Yes, you read that right. If you’re a beginning poultry raiser or farmer, maybe you haven’t heard yet, but your hens can get a little hungry. And as you and I both know, eggs are kind of delicious. Maybe not raw eggs, but your hens don’t really know the difference. Preventing hens from eating eggs will save you a lot of stress, and a lot of eggs.
How Does This Behavior Start?
It’s typical to see this type of behavior begin randomly after one of your hens cracks an egg on accident, and by doing so realizes the tasty treat that comes with it.
Often times, the accidental breaking of an egg will soon become purposeful and can spread among a flock quite rapidly unless actively stopped by the flock owner. Let’s examine a few different ways to try and prevent this behavior before and after it starts.
Preventing Hens from Eating Eggs Starts With A Strong Diet
First of all, you can preemptively defend against eggs breaking by giving your hens a diet that’s conducive to laying strong and healthy eggs. A major part of why these eggs are broken is because of an incomplete diet that allows for the creation of weak egg shells. If you have experience buying poultry feed, you may remember that many bags of feed are advertised as having certain protein levels.
Protein is a major ingredient when it comes to being a healthy hen and having a healthy hen means healthy eggs. Your laying flock should have at least 16% protein feed. Be on the lookout for feeds specifically designed for laying flocks as these will be what you’re most likely looking for.
Calcium is extremely crucial in the formation of strong egg shells. A hen who is getting her fair share of calcium in her diet will lay strong eggs that don’t crack easily under pressure. If your hen is to sit upon a weak egg and break it, that is one of the most common ways in how they get started eating their own eggs. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can instill a high calcium diet in your hens.
First of all, ground up oyster shells are a great source of calcium. You can add about 1 pound of ground oyster shells per every 50 pounds of feed to your laying flock’s diet. You can also feed them ground egg shells for a great source of protein. You should make sure you completely ground the shells. This is so the bird’s don’t recognize what they are and get any crazy ideas.
Lastly, increase their calcium intake in the summer. As is the case with most vitamins, minerals, water and more, it’s harder to get your fill in the summer. When it’s hot, the bird puts a lot of effort into staying cool. This depletes their system a lot faster. It’s like a car. If you have a car driving up a steep hill, it’s working harder than if it was going downhill. This means you’ll have to stop to refuel more often.
So The Diet Thing Didn’t Work
A bird’s diet can help prevent the eggs from breaking; but sometimes you just have a crazy hen(s) that is just dead set on devouring its own eggs no matter what its diet has to say about it. For one, your eggs might be breaking because of the environment they’re being laid in. If a hen is laying eggs in a crowded nest box or one that’s not padded or cushioned enough, it greatly increases the chance that the eggs will break.
You should also make sure you have enough nest boxes for your hens so you don’t have a ton of birds coming in and out of the same nest box. As you can probably guess, a hen isn’t really looking where it walks. It’s just going to walk where it wants to and if that’s on top of an egg, so be it. Then they break the egg and eat it. Some sort of roll-out feature or something to help consolidate the eggs in a safe place away from any foot traffic can also help prevent this.
The Ancient Secrets
The ancient secret to helping eggs stay safe is to *drumroll*, collect them as frequently as possible. Yes! It really does work. If you can focus on collecting the eggs once or even twice a day, you will obviously prevent the hens from breaking and thus eating them.
One tried and trusted method for preventing hens from eating eggs is to blow out an egg and fill it with mustard. Chickens tend to hate mustard, and once they crack open an egg to nothing but this devilish condiment, you may just convince them never to do that again.
Roll Out Nest Box
One popular function featured in many of today’s modern coops and nest boxes is a roll out bottom. The roll out nest box collects the eggs below where they’re laid and consolidates them for much easier collection, like in this model. It’s named a “roll out” because most of them allow you to pull or roll out out of the coop to grab them. This is much easier than going inside the coop.
These are relevant to keeping eggs safe because they keep them in a place that is away from the bird itself. This not only protects the eggs from the bird breaking them, but if they do break, it’s much more difficult for the bird to get to them and eat them. Regardless of how an egg breaks, all it takes is for the bird to taste how delicious an egg is for this type of behavior to start reoccurring.
The Behavior Has Already Started, Now What?
No one is perfect, and no matter all the measures and precautions in the world, you’re bound to run into some broken eggs at some point. Should your hen or hens develop the habit of eating said broken eggs, there’s some things you can do to try and curtail their behavior before it spreads to any other crazy hens.
Should you notice a hen developing this habit, you should quarantine her from the rest of the laying flock and especially the nest boxes. Preventing hens from eating eggs means preventing the behavior from spreading to other hens. But like with breaking a broody hen, the disruption alone might be enough to break this type of behavior.
Make It Stop
Despite this, your hen may come back to the laying flock with a vengeance and still try to eat those eggs. Should this be the case, you may want to invest in blinders which prevent the bird from seeing straight on. If the bird can’t see the egg straight on, it will have a hard time picking at it. These blinders are commonly used to prevent cannibalism and pecking but also work in preventing hens from eating eggs.
Similar to this, making your nesting area dark can prevent the birds from seeing the eggs. You can’t peck and destroy what you can’t see. Everyone knows that!
Finally you can also use ceramic eggs. These eggs are not only used to train your chickens to leave the eggs on the right place, they also discourage pecking. After they get used to pecking not working on these eggs they should stop pecking the real eggs for good!