Need help with egg eating

Steve777

Chirping
7 Years
Jul 14, 2013
29
7
87
So I have been battling (unsuccessfully for the most part) an egg eating problem. We have 6 hens in a relatively small coop (4x8'), with open access to a good sized fenced yard (30x60'). These birds are all 1 years old or more (a couple are 2 yo from a previous flock). They had been great layers until early March this year. It started with the occasional egg which was pecked open and sometimes eaten. Now it has gotten to the point where 1-2 eggs a day are eaten and/or broken (Some of the eggs have an end chipped off, others look like they got stepped on and crushed). All the birds have free access to food and water, so I don't think that it is they are hungry or thirsty. I also have a game camera trained on the coop entrance, but no sign of any critters coming in/out to eat eggs.

I have spent some time trying to identify which birds are causing the problem, with little success. I have at times caught one bird or another eating or pecking an egg, but it is different birds each time it seems. I have tried going out earlier and more often to fetch the eggs, and that works for a while, but the birds seem to adapt to a new schedule and lay earlier/later and eat some eggs.

I am about ready to give up on this flock and replace them. But before I did that thought I would ask here if there is anything else I can try. I suspect at this point I have at least 2-3 hens who like eating eggs and need to be broken of the habit (I am just not sure which ones they are).

Any suggestions, or is this an impossible task?
 

penny1960

Yippity do Da Yippity ay
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Dec 29, 2015
54,796
234,383
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Mossyrock, WA
I am there also roll away boxes may be needed it close to impossible to break a egg eater
either ditch them but you coop is too small
 

Steve777

Chirping
7 Years
Jul 14, 2013
29
7
87
Thanks for the input, here are some answers to your questions:

There is an occasional problem with a thin shell on an egg. I am not sure why as I am using a commercial layer feed and have oyster shell out too. However the thin shelled eggs have been around since I first got these birds, and there wasn't an egg eating problem until recently. FWIW, it often isn't one of the thinnest shelled eggs that gets eaten/crushed, which is odd. Certainly for the crushed eggs, it could be thin shell related, but it almost seems that one or more of the hens is purposely stepping on them to crush them now whereas they didn't used to do that before.

As mentioned, I am using a commercial layer mix, generally whole or crushed seed not pellets. I get it from a local farmer who raises eggs and gets it in large quantities. I had been using a free choice feeder for this feed, and it is still there if they want. But recently I had started mixing a ration of it with water and letting it soak for a few hours prior to giving it to the hens. They seem to like the feed much more this way (there was a fair amount of digging and waste with the dry feed in the feeder). I also give them free choice oyster shell, as mentioned. And they get various scraps, mostly greens/vegies from the garden. Probably a handful/bunch of greens every day or every other day on average, with less in the winter. The feeding hasn't really changed (at least not intentionally or that I noticed) from before the egg eating/thin shells to now. And when I asked the farmer I get the feed from if he had noticed any changes with the feed and his flocks, he had not.

I had considered roll away boxes, if I can find some plans for some that would fix in this coop, or could be extended on a side of it. Anyone know of any home made plans/instructions or places one can buy small ones for home use? I suspect there would not be room for bigger boxes than the built ins that are currently there, but I could put an extension on the coop to house some roll aways (would also increase the area of the coop a tiny bit).

Regarding the overall coop size, what size would be better for a flock of 6 or so hens? The current coop was built from various construction scraps I had around from a barn construction several years ago. I patterned/sized it after the coop the neighbor had (who was giving her chickens to us when she moved), and just assumed if it was the same as hers it would be good. It seems to have worked OK, but would like to hear what changes or size people think might be better. In addition to having roughly a 4x8' floor, it is raised up about 3' off the ground with an access ramp, and is about 4' to 5' tall inside. Two built in nest boxes roughly 1' square.

