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Ok, this is weird... I'm afraid we have a cannibal in the midst...

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Cluck-a-biddy, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. Cluck-a-biddy

    Cluck-a-biddy Out Of The Brooder

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    May 27, 2016
    Lower Sierras NorCal
    Went out after work to give the girls their evening cukes and collect eggs. Found three eggs in one nesting box and a shell in one box that they never use. The shell was pecked open and totally empty of liquid. Two days ago, I found an egg in one of the boxes they don't usually use and it was cracked, with the liquid spilling out onto the straw. I pulled the wet straw and egg out and threw it on the ground. A couple of the chickies ran over and began eating the "guts." I found it gross, but didn't really think much about it it. Now my husband and my son are telling me I shouldn't have let them eat it, and that's why they cannibalized this one. Has anybody ever had this happen? My chickens are 9 months old. I have 8 of them, and they've been laying pretty well thru the winter. I have warm-white LED Xmas lights inside the coop and out around the run, and they stay on til about 10:00 at night. I've been averaging 4-5 eggs a day, but about once a week I'll get 7 or 8. I know others who have chickens in town and they aren't getting any or maybe one once in awhile. I know the lights are helping. But I hope I'm not going to have a problem with one or more of the girls eating eggs every day!!
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Thin shells are your culprit and that can happen at any given time of a hen's life but happens more when they come into and out of laying cycles. It's natural for a chicken to clean up any cracked eggs in the nest, so you don't have an egg eater...you have a whole flock of them and they are merely acting on instinct. Feeding them a cracked egg doesn't "cause" them to eat eggs...they are omnivores, so eggs are on the menu any time they see one cracked and oozing any egg material.

    I've been feeding egg shells and cracked eggs to hens for 40 yrs and never had an "egg eater" or "cannibal" chicken....just chickens that take advantage of an opportunity. It's natural for them to clean up egg material in the nest to keep it clean there and to keep it from attracting predators to a nest site.

    This time of year is always the time of year one sees many, many threads on BYC about "egg eaters", simply due to the changes in shell integrity when hens cycle into the spring laying cycle. Shell glands can take a bit to get into action. Give it a couple of weeks and shells will firm up and you'll not see this again until the next time shells thin out~sometimes in molting season or going out of lay in the fall/winter.

    You don't need to increase calcium or protein to the flock, you don't need to kill a hen caught cleaning up the broken eggs, you just need patience and knowledge of natural behaviors in a chicken's life to get you through.....give it awhile and the "cannibal" will mysteriously disappear when shells get more firm and strong. [​IMG]
     
  3. Cluck-a-biddy

    Cluck-a-biddy Out Of The Brooder

    71
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    May 27, 2016
    Lower Sierras NorCal
    Well, that kinda makes sense I guess. But these are not thin shells! They haven't had thin shells since they first started laying in August. In fact, some of them are a little tough and don't crack easily. And I do give my girls their own eggshells. I crush them up into medium-fine particles and add to their fermented food. I mainly was finding it amusing and interesting, altho I was a little concerned. But my husband and my son were weirded out when I told them I had let them eat the other one. So they're sitting here telling me I shouldn't have let them eat it.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Cracked and broken eggs will often get eaten. If the eggs are building up in the boxes they are more likely to get cracked or broken so collect often. Also make sure they are well bedded.

    Artificial lighting doesn't affect young hens like it does older hens. They are often used to get hens laying sooner after a molt. Some of mine are the same age as your and they have been laying well without any extra lights, and are slowly picking up speed as daylight is increasing.

    Make sure you keep a bowl of oyster shells always available for any extra calcium needs. I also like to feed a higher protein ration than layer to prevent any deficiencies, which sometimes will cause a hen to seek out eggs.

    I feed eggs back to my chickens all the time. They absolutely love them, raw or cooked and they are a good source of nutrients.
     
  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    [​IMG] You can assure them you've done nothing to cause this. As Old Hen says, getting in and out of a nest too crowded with eggs or without thick enough nesting can cause egg breakage. Fighting over a favorite nest will do the same, where several hens try to squeeze into one nest. If your shells are all thick, this could be the explanation for broken eggs...the fact that you had a broken egg in the nest without it being eaten would seem to indicate this and that you don't have a chicken pecking into eggs merely to eat them.
     
  6. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    Hi there Cluck-a-biddy

    How are your nest boxes designed? Is it easy enough for a hen to hop from one box to the other or does she need to step out, around and into an alternative nest box?

