Egg eating and age...

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by southerndesert, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    1,356
    12
    141
    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Just had to cull an egg eater from our oldest flock and she was a RIR almost 4 years old. We started losing eggs here and there and never could catch her, but today my daughter walked in as she was busily breaking open her second egg....

    Seems when we do have an egg eater which isn't often it is always an older hen in our flocks and gets me to pondering on what causes the older girls to start this bad habit. Our chickens are always fed a well rounded diet so it makes me try to find another reason....

    We were just wondering the other day why her molt is going so much quicker than the others and now that we found an added protein source we got our answer I guess sadly.

    Just one of those things we deal with on occasion keeping layers, but I thought it interesting it always seems to be the older girls that show this behavior....
     
  2. LarryPQ

    LarryPQ Easter Hatch!!

    10,884
    20
    291
    Jul 17, 2009
    You can always break the habit with a mustard-filled egg.

    Mine will start it at any age. Molts do seem to be a factor---but even more so: boredom. Bored chickens are more dangerous than bored little boys.
     
  3. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    1,356
    12
    141
    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Quote:Have heard about the mustard trick, perhaps will give it a try next time it happens and thanks for the tip [​IMG].... Boredom is possible I guess, but they have a huge "pen" area 70 x 35 as well as free range on our property and are only confined to the run/coop at night. Just always seem it's the old gals though....
     
  4. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    5,535
    69
    308
    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Historically, egg eating has been seen as a fault of crowding. Nests in particular are the worst offenders.

    The popular orange crate-type nest, near a window or bright light, is the wrong idea. It is what most people use, of course.
    But it was actually borrowed from early attempts to streamline poultry production. The method was essentially "cherry picked," without all the supporting details that went with it.
    This is common with much of our modern hobby practices.

    With this sort of nest, hens will very often be found crowding into a favorite nest.
    3 or 4 will squeeze in and the clumsy footed dopes break eggs by stomping on them.
    The bright light then illuminates the broken egg and voila! The Joys Within are revealed.

    Eggs too long in the nest also contribute, simply by being in there when the elbowing begins.
    Or, in the bright open fronted nest, one hen may take to pecking at a bit of feather, poo or small insect on the shell and again - voila!
    It only takes one, too. As soon as the others catch on, you have an epidemic.

    You can try all the "normal" solutions that have become part of chicken lore, like mustard, pepper, false eggs and so on. In fact try them first.
    But the odds of success are not in your favor.
    Now, there is always someone to say how well they work. But the conditions and details behind the supposed success are not known to us.
    Often, the supporters themselves have not closely analyzed what was behind the success. Odds are, that something unseen was responsible for the method working, and they never noticed.
    Meanwhile, there is an army of people and much historical data admitting that such methods are haphazard at best.
    But do try them all first. They are easier than the alternatives, and you might hit on the right combination without even knowing it.

    As for those alternatives, most of the early experts combated egg eating with...

    - Communal nests, of appropriate size,
    - Removing eggs from the nest immediately,
    - Rollaway nests
    - Keeping a clean hen yard,
    - Keeping darkened nests in sufficient numbers, in a separate area,
    - Culling the persistent egg eating hen.

    There are several problems with these tried and true methods, however.
    First, they need to be implemented at the outset. Most people are surprised by egg eating when it appears; they are unaware of the root cause.
    Naturally, they tend to rely on the easy or lurid solutions when the habit first appears. That is our nature.

    Secondly, retrofitting these methods tends to be laborious, and/or may also require expenditures in time and money. Proper outfitting of fixtures and appliances for poultry, if well planned, does not have to be expensive. But it can be a pain if they have to be added or modified to an existing hen yard.

    Finally, they have at their core the idea that you are a part of the hens life and are there to stop problems as soon as they appear.
    This means taking at least active steps... and may mean more distasteful decisions, like culling when all else fails.

    Fortunately most of us here at BYC are hobbyists; we do not depend on the birds for our livelihoods. It has not always been so.
    The early poultry researchers had more at stake and fewer resources available to them. As you might expect, they took a rather severe view of egg eating hens than we. To us, they are curious nuisance - to them it could mean a failed or diminished flock. They eventually learned that when the egg eating hen has the time to develop the bad habit, well... it is time to act.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  5. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    1,356
    12
    141
    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Yes we cull the egg eaters and thanks for the great info and I can always depend on that here! [​IMG]

    With this flock there are 6 nest boxes for 14 hens in a very nice hen house with no windows and we rarely have problems and I was not asking how to prevent this issue as it seems no matter what one does it will rear it's ugly egg eating head sooner or later, but just puzzled by why it seems to always be older girls snarfing on eggs here...

    Been keeping these critters for most of my life (55 years) and am still puzzled by why it seems to be older hens for us. Not in anyway new or upset just curious...

    I look at it as just part of keeping chickens, but wondered if anyone else saw this more often with older birds.....
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  6. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    5,535
    69
    308
    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Why just older birds? Hmmm, good question.

    I can think of ideas but nothing substantial comes to mind. Maybe they just have more time on their hands, so to speak!

    Hens beyond the second year were always seen as more trouble to keep. The recommendation has always been to replace birds when they pass that mark. This, of course, is based on efficiency of production. Egg eating is not tied to this as far, at lest not as far as I can recall.

    Do your birds have a lot of range or are they more intensively managed?
     
  7. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    1,356
    12
    141
    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Quote:They have over 5 acres they can range on, but mostly stay within sight of their pen which is also very large. We have two areas setup with a hen house, secured run, and large pen 70x35 or so. They are let out of the pen area after mid-day to free range since they are usually done laying by then.

    Hopefully will not see another episode for a good long spell...
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by