Eggs are disappearing, chickens may be eating them?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ozarkchickens, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. ozarkchickens

    ozarkchickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2016
    I moved from Tx to AR about six months ago, with five of my chickens. They stopped laying for a while - stress, cold, shorter days - but resumed laying normally (4 eggs/day). About 3 weeks ago, quantity of eggs became sporadic, then one day I found yolk remnants. Then caught a hen carrying a broken egg around the run. Searched the forum, here's my speculation and what I've done so far. Advice on additional steps would be greatly appreciated, I'm getting nowhere...

    -My RIRed suddenly is laying GIANT eggs with thin shells. I believe one of these eggs broke open, giving one of the girls a chance to develop a taste for egg and now she's eating a couple of eggs a day. Other hens may have observed and joined in, although 2 hens are clearly guarding eggs, which they've never done before.
    -I tried soap eggs and ceramic eggs to see if I could eliminate the behavior. One soap filled egg was broken open and left laying, one was broken open and dragged into the run and discarded. Now they just toss aside the soap and ceramic eggs, they seem to be able to ID them and throw them into the coop pan out of the nest box. Still only getting 1-2 eggs a day, if that.
    -Also have been going out to the coop every hour or two to observe/collect eggs but can only say with certainty that one hen is eating eggs.

    My particulars:
    -I have 2 Orpingtons, 1 RIRed, 1 Austrolorp, 1 Wyandotte.
    -They live in a confined run, enclosed on six sides with hardware cloth due to predation here. Run is 20X20, 2 small coops are inside the run, attached as one coop, should hold 8 chickens.
    -I feed free choice (buffet is always open) layer ration, oyster shell and grit. Daily spinach, berries, cabbage and apple on a string, other goodies but mostly fruits and vegetables. They get a small ration of treats once a day - meal worms, seeds, treat nuggets. Occasionally earthworms.
    -I've observed most of them eating the calcium but my RIRed loves veggies - she doesn't eat much layer ration, haven't seen her eat calcium and ignores the treat bowl.

    I'll expand into their large coop and a much larger run but not until next year, when I plan to add chickens. I may have to let the small flock live out their days in the current run and start a new flock in the new run - I think egg eating is contagious. Thanks for your thoughts!
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Egg eating is usually caused by boredom or a deficiency. My guess with what you are feeding is they are deficit in protein. Switching to a higher protein ration, 18-20%, limiting extras, and adding in some higher protein treats like cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, meal worms or canned fish can help give them a boost. Egg eating can become a habit, but doesn't always continue. If a hen is not getting enough protein and is kept confined than she doesn't have many options to try to fix her deficiencies. Eggs are the perfect source for protein. Always have a dish of free choice oyster shells.

    You mentioned hens have been guarding eggs, is it possible they are broody? They would stop laying. You didn't mention the age of your birds. If they are older than a year they will be quitting to molt soon.

    There are many reasons for brittle shells, stress, a vitamin deficiency, and being at the end of the season are a few reasons.
     
  3. ozarkchickens

    ozarkchickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2016
    Thanks, very kind of you to take the time to respond. I can't believe it never occurred to me that my efforts to prevent boredom (more fruits and vegetables) were diluting their protein and calcium intake. Like everyone on the forum, I'm extremely attached to my girls, but I'm new to chickens so may be overdoing the lovin'.

    Not to be overly prescriptive but how much egg, cottage cheese etc do you feed and how often? (My Ag Extension guy told me not to feed them eggs in any form as it might promote egg eating.) Do you feed full fat cottage cheese?

    My girls were a year old this past April 21. I have noticed that my austrolorpe seems to be losing and growing new head and neck feathers, so they may be going into their first molt.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    They will definitely be molting and it sounds like they have already started. Molting requires extra protein.

    For your hens I might feed 1/2 to 1 cup of cottage cheese as often asevery few days to once a week. I use regular cottage cheese. Back in the day farmers would feed their chickens extra milk, so dairy in moderation is a good supplement.

    I feed my chickens scrambled eggs on a regular basis since I get so many eggs, it is their favorite treat. Chickens can't make the connection that it's eggs. There is Feather fixer brand feed that can help get them through the molt.

    Laying hens require about 16% protein for their daily intake. Layer ration is meant to be fed as the sole feed. When adding extras which most backyard flock keepers like to do, it dilutes down their daily protein intake. I personally switched to an All Flock ration last year and it really helped, both with overall health and egg production. I will never feed layer again. I too give mine extras and scratch. The higher protein feed offsets it and keeps them from becoming deficient. I feed my bantam flock a non medicated grower, so that's another option. Oyster shells will help make up for the less calcium content.
     
  5. ozarkchickens

    ozarkchickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2016
    Hey, my girls are already responding to the change in diet! Back up to 3 eggs a day even with early molt,and shells are holding solid. I and my five ladies thank you again!
     
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