Preventing Egg Eating
The following is an excerpt from City Chicks; Keeping Micro-flocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-recyclers and Local Food Suppliers, by Patricial Foreman
ways to Prevent Egg Eating:
Ways to Stop Egg Eating Once Started:
- Remove the eggs as soon as possivle after hens have laid them; late morning or early afternoon is the best time to collect eggs.
- Use soft nesting material so that eggs won't break easily. thoroughly clean andy nest with a broken egg and remove all the eggshell fragments.
- Have enough nest boxes available so that hens don't have to crowd (stepping on eggs) or lay where eggs are likely to get broken.
- Don't let your hens get so hungry they go looking for eggs to eat.
- Make sure your hens have enough calcium, protein, and grit. If their eggshells get thin or soft, add more grit or oyster shell to your chiken;s diet.
- Behaviors like egg eating, feather picking, pecking, and cannibalism all increase when hens don't have enough vitamin D. Add cod liver oil to their feed.
- Don't feed hens eggshells that have any resemblande to an eggshell. Make sure the shell is very finely crumbled or broken up into itty-bitty bits.
- Put something hard in the nest that resembles an egg but won't feel pleasant to a hen if she pecks it. Wooden eggs work best, but some folks say using golf balls or ceramic eggs.
- Bored hens are more likely to peck at eggs. Keep them occupied by scratching and pecking at food bits instead.
- Install roll-away nest bo.es that roll the eggs to a safe area where they are not available for pecking.
Sometimes young pullets will lay softshelled eggs or even eggs withoug shells at all (nude eggs); these are very fragile and tempting to eat. If she gets enough pellet and grit, the young gal will probaly stop tasting the egg and the problem will disappear.
- Identify the guilty hen. If you find a hen eating an egg, put a leg band on her so you can identify her.
- Close down the nest box where the broken egg was found. Take the nest box or area where you found the broken egg out of service. If you use metal nest boxes, remove the bottom from the nest, or put something in the box to block the etryway. If the hen is laying outside of a nest box, make that place inaccessible or unattractive; for example, put a bucket on the nest. I've been successful with this strategy, as it seens to break up the eating pattern.
- Enough food with quality protein and grit available at all times. An egg eater might have a nutritional deficiency of protein and/or calcium, it might be as simple as being hungry. Keep food available at all times and this can deter hungry beaks from seeing food in the form of eggs. The hen might be lacking calcium for egg production. If grit isn't available, an egg shell is the next best, closest source. Enough high quality protein and grit access can deter chickens from craving eggs, and egg shells.
- Decoy and fake eggs. Put decoy eggs in the offender's nest. These decoy eggs can be hard boiled or filled with something that will disgust the hens, like mustard.
- Darken the nests. covering the nest box openings with a cloth makes nesting area darker and harder to see eggs. Chickens can't see tin the dark and what they can't see, they won't peck at.
- Bored chickens. Chickens that are confined to smaller areas will sometimes peck at eggs because there isn't anything else to do. Letting them out to free-range and having access to scratch can deter egg eating by keeping them busy, and full.
- Isolate the egg eater. Remove the guilty hen(s) from the flock for a few days, then reintroduce them. This is to change their patterns and possibly the pecking order-including the order not to eat eggs (excuse the pun).
- Trim the upper beak. Use a fingernail clipper and cut the top beak back so that it's blunt. This limits the chickn's ability to crack an egg. Don't cut the beak back too much or you will hit nerves and cause permanent damage and disfigurement. The beak will grow back if you don't trim it too much.
- Find the egg eaters a new home. sometimes, just relocating the egg eaters will stop the vice. This might be due to a variety of factors that affect behavior, including different diet, free ranging, distracted by new flock members, and less boredom.
- Capital punishment. If none of the above stops the egg eating, the putting offenders down might be you last resort.
Hope this helps!