I have 6 nest boxes for laying. For some reason most of the hens (I have 8) want to lay in one particular box. In the morning I usually hear one chicken loudly squawking because she wants to lay in the "preferred" nest box which is occupied. I usually have success going out there and encouraging the squawker to shut up and just wait her turn. This morning one hen was squawking and I went out. In the preferred box was a 5 year old hen who lays eggs every so often (I got her from my son--she was one of the original hens he had).
I was surprised to see the 5 year old there because I have no idea which box she lays in. Anyway the 5 year old got up (from her laying position) and I saw 2 eggs where she had been laying. Before the 5 year old got all the way out, the squawker reached in, pecked a hole in one of the eggs and started eating. I grabbed her, with egg still in her mouth and set her on the ground. Then 4 other hens came over and were trying to eat what they could.
Now I don't know if the 5 year old layed one of the 2 eggs or if she was just guarding them. Over the past 2-3 weeks we have found about 3 eaten eggs (empty shell found either on the ground or in the nest box). We thought it might have been a large scrub jay bird doing it as they are known scavengers. Now I think this one particular hen may be the culprit.
What might be going on here? I now think we have an egg-eating hen among the flock and I am leaning toward the 5 year old guarding the eggs instead of laying eggs herself. How do I stop this? This has only started happening in the past 2 months--I've had most of my chickens since last July with no problems until recently.
Post script; I went out to the coop to quiet a different hen who wanted the preferred box. I coaxed her into the next box & I noticed the 5 year old was in the preferred box. I just went back out there and the 5 year old just flew out--and there were no eggsa that she had been laying on.