Please help! All four chickens turned to egg eaters in 24 hours?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by rama, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. rama

    rama Hatching

    Aug 12, 2013
    New Mexico
    Hi BYC,

    I’m a first time poster, avid reader, always great advice here! I have read lots of the older threads about egg eating and tried a few things, but I'm really discouraged and wanted to ask your advice. Sorry for the wordy post, but I wanted to give all the relevant details.

    I’m a new chicken owner, we have four 21 week old pullets that we got as chicks (2 wyandottes – silver and gold laced, a RIR, and a Plymouth rock). They started laying a little over a week ago, we have been getting 2 – 3 eggs/day. I think 3 are laying, 4th is the RIR who may be starting recently/soon – just started squatting. The eggs have been pretty normal (strong shells, two double yolks but otherwise normal) and always in the nesting box (I check other areas to be sure). I have been checking the boxes 2 – 3 times/day.

    Yesterday morning no eggs (a little unusual but not unheard of), but late morning I found a broken very soft (maybe shell-less) egg in the nesting box, it had been partly eaten. The GLW had egg on her face and I had seen her standing face-in in the nesting box a few minutes earlier. I cleaned up the egg and checked the box frequently. Later found both wyandottes in there sitting like they wanted to lay (or waiting for a snack), but at some point the SLW started pecking hard at the egg shaped rock I keep in there. Later they were gone, and there were two intact eggs which I removed. I blew out an egg and filled it with mustard and water (about 50/50 to get it into the egg needed water) and sealed it with wax– I didn’t have yellow, just spicey mustard. I put it in the nesting box by the rock, and for the rest of the day the mustard egg was intact, and no new eggs.

    This morning no new eggs, mustard egg intact, I checked periodically only opening the nesting box if no one was nesting (and checked if the nester was sitting and facing out rather than eating). Early afternoon I found 2 eggs intact, but mysteriously no mustard egg, but there were traces of mustard on one egg. No mustard on chicken faces, but then I realized the Plymouth rock was eating wet straw in the coop – it was mustard, with just a few bits of shell nearby, also what might have been actual egg in the straw nearby (?).. I kicked her out and started to clean, only to find the RIR coming in to chow on mustard. Kicked her out too.

    So now I’m worried that 3 or even all 4 may be egg eaters. I don’t want to cull. I work from home so can check the boxes frequently, but don’t want to be a long term slave to the egg box.

    More about my setup:
    • Run is 140 sq ft, coop is ~20 sq ft. Coop is open to run at all times (run is secure). Run has straw and yard scraps, 2 perches, a bale of alfalfa, a log. They are mostly in the coop to sleep and lay. They are sometimes antsy in the run - looking to get out. They may just be waiting for their morning treat, maybe bored since my sister’s family left about 2 weeks ago (her kids were here for 4 days, spoiled the chickens rotten with leaves and seeds poked into the run for hours each day).
    • 2 nesting boxes are built into the coop. They are about 18” in each dimension, have straw on the bottom (as does the coop). They have partial curtains (jean strips that block some but not all light). They are floor level (coop is only ~3 feet tall and roost is at about 1.5 feet), but there is a 4 inch board across the front to separate them and make chickens step up over it to get in. The nesting boxes open to the outside. One nesting box is slightly smaller and has an egg-shaped rock – that’s the one they use. Yesterday I added a rock to the other box too.
    • In the run they have free access to layer pellets since 15 weeks (a little early but I couldn’t find grower). Water all the time, also in the run. I added free choice oyster shell yesterday (had waited since I started on layer pellets early and didn’t want them to get too much calcium, and shells have all looked good until yesterday). I sometimes add grit to a bowl, but don’t worry much since the run and yard are sandy loam, and there are small rocks in a path in the yard.
    • I let them out into the yard for ~3 hours every night. Yard has some grass and greenery (~200 – 300 sq feet) but is mostly mulch and bushes – they scratch at the mulch, might eat it, and there probably aren’t a lot of bugs (we are in the high desert). They do eat the grass and other plants too.
    • We are in high desert and it gets hot, but temps have been nice lately, 80’s to low 90’s. Much better than June when it was over 100 many days, then I would wet the run for them.
    • Every morning I bring them 1 -2 pints of veggie/fruit scraps in a suet feeder that they can peck at. I try to err toward more veggies, less fruit. I also throw out ~1/4 cup of black oil sunflower seeds in the run for them to scratch at, but it usually doesn’t take them long to devour these treats. I was sometimes putting some of these seeds in the coop (trying to get them to stir the deep litter) but have now stopped that so they don’t look there for food.
    • Maybe unrelated - the last day or two the RIR has been a bit frantic/scared and a bit bullied by the SLW – this is a total reversal of the pecking order. Or maybe they've just got hormones while about to start laying.

