don’t waste your sriracha on your chickens! If the mustard isn’t something they don’t like, perhaps you can try something else, like citrus. Typically chickens don’t like citrus fruits.

Susan Klimstra July 7th, 2015

When my hens started eating eggs this past winter I assumed it was because they were bored…not so. They were trying to tell their dumb human that they needed more straw of their nesting boxes. Since I have done this I have only 2 eggs broken in the last 3 months.

Carol Dorsett July 7th, 2015

I fed milk mill to my hens plus cooked meat scraps. This seemed to slow the egg eating way down. I had a bigger problem with an egg eating dog. He would get an egg when no one was looking and eat it. So I put Tabasco sauce on an egg and left it for him. It took several special eggs for him to stop but no more thieving.

smgssg August 15th, 2015

I had something very accidental happen…I had an egg eater. I bought a roll away nesting box and she could not get many eggs. I fed layer pellets, grit and oyster shell. I have a chicken tractor and move it all over the place to allow my girls to have a more natural diet and not be hurt by dogs or wild animals. A month ago the feed store was out of my layer pellets so I had to buy the crumbles in the same brand. Miracle…..no more egg eating…I tried all kinds of things I read but the crumbles stopped the egg eating. I watched and my egg eater will now walk by an egg that she could easily eat. She was so bad that she had no feathers on her head from sticking her head down the shute to the roll away box…I am really happy. This is my first group of hens and I enjoy them and their eggs….hope this helps someone. I am glad I didn’t make soup out of her.

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