Favorite Pullet caught eating freshly laid egg out from under the layer hen! :(

Rivendell Chick

Songster
Apr 13, 2020
115
307
116
Northeast Georgia, USA
My flock just turned six months old today - most are laying with two that began at 18 weeks. Only one I'm sure isn't yet is a partridge cochin that is more slow to mature than her flockmates as a heavy breed.

I went out a bit early to close them up tonight and was excited to see one of my Marans actually laying an egg! First time to see it happen and was excited as she was a new layer. Given that, I wasn't surprised she was not in a nest box (very few eggs have been outside the nest box, all Maran).

No sooner did the egg touch the ground when the cochin (who is near the very bottom of the pecking order) swooped in and pecked it right through and grabbed half and ate it, shell and all! It was a proper egg too. The layer and another chicken immediately joined in on the feast, and soon the layer ran the the others off as she is high on the pecking order and continued to peck at the whites that were left. I put everyone up immediately.

I was horrified after reading how hard this habit is to break and she is my favorite. I have never had a broken egg for them to experience raw egg. I have feed them scrambled egg once, just this week as more were starting to lay and I thought the added protein would be welcome.

Some info on the situation and setup:
- mixed breed flock of 10, six months old. As many as 7-8 laying so far
- Girls have a compact coop (4x5x5) and an enclosed run (4x15). 4 nesting boxes, and yes, they all love the same one
- they get free choice 16% protein layer feed, freshened up 2x per day. Sometimes powdered shell added from roasting and grinding their shells
- scratch, mealworms in moderation
- oyster shell always available
- something fresh from the garden every day, often tomatoes, collards (favorite), kudzu leaves, pear peelings, muscadine hulls, etc.
- frequent visits from me all day (3-4, often spending time in the run with them).
- recent weather change from 90s to 60s this week
- no signs of shells, yolk on beaks, etc., before this.

Behavior notes:
I've got one Maran feather picking the low ranking girls, and my egg attacker is one of those. the 3 bottom of the order girls have been in the coop more the last couple of days to avoid her, and I'm getting pinless peepers for the bully and planning a run expansion. My first two layers are constantly running in and out of the boxes like they are worried about their eggs (that I've already collected), Now I think I know why! She wasn't getting bullied before the egg laying began, and I have found a couple eggs in the run before untouched (new layers, first egg). My 1st layer (and top of the order) left her egg in the water pan tonight, another sign something was off. I was up to 5 eggs per day this week until this, no sign that any in the nest boxes ever eaten, nor have I seen her checking the boxes out like the other girls.

So, if you're kindly still reading:
What now? Will she always eat eggs, or could this be a fluke? Just really hungry as she spent much of the previous day in the coop? Will the flock always dislike her now? Everything I have read talks about opportunistic eating, like a cracked egg, soft egg, broken, etc. This was predatory and happened faster than I could even get across the run. I hate to rehome her or worse - cull. Thanks in advance for input.
 

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Rivendell Chick

Songster
Apr 13, 2020
115
307
116
Northeast Georgia, USA
I can't help you with the egg eating behavior, but I can say that you may want to consider a roll away nesting box:
View attachment 2345891
The inside is sloped so eggs roll away from the reach of egg eaters. It only works once they lay in the nesting boxes, but it seems like it could help you out.
As far as I know, no eggs in nesting boxes are getting eaten. This is an interesting idea though in the event we need to take additional steps, especially at times when I can't go out as often.
 

Rivendell Chick

Songster
Apr 13, 2020
115
307
116
Northeast Georgia, USA
When you say that it was eaten as soon as it hit the ground... did she lay on the ground or in the nesting box?
She was in the run, and she didn't even squat - just stood still and let it go right onto the sand in full view of all the girls that hadn't gone to bed yet. I think it may have been her first egg ever, which was why I was out spying. She'd been doing an "egg song" earlier in the afternoon but had not laid an egg yet.
 

CluckerFamily

Crowing
Feb 14, 2016
1,634
3,475
281
Wisconsin
She was in the run. I think it may have been her first egg ever, which was why I was out spying. She'd been doing an "egg song" earlier in the afternoon but had not laid an egg yet.
I'm hoping the reason she ate the egg was because it was in the run and not in a nesting box.
My flock will eat an egg if it drops to the ground or is cracked on the ground.
The only way to see if they don't eat the eggs is to get them to lay in the nesting boxes. She may not do this again if that is the reason.
 

Rivendell Chick

Songster
Apr 13, 2020
115
307
116
Northeast Georgia, USA
I'm hoping the reason she ate the egg was because it was in the run and not in a nesting box.
My flock will eat an egg if it drops to the ground or is cracked on the ground.
The only way to see if they don't eat the eggs is to get them to lay in the nesting boxes. She may not do this again if that is the reason.
I hope so. Almost everyone else has laid in a nesting box right away, with just a couple laid in the coop floor or in the run on the ground. I wonder if the movement was part of it too, like when I toss in veggie treats or mealworms?
 

black_cat

Free Ranging
May 21, 2020
5,063
9,927
526
Connecticut
Whenever my girls are having egg issues, and one of them drops an egg in the run without usually nesting, they all start pecking at it. I'm not sure why, but mine do the same thing. Any eggs in the nesting boxes are safe and none of them touch them.
 

Rivendell Chick

Songster
Apr 13, 2020
115
307
116
Northeast Georgia, USA
This will be absolutely no help to you as I am less experienced, but your dilemma is terribly interesting and so well presented, I just had to say good luck and I’ll be tuning in to see what the “egg-sports” have to say! :D
Thank you - that means a lot. But researching only goes so far and you need advice from those with lots more experience. I treat the Storey's Guide like Dr. Spock for chickens, but this isn't described. :)
 

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