Soft eggs, egg eating, and bullies - Help!


6 Years
Sep 9, 2013

I am new to raising backyard chickens. I have 4 Rhode Island Reds, which we've had for about 2 months now. We got them as pullets and they started laying a couple weeks after we got them.

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that I wasn't getting as many eggs. I usually had 3-4 a day, and was only getting 2. Eventually I discovered a secret nest with 8 eggs! Since collecting them, I haven’t had any more eggs in the secret spot. I also noticed that every other day or so I was getting a soft shelled egg. My chickens all get the same feed and free range in my backyard all day. I give them Purina Layena crumbles and also have out oyster shells, which they don’t seem to touch. The eggs have always been strong and consistent, but the soft shelled egg would show up here and there, and then all of the sudden stopped completely and I was getting 2-3 eggs a day.

The other day my wife and I were on the deck and noticed that our smallest hen was playing around near the blueberry bushes. A second later we looked over and saw an egg yolk and she was eating it! I know egg eating is a huge problem and I’m not sure what to do at this point. She literally laid it right there, turned around and had lunch! My son also said he found egg shell remains under the deck, and this morning I found a soft shelled egg in the coop which had been broken open, but they didn't eat it. The yolk was there on the floor right next to the hen.

I also noticed this morning that two bigger hens were occupying the nesting boxes. I have 2 nesting boxes in the coop, which I was told is fine for 4 chickens. As I tried to remove one hen from the box, she was not very happy. She was on an egg and it occurred to me that the small hen laying the soft eggs might be getting “bullied” out of the nesting box? Perhaps the bigger hen is broody and hogging up all the space, and the secret nest I found belonged to the smaller girl? I’m just not sure what to do right now. Should I make another nesting box so the small hen has a spot to lay? Even if she lays in the nesting box, I’m sure it will be soft again (even though the secret nest eggs were perfect). I've read all the options for preventing egg eating, so I’m going to try some things this week. My wife and I are not home from about 6am until 4 or 5 pm, so I can only collect eggs in the early morning and then evening. I’m wondering if the egg eating will continue and even worse, give the other girls ideas! Sorry, I know this is a long post, but I’m trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Any advice would be appreciated.
It sounds like they are lacking protein in their diet. I am by no means an expert, but try giving them small puppy kibble high in protein. My hens love it, but I have to limit it to just a snack. They'll eat too much. So try this. Might help. I've also read that putting a fake egg(s) or golf ball in nest will get them to lay where you want them to.

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