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Chicken Keeping: Preventing Chickens From Eating/Pecking Eggs

August 10, 2013

Typically egg-eating begins when a chicken accidentally breaks an egg, tastes it, loves the taste, and now associates that lovely flavor with those oval-shaped objects that she lays.  As you've likely noticed with your own flock, once the others see a chicken enjoying something {they keep nothing secretive} then they want to get in on the action to.  This, unfortunately, starts a bad habit of pecking at and eating the eggs.

The big signs are:  1. decrease in eggs and 2. yolk all over eggs and/or nesting box lining.  In our experience not all the eggs were eaten, so the other eggs were covered in sticky yolk as was the straw.

What to do?
You will likely remember our experience with the "mean girls" who taught some of the other coop girls this naughty habit.  Although none of these ideas worked on the mean girls, Daisy, the one coop girl who held on to this habit upon their departure, is now a reformed egg-pecker/egg-eater.

Rule Out Nutritional Deficiencies
- always provide your flock free access to oyster shell or crushed eggshells.  On the note of crushed eggshells, the easiest way to prepare them is by drying them out {spread on a cookie sheet and baked at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour should do it}, then crush them finely so they don't in any way resemble eggs.  This will help prevent any possible calcium deficiencies.

- make sure your chickens are receiving a properly balanced diet including an appropriate amount of protein. 

Gather Eggs Frequently
Easier said than done, I understand.  Certainly, the less time the eggs are available to be pecked the less likely they will be.  Check the nesting boxes as frequently as possible.

Alleviate Any Nesting Box Issues
- the boxes should be lined with something to cushion the landing of the egg, thus preventing it from breaking.  We use straw which works great.

- you should have 1 nesting box per 4 hens, available.  If you have 1 box per 4 hens and 1 or 2 are taken by broody hens, this could be a bit of a problem.  You could remove the broody hen{s} to a separate coop, break the hen, or add more boxes.

- the nesting boxes should be dark, quiet areas for the hens to sit. 

Use Fake Eggs
One thing that's easy to try {this is what worked for Daisy} is to use either golf balls or fake, ceramic, eggs in the nesting boxes.  This way, when the chicken goes to peck at an egg, you hope she pecks the fake egg, can't break it open, and eventually stops trying.  We have fake eggs that look so real we actually brought some of them in once, thinking they were real.  I took a sharpie and made a teeny tiny dot on one end so this didn't happen again.

Use Blown-Out Eggs Filled With Mustard
Ashley English, in her book Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens, suggests using blown out eggs filled with mustard to deter egg eating.

Be Careful When Feeding Eggs
If you choose to feed your flock eggs, make sure they don't resemble an egg at all {we scramble ours} so they can't make the association.

Separate The Egg-Eater From The Group
Most often, you can pick out the egg-eater by the yolk on her beak.  Daisy, however, never actually ate her eggs only pecked a large hole in them {and then Lizzie would eat them for her}.  So we initially thought it was Lizzie until one day, right in front of me, I saw the entire production.  Daisy squawked, stood up and laid an egg.  She turned right around and pecked a hole in it.  Lizzie came flying into the indoor coop, hopped up onto the nesting box ledge, and began happily eating the egg while Daisy headed back outside.

If we had not been successful in breaking the habit with the fake eggs, we would have taken Daisy and Lizzie and separated them from the flock, gathering their eggs as soon as they were laid, until we could break the habit.  The longer they are in the flock, eating eggs, the more chance there is for the others to observe the habit and begin.

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