Chicken Detectives Needed - Something has eaten 3 eggs - but what?!?!


7 Years
Jul 9, 2014
Couches, France

We have free range ducks and chickens. We put them in their respective houses at night (actually the chickens put themselves to bed, the ducks take a little encouragement), and then let them out in the morning, where they then have free roam of the garden.
Yesterday I had collected eggs and left 3 eggs on the nest, 1 for each of the layers (2 chickens and a duck). The nest is under the raised coop, but completely enclosed except for the large chicken coop door (tall enough to almost walk through). I always leave an egg or two to encourage the layers to return to the nest - otherwise we have to search the garden for their latest spot.


Today is a rainy day, so the chickens have been taking shelter in their usual spots. The ducks, well they're ducks. I just went down to give them all a treat of some lettuce and was met by Lucy, one of our female ducks, having her 20 minutes off her nest she is sitting on, which is in the duck house. With me showing up, after a couple bites of lettuce she was straight back on. That's when I noticed that there was a chicken egg broken on the ground just outside the shared fenced outside area of the duck and chicken houses, then further in, closer to the chicken house, another broken chicken egg, and then in the chicken house the broken duck egg.

Exhibit A: Very large egg now with a large hole in it, no egg inside, laying 15 feet (2.5 mtrs) from the nest.
Exhibit B: Slightly smaller egg, broken, with various pieces of shell lying around, no egg inside, laying about 7 feet (1.5 mtrs) from the nest.
Exhibit B: Small blue duck egg, broken in half, no egg inside, 3 feet (1 mtr) from the nest.

The coop was locked up during the night and there was no sign of the broken eggs this morning when the birds were let out at 8:30am. They normally lay, on a wet or cold day, later in the morning, 10am - 12pm, taking it in turns. As the broken eggs were the 3 left from the night before, the theft and eating had to have occurred before 10am, or essentially in broad daylight. Neither the ducks nor Chickens put up a kaffuffle, indicating an intruder, which we are taking to mean the intruder definitely went for the eggs prior to laying time today, eg. shortly after the chickens and ducks were let out.


Birds: Tawny owl, Hawk, Raven, Crow, Magpie and Jay (not blue) - all have been seen at some time around the garden (actually the owl lives in the garden).

Now this nest is out of site, behind a bale of straw. We do regularly get little birds (sparrow size) flying in to the coop, eating the seed, but have never seen a large bird go in there (though that of course does not mean they don't) However, even from the feeder it is not possible to see the nest, you literally have to look up and over a lip behind the bale of straw.

Rats and Other Varmints:

We did have 2 rats who decided to make a home under the duck house (next door), which we captured and removed. And of note, whilst living there they did not eat any eggs - they preferred the feed. We have since seen another rat, but at the opposite end, and up a terrace, of the very large garden - at least 200 yards/mtrs away. (We are trying to catch him)

We have also seen a very large rodent, possible water rat, not certain swimming in the river that is beyond our garden. The river is 200 yards/mtrs away.

We have a 1 metre long garden snake, very shy, lives near the veg garden (between the rat in the upper garden and the chickens) His territory appears to be the hill between the two gardens.

Cute Furry Critters:
Dog: We do not own one. Our garden is completely fenced, so (generally) not possible for a dog to get in.
Fox: We do have foxes about. They do occasionally come in the garden as they are small enough to get under the fence in places.
Hedgehog: We have seen the odd hedgehog now and then in the garden, though generally the upper garden.
Deer: We have had the odd deer bound the fence and get in (no evidence of deer droppings, or any droppings at all at this time.)
Squirrels: We have 4 red squirrels that live in the garden at this time (2 adults, 2 almost adults)
For American readers, Possum, Raccoon, Skunk... we don't have in France. We have though seen signs of Badgers by the river.


This is the Duck and Chicken compound - duck house on the left, chicken on the right. Both the duck and the chicken houses, as well as the gate to their compound, are left open during the day, so they can wander in at will, eat, lay eggs, etc. The nest is behind the ramp going up into the coop, and behind a bale of straw.
By water rat I assume that you mean muskrat. I doubt one did it.

my money is on a dog, squerrel, fox, or one of those cute little hedge hogs.

The hollow egg sounds like a festideous eater or in other words an egg sucking varmint.

What kind of birds do you have there that likes to steal eggs? Things like rooks, ravens, and crows?
Water rat possibly a muskrat - that is an area I have no knowledge of. Personally I would have said the water varmint was a beaver, given the size, except for the tail.

Dog is unlikely, due to lack of access- and 'he' left the shells behind.

Multiple bird types abound here: Crows, Ravens, Rooks, Jays, Owls...

Do squirrels eat eggs? I am just picturing our little squirrels rolling the eggs out of the nest... hmm. Can't see it.

And with a fox, I would have thought the chickens in particular would have let us know he was in the vacinity. When the rats were around both the chickens and ducks were reluctant to go back in their houses until we caught them. Tonight, all went to bed with ease.

The plot thickens...
I would leave bear lose dirt close to the nest check for tracks .Try a critter cam or video cam to I D your culprit. Its a bird of some kind for sure. Keep a close watch
Thank yo BYC910. Good info and insight. I had never thought of leaving dirt down for tracks.

Is a bird really able to lift and remove each egg? I am assuming yes as you have mentioned it, but can't see how?
If its big enough it can roll the egg out of the nest . Is your nest a box? If so it would have to be a very large bird . the hole in the egg sounds like bird. I hope one of your chickens hasn't gotten a taste for eggs . If the only tracks you see are chicken tracks a critter cam is your best bet. squirrels are able to chew a hole in plastic trash can like a rat and able to pick up very large nuts with there paws. I've never heard of a squirrel eating eggs but I'm new to BYC and have read a lot of things I never heard of before. Circle the area around the pen looking for game trials. Most wild animals will follow the same path when going to a feeding area or a den .A fox would go after the chickens first. A true mystery can't wait to read the ending. Happy hunting
I think it's one of your own birds. I have chickens that don't want eggs in their nest and they will roll them out or push them out, etc. Once one cracks, then someone will eat it out. Tends to happen if your eggs get a bit on the soft side, but can happen with any egg. I don't think a predator would roll them all over the chicken yard and eat them in different spots. I guess it could be some other type of bird, but it would have to be a large one to have such an appetite for three eggs. That's what makes me think, it's one or a couple of your own birds.
Interesting point MrsBachbach, Because its 3 different eggs I hadn't added our own chickens to the Suspects list, let alone the ducks. It is possible one of them pushed the eggs out of the nest, then they or something else ate them.

Now that the nest is empty I will be curious to see if they (all) go back to it, and if this happens again if they do.
Next time don't leave 3 eggs in the nests, that is asking for someone to eat them. Put either fake eggs in the nest or golf balls. Who ever tries to take them will be very unhappy.

Eggs need to be picked up often - if they lay around or get jostled and cracked - that starts hens into eating them. Out here we have Blue jays and they certainly steal eggs and also maybe chicks.
Thank you Drumstick Diva, some sage advice. I hadn't thought of using something else in place of the actual eggs, but it makes a lot of sense. :)

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