Egg eating can be frustrating and worrying for first time chicken owners. Where are all your eggs going? Why are your hens full of egg yolk? They wouldn't eat their own eggs would they? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Sometimes hens eat their eggs as a result of lack of protein, or it could just be caused by curious hens taking a peck or two at their eggs, then getting the taste for raw egg.

How do you know you have an egg eater?

1. Egg yolk all over your chicken's beak or feathers could mean they've been eating their eggs.

2. Egg yolk in the nesting boxes, and the appearance of half eaten eggs.

3. The evidence of egg yolk on other eggs.

Curious chickens could become egg eaters.

Here are 10 Tips on Preventing and Curing Egg Eating

1. Give them more protein - Increase their protein intake, by feeding them sunflower seeds, giving them a little more layer pellets and feeding them less greens and scratch. Another good option is to fill a little bowl with oyster shell, and leaving it in their coop for them to peck at whenever they feel the need. This is how I solved my egg eating problem.

2. Collect the eggs as soon as they've been laid if possible - This will lessen the chance of your chickens being able to eat their eggs, as your eggs would already be safely inside before they got peckish.

3. Fill the eggs with mustard - Poke a hole in your eggs and fill them with mustard. The next time your chickens come to eat, they'll get a nasty surprise, and hopefully they won't dare try to peck at their eggs again!

4. Add golf balls to the nest - Add a few golf balls to the nest, and if your chickens try to peck at it, they won't enjoy the hard surface.

5. Line your nesting boxes with soft hay or shavings, to prevent the eggs from breaking.

6. Make sure you have one nest per four hens in your coop, as if nests are too crowded the eggs could get trampled and broken. Most egg eating habits occur when eggs get accidentally broken and your chickens taste it.

7. Egg eating can also occur when nests are on the floor, and are always in view.

8. If you feed your chickens egg shells, make sure they are cooked, as they can get addicted to the taste of raw egg otherwise.

9. If an egg breaks, clean it up immediately to prevent your chickens from tasting it.

10. Darken your nests. Dark nests reduce egg eating and stop too many dirty eggs being produced.

So you've found the egg eater. Now what?

Once you've found the egg eater, separate her immediately. More broken eggs will just encourage other chickens to join the club. Try these tips, and only later introduce her when her habit is broken.

oyster shell is a great source of calcium and won't encourage your chickens to eat their eggs.

It is critical that you try to break this habit early, as later it could become impossible to do so.

Further reading:

Six Tips On Breaking Your Egg Eater
Common egg quality problems
Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying (Forum section)