If you want to stop egg eating chickens, there’s a lot of options.
I’ve had to deal with this bad habit a few times on our homestead, and I have a couple of options I like.
In this episode of What The Cluck?! we look at my favorite ways to stop egg eating chickens as well as some alternative options.
We also talk about why chickens start eating eggs, as well as what to do if you just can’t stop the behavior.
- How to avoid egg eating in the first place
- Common reasons why chickens start
- Alternatives to culling or getting rid of your hens
- Why her diet plays a critical role in egg eating
Links we discuss:
Thrive Market (where I source my favorite organic products)
Feeding Your Hens Right (my online course about feeding hens for the best eggs possible)
Hi there, and welcome to session 14 of What the Cluck?!, a podcast devoted to keeping chickens for fun and self-sufficiency. I’m Maat from FrugalChicken, and in this episode we’ll talk about egg eating.
So, we’ll cover why chickens start this habit, what you can do to stop egg eating chickens, and how to prevent it.
We’ll also talk about how to identify which of your chickens are eating her eggs and what to do if you just can’t stop her, and there are chickens that just can’t be broken.
This will be a valuable episode that’s full of advice you can use today.
So stay with me!
Now before we get started, I just want to briefly mention a company that I love and that’s Thrive Market. Now, the reason I’m telling you about them is because it’s where I source organic items I use on my homestead.
So when it comes to your chickens, having raw, organic items on hand, such as honey, becomes extremely important if a chicken, or any animal really, becomes injured and I personally source all of my raw organic honey from Thrive.
If you don’t know what Thrive Market is, it’s an online organic supermarket, and it’s a little like Costco meets your favorite farmers market.
Thrive Market is membership site, and their products are anywhere from 15% to 20% cheaper than I’ve found elsewhere.
I value my Thrive Market membership, and love that their products are ethically sourced, and I feel confident buying from them that I’m doing the best I can for our environment.
Another thing I love about Thrive Market is that for every membership they sell to someone like you or me, they give a membership to a family in need. So, it really is shopping for products you will use anyway in a way that benefits other people too.
You can join Thrive Market at thefrugalchicken.com/thrive, and that is an affiliate link, so thank you if you decide to use it.
Now, let’s get on to why we’re here. And just as a reminder, you can access this podcast’s show notes at TheFrugalChicken.com/podcast14.
What is egg eating?
So, what is egg eating? If you don’t know what that is, it’s when chickens for whatever reason start eating their own egg or those other chickens have laid. And there’s a few reasons this happens.
How do chickens start egg eating?
In my experience, the way egg eating starts is one day, an egg accidentally gets broken, and your chickens realize there’s something yummy inside.
And this isn’t to say that if a hen eats a broken egg she WILL turn into an egg eater, and in fact, I have chickens that are opportunistic egg eaters that never eat eggs otherwise.
So there’s absolutely no reason to think she’ll turn into an egg eater, but a chickens that start egg eating typically begin this way.
Why do chickens eat eggs?
Now, there are obviously reasons why certain chickens start egg eating, and not the least of these reasons is boredom.
Chickens are more intelligent than they get credit for, and hens that are cooped all the time can easily become bored and turn to negative behaviors, like egg eating, to alleviate the boredom.
Another reason chickens start egg eating is if they aren’t getting the right nutrients or enough protein. Hens that are deficient in protein might instinctively start to eat eggs to get the protein they’re missing.
It’s possible she also is missing some nutrient, which can happen if she isn’t getting enough to eat or if you leave your chickens to forage food for themselves.
Now a third reason, and this happens much less often than the previous two, is if your chickens feel threatened in some way, they might eat their eggs. For example, recently I had a hen eat an egg after I began collecting it from her nest.
This was an isolated incident, and I really can’t say what was going through this hen’s mind, but as soon as I started collecting the egg, she got very upset and started to peck at the one she just laid.
And I thought to myself, oh great more egg eating chickens. So I separated her so she wouldn’t teach the other chickens, and the following day she placidly laid an egg and left it alone. So, clearly this was an isolated incident that hasn’t happened since, but it’s another reason you might see a chicken eat an egg.