It also occurred to me after the original posting, that a small rodent (rat or weasel) might be getting in somehow that does not take them thru the front door and the game camera. I will double check for any new "entrances" and make sure the clean out door is tightly closed, just to eliminate that possibility.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
95,088
125,894
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
As mentioned, I am using a commercial layer mix, generally whole or crushed seed not pellets. I get it from a local farmer who raises eggs and gets it in large quantities. I had been using a free choice feeder for this feed, and it is still there if they want. But recently I had started mixing a ration of it with water and letting it soak for a few hours prior to giving it to the hens.
That's good. Crushed grains with a premix added works better wetted so the fines(premix vitamins etc) doesn't get sifted down and not eaten.
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
Premium Feather Member
Jul 3, 2016
15,186
29,022
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WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop
Your coop size is fine for number of chickens, and run space is very generous so I don't think that's an issue. Wetting the feed is good as well to encourage the chickens to eat the entire mix without picking out favorite bits.

Entirely possible that this whole egg eating thing got started from one too many thin egg shells getting cracked and now the flock has a taste for eggs. :confused:

As far as rollaway nests, I think a few people on here have built their own, but I can't remember who. There's commercially made models as well if you look around online. As I don't use one I can't recommend a specific model/build.
 

BaaKaaawk

Coopster
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Apr 4, 2011
814
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311
Lexington, KY
I had a breaker in a group of 30. It took a video camera to finally find her. She would go into a box with a hen in it already and peck the egg that the hen left when she got out. Very patient, very calculated lol. BUT, when I got rid of that specific hen once caught- the problem was over. Other hens would eat the egg parts left over, but this was the only breaker.
 

Steve777

Chirping
7 Years
Jul 14, 2013
29
7
87
Sounds like I need to do some more detective work to find the one(s) doing the breaking/crushing. Still exploring other possible factors (predators, not enough protein, etc), but the evidence strongly points to it being a hen. I am curious about what type of camera you used to catch the culprit, @BaaKaaawk? I've thought of how to position my game camera in the coop, but I don't think it will focus closely enough to get the hens if it is on the back wall of the nest box. I suppose could put it on the far wall (4' away) but it would get blocked by the normal motion in there, and the rump of a hen sticking her head in to eat an egg.

I have found several DIY roll away box designs. The easiest ones seem to be based around a paint roller tray which get lined with washable carpet or the like. Unfortunately most of them are intended for use inside a coop with the egg "drawer" opening to the inside. Fine if you have a large coop or barn and you go into it to fetch eggs, but my coop is small and whatever door/opening needs to swing/open to the outside. Not impossible, just need to think a bit about this and how well the eggs will fair in really cold weather if they roll to the outside wall of the boxes.

Still a bunch to do here...
 

BaaKaaawk

Coopster
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Apr 4, 2011
814
2,550
311
Lexington, KY
Sounds like I need to do some more detective work to find the one(s) doing the breaking/crushing. Still exploring other possible factors (predators, not enough protein, etc), but the evidence strongly points to it being a hen. I am curious about what type of camera you used to catch the culprit, @BaaKaaawk? I've thought of how to position my game camera in the coop, but I don't think it will focus closely enough to get the hens if it is on the back wall of the nest box. I suppose could put it on the far wall (4' away) but it would get blocked by the normal motion in there, and the rump of a hen sticking her head in to eat an egg.

I have found several DIY roll away box designs. The easiest ones seem to be based around a paint roller tray which get lined with washable carpet or the like. Unfortunately most of them are intended for use inside a coop with the egg "drawer" opening to the inside. Fine if you have a large coop or barn and you go into it to fetch eggs, but my coop is small and whatever door/opening needs to swing/open to the outside. Not impossible, just need to think a bit about this and how well the eggs will fair in really cold weather if they roll to the outside wall of the boxes.

Still a bunch to do here...

I used a normal camcorder/video camera attached to a very long extension cord! I just set it to record and every 2 hours went out and stopped it, checked the egg status, and restarted it. It only took 3 times before I found the culprit. The video was clear as day- she got in the same box as a layer, waited for that hen to leave and then first kicked the egg all around and finally busted it open with her beak and then ate it.

My birds have everything they could possibly need. Space, different foods, free range, etc. So some chickens just "figure out" their eggs contain yummy food and from there on I don't think you can stop the behavior so I sold her to someone letting them know full well this hen broke eggs. They didn't seem to care. Maybe they ate her lol.
 

MANNA-PRO

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