    I’m planning to make the nesting box curtains more complete so its totally dark. I’d also like to try another gross egg idea, but it seems these chickens like mustard. Other ideas? Maybe blend up garlic onions and hot sauce? Also – would a plastic easter egg be better so they don’t get to eat shell fragments, or would it just not bread? Or golf balls in addition to the rocks? Also – could they be bored or somehow malnourished? If so what should I do? Our next step will be to modify the nest boxes so the eggs roll out and are protected, but this will take time since they are built in and space is tight.

    Does anyone have any other tips or advice? I’m pretty down about it, especially after the high of having so many eggs!

    Thanks in advance !
  2. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Crowing

    Apr 11, 2011
    Whenever I read these types of posts, my first piece of advice is to be absolutely certain you don't have mice. I would loose eggs to them during the day (caught them in the act) when I had a mouse infestation. A chicken eating an egg doesn't necessarily mean they've turned to full blown egg eater.
    In my coop, soft/partially soft eggs are always eaten by the girls. And if I happen to find one, they get it anyway. Your mustard egg was weakened by you poking a hole in it and blowing it out, they could've simply stepped on it and broken it. A chickens instinct is to clean up broken eggs up so they don't attract predators. Oh, and FYI, my chickens have no problems eating mustard, garlic, chilies or even jalepenos. They don't have the necessary tastebuds for spicy, at least not as we experience spicy.
    Darkening the boxes is a good idea. Roll out nest boxes are about the only way to guarantee you'll get the eggs (unless you have mice). I feed my chickens eggs quite often, shells and all, just crack them on the ground. And I have never had an egg eating chicken. Good luck, time to play detective. You could put a fridge egg in the box and go out and watch them. If they actively break it open and eat it, it may be time for another course of action. Good luck.
    1 person likes this.
  3. rama

    rama Hatching

    Aug 12, 2013
    New Mexico
    Thank you Nikki! This is very helpful (and also reassuring). I hope you're right that these two eggs just broke... seems possible, since I think the other eggs have been OK.

    I will darken the curtains, and also check for evidence of mice and make sure there are no hiding places for them in the run. We did have some nibbling damage on sunflowers near the coop recently. I'll also fill in a few gaps in the hardware cloth on the run (the gaps might let rats in - I think smaller mice could get through anywhere so if that's the problem I guess I'll set some traps.)

    I also read another thread on this site that recommended wooden eggs and more protein in their feed (at least temporarily) - if it looks like they are really egg eating I will try those too, or might try them anyway just to be safe.

    Will report back when I know more.
  4. rama

    rama Hatching

    Aug 12, 2013
    New Mexico
    As an update - I think you were right Nikki that they aren't egg eaters, I was just being a bit paranoid. Thanks for easing my worries! And for stopping me from continuing to fill blown out eggs and so tempt them even more.

    All I've done is add to the curtains, and I didn't see any evidence of rodents (at least from what I could tell). I've been collecting eggs frequently when I can, but even when they are left in there for a few hours nothing happens, and we are getting about as many eggs as I expect (a little less, but I don't think anyone is eating them). So I think we're in the clear.

  5. Gallega

    Gallega Hatching

    Jul 14, 2013
    Pico Rivera, California
    So how do you know if there are mice? I've looked for holes in the coop fencing, havne'tfigured how a mouse would get in, but if it can, (cause you know how sneaky they can be) Will there be any evidence? I mean, will they eat the shell and all? i ask cause my production has decreased from 6 a day to 1 and i'm susupicious that either they are molting and don't want to lay or something is getting in there. I don't think they have gone zombie but ya never know.

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