How to stop an egg eating chicken?
So, what can you if you have chickens eating egg shells? Great question.
There’s a few things you can try and just remember that chickens are individuals, and while one method might work with one hen, you might need to try a different approach with another.
Isolate the egg eating chicken
Now, if you have an egg eater, my first suggestion is to isolate the hen if possible so she doesn’t teach the other ones to do it.
Now, the method I’ve personally used successfully with several chickens is simply removing the eggs in a timely manner from the coop so she doesn’t get the chance to break it.
Look at what she’s eating
I also increase the amount of protein they eat, and largely over the years, the reason I’ve had to stop egg eating chickens is because they weren’t getting enough protein.
If you have an egg breaking chicken, my first suggestion is to take a look at her diet. Is she getting at least 16% protein in her feed?
I’ve seen some recommendations online to give your chickens cat food to increase her protein intake. Please don’t do this.
While it won’t exactly hurt her, for the cost of a bag of cat food, you can buy 50 pound of an 18 percent non-medicated chick starter or a 22% bag of game bird feed at any feed store, which increase her protein intake at a reduced cost to you than feeding cat food.
If you feed a homemade feed, or just want to offer a high protein treat, toss out a couple handfuls of mealworms. They’re almost entirely protein and I think your chickens will enjoy them more than cat food.
You can find an example at http://TheFrugalChicken.com/mealworms and that is an affiliate link.
Another thing to look at is her calcium intake. Chickens that don’t get enough calcium will start to feel that deficiency because she’ll start to pull calcium from her bones to create her egg shells.
As she becomes more deficient, if you don’t provide a calcium supplement, she might start to look for ways to increase her calcium intake, such as by eating egg shells.
As an aside, egg eating is one reason I don’t like giving chickens egg shells as a calcium supplement. I’ve had chickens that couldn’t tell the difference between their eggs and egg shells offered for calcium.
But of course, offering egg shells is a perfectly acceptable way to give your chickens a calcium bump. Another option, and the one I prefer, is to offer oyster shells, which actually sit in your chickens gizzard longer so she derives more calcium from them as they’re digested.
So, that being said, at this point, let’s look at some other things you can try to stop egg eating chickens.
One of the more popular things to try to stop egg eating chickens is to place either ceramic eggs or golf balls in the nest. These are dummy eggs made of hard material that’s safe for them to peck at, and obviously the hens won’t be able to break them.
The idea behind these eggs is that as your chickens peck at the ceramic egg, it won’t break, and your chickens will eventually lose interest.
They come in various colors, and since chickens can recognize color, we know this from various tests, I recommend purchasing ceramic eggs that are a similar color as the ones your chicken lays.
You can buy these eggs online, and they’re cheap enough, about $6 for two, so giving them a try won’t break the bank. You can see an example at TheFrugalChicken.com/fakeeggs, and that is an affiliate link.
If you do use ceramic eggs, be sure to collect the real ones as soon as possible to stop egg eating chickens.
Another common way to stop egg eating chickens is to fill an egg with something like mustard, which chickens don’t like. The way you do this is to create a hole at each end of an egg, so the fat end and the thin end, and then blow the contents out.
You then fill the eggs with mustard, and leave it in the nesting box for her to find. If your chickens try to eat the mustard eggs, she’ll get a nasty surprise.
This might take more than one try, especially if you have established egg eating chickens, but it’s reportedly effective.
Chickens hate mustard because it’s strong, and if you’ve ever grown mustard, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Mine stay far away from the mustard patch on our homestead.
Another option is to put hot sauce inside the eggs, although you might have to mix it with something more viscous to ensure it doesn’t run out.
Some people have recommended using dish soap instead of mustard, but I don’t recommend that. While dish soap might not poison your chicken, I think it’s more of a risk than mustard.
Another option to try to break chickens from eating eggs is to put curtains around the nesting box so it’s completely dark. The theory behind this idea is that your chicken won’t be able to see the eggs, so she won’t peck at them.
Hens quickly forget about things they can’t see, so if she lays one then leaves the nesting box, she’ll not remember. This has proven effective for some chicken owners.