    I ask because you mention you found the eggs in a nest box that they never use.

    I often find eggs on the coop floor and even in the run at the bottom of the ramp. The hens actually lay the eggs in the nest box but because their butts are so fluffy and sometimes they linger, the egg dries and sticks to their feathers. So, when they jump out the egg drops off but, as mentioned, sometimes it hangs on long enough to make it down the ramp and on one occasion, I bailed up a hen plodding around the garden with the egg firmly stuck to her butt [​IMG]

    Anyways, any chance that the hen is hopping across the boxes, with the egg attached and it is either dropping off or being broken along the way?

    This may explain why you are finding the broken ones in a nest box they do not use. Alternatively, you could have a rodent [rat] which is moving and eating the eggs.

    Just some food for thought.
     
  7. Cluck-a-biddy

    Cluck-a-biddy Out Of The Brooder

    71
    14
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    May 27, 2016
    Lower Sierras NorCal
    OMG! Teila you're cracking me up!! An egg stuck to a chicken's butt! LOL I haven't seen that yet, but boy would that be funny!

    Ok... we made two nesting box sections for either side of the coop, 6ft long open trays divided into 6 1ftx1ft sections. From the beginning they've mostly used the box at the far-back left corner, with some of them alternating with the front left one, rarely ever using the middle 4 boxes. I have on occasion moved one of the eggs into the middle sections, and sometimes they'll lay there, but more often they somehow move the egg back into their preferred box. We originally had the one on the right side staggered down lower, because I didn't know how high up they would like to sit. But they never used those boxes at all until a few weeks ago we moved the tray up level to the other one. Once in a awhile they will lay an egg or two in the far-back right corner now, but I don't recall them using any of the other ones in that section. Lately, they've been using the front left one more and seem to have abandoned the original far left one. I thought that one was getting too compacted so last week I pulled out a lot of the old stuff, and put a bunch of new straw in there, and across all the nests. I guess they didn't like that, because they haven't laid in that back box since then.The little boogers move the straw into the one they use. Soooo... yes, the one that had the cracked egg and the empty shell were not as cushioned as the others. That first egg that was just cracked, I think maybe was stepped on. Altho I actually stepped on one at the coop entrance a few weeks ago myself and it didn't break! Their shells are quite tough. I'm sure that one was an accident. But this empty one looked to have been purposely pecked open.

    The girls bicker and fight over the nesting boxes all the time. Some of them will sit there for hours at a time, and others just wanna go in and drop their egg. I've had one of the Wyandottes drop her egg in the coop entrance on the floor several times because she couldn't get whoever was on the one she wanted to get off. I pick up the eggs every evening. Some of the girls will lay late in the afternoon, and I've seen a couple of them in there around 5:00pm back before winter hit. It's so crazy how they just want to use only one or two nests tho. Besides their usual laying feed, I do give them the oyster shell calcium every day, plus some sunflower seeds. I also put ground up eggshells in their "mush" as I call the fermented food. I add all sorts of good stuff to their mush.. I alternate between chia seeds, flaxseeds, quinoa, bulgar, hemp hulls, oats, steel cut oats, leftover cooked rice, and usually add a few grapes sliced up real small. They get cut up cucumbers in the evening when I get home, and every other day I give them a couple of handfuls of the dried worms. OMG that's like a drug to them!! Holy cow they go nuts! Talk about a feeding frenzy! I re-use the small bag I used to get them in, and refill it with the bulk ones I just got from Amazon awhile back. Those girls know when I'm bringing the bag up to them. They go crazy and try to fly up and grab the bag!! They're so funny!!

    Hey OldHen... I really think the lights help tho, even with the younger ones. My other son and several people I've talked to in town who have chickens are hardly getting any eggs right now, or this past several weeks anyway. Besides, I love having the lights up there. It's so cool to look up and see the lit-up pen and the chickies running around! They tend to stay out til nearly 8:00pm some nights. Altho I found it amusing that last night they were in the coop around 6:30, and that rarely happens. And especially now that the days are getting longer again. They're just my little weirdos...

    Thanks you guys for the reassuring comments. I tried to tell my husband and son they were full of crap about me turning the girls into cannibals! But being a novice at this I wasn't really sure!! I had visions of going out and finding eaten eggs every night! LOL (hmmm... wonder what I'll find when I get home this evening...)
     

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