Removing nesting material
You can also try taking the nesting material out of the box, and the idea here is that the eggs will roll away from your chicken, and she won’t be able to successfully sink her beak into them.
This idea has never worked for me, and if your nesting boxes are up high, you run the risk of the eggs rolling out and onto the floor.
I have some smart chickens that like to lay in the rafters, and they’ve figured out that if they can get their eggs to fall, they get a treat. So, while this idea might work for you, and it’s certainly worth a try, I’ve not found it to be successful.
The thing here is that chickens are individuals, like I said, so one thing that hasn’t worked for me might work for you, and it’s worth a shot if it’ll stop egg eating chickens.
Put something better to eat in the coop
Another option to stop egg eating chickens is to place more enticing things to eat in the coop. For example, placing good tasting herbs or hen treats in the coop for her to peck at might distract her.
Mint and garlic are two herbs you can try, and both are healthy for your hens. For the mint, simply gather a bunch and hang it upside down in the coop. For the garlic, you can put a bulb in their whole and let them peck at it, or chop it up.
So, let’s say you’ve tried everything to stop egg eating chickens
Let’s say you’ve tried everything on this list, and it hasn’t worked. And the bottom line is that your hen might not be able to be helped.
I’ve talked about this hen before, but we do have an older hen that started eating her eggs, and although we tried everything, nothing worked.
We ended up letting this hen live out her life in our horse barn, eating all the bugs she can find, and she’s very effective at it. So, finding her another job is one alternative.
So you don’t need to necessarily get rid of them, kill them, or put them into the soup pot.
You can also try buying or building nesting boxes for egg eating chickens that lets the egg roll out of the box. Basically, these are nesting boxes that are on a slight angle, not enough to make the hen uncomfortable, but enough that the egg will immediately roll down and into a container outside of the coop.
So your chickens can comfortably lay an egg but can’t break them. This is similar to the nesting boxes used in industrial farming. You can buy them online, but you can also easily make your own by slightly angling the bottom of a nesting box as you build it.
For example, a 20 degree incline would allow the eggs to roll out, and you can prevent breaking by placing something soft at the bottom.
How to tell which chickens are breaking their egg
You might be wondering how to tell which of your chickens is breaking eggs, and the first thing you should look for is whether any hen has egg on her beak, or if any are wiping their beaks on the ground. It’s not a sure tell-tale sign of who’s breaking eggs, but it’s a place to start.
If you suspect egg eating, to confirm which hen it is, the best thing to do is isolate her. One of the most effective methods I’ve found, especially if you can’t isolate your chicken, is to simply place an egg in the coop and watch who goes for it first.
So, have you ever dealt with egg eating chickens? If so, what worked for you, or were you not able to break the habit?
I’d love to hear about it, so there’s something I want you to do. I would love it if you dropped me a line at [email protected] to let me know how you handle egg eaters, or even if you have any questions about stopping egg eating chickens.
Now, if you have a egg eating chickens, and you think their diet might be a problem, then you’ll be interested in my course Feeding Your Hens Right which comes out in January, which you can see at feedingyourhensright.com.
In this course, you’ll learn how to feed your chickens so they get an optimal diet, lead healthy happy lives, and lay the most nourishing eggs possible.
As we grow increasingly sophisticated in understanding where our food comes from and the repercussions of eating poor quality food, it’s important to understand how your hen’s diet effects the quality of her eggs.
Anyone who has a wheat allergy and can’t eat store bought eggs will understand what I mean. A friend recently told me that if she feeds her chickens a wheat based diet, her son, who is wheat intolerant, will get sick.
So, that right there is proof that your hen’s diet does effect the quality of her eggs, and studies have shown the exact same thing.
I’m not making this up, researchers have proven it in several studies.
If feeding your family the most nutritious food possible is important to you, then you’ll want to check out my course. It’s 5 video workshops, that you can access at any time.
There’s specific recipes for homemade feed that can be tailored to your particular needs, and you’ll learn how to raise a happy, healthy flock of chickens.
The URL for that course is FeedingYourHensRight.Com, all one word.
Thanks for listening to this episode of what the cluck about how to stop egg eating chickens, and I’ll see you next time!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.