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What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

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What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#1  Unread postby JudyM » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:13 am


I have 3 hens that started eating the newly laying hens' eggs so I separated them and put them in a tractor. One we reintroduced to the flock. She seems to be doing fine. Maybe it was only one of the hens eating eggs and it wasn't her. Now, the remaining two hens (with a rooster) are eating their own eggs. Is there a way to unteach them or is all lost? They are Crimson Queens if that matters. I also have Delawares and Gold Wyandottes for a total of 10 hens and none of the others seemed to have picked up this very bad habit.

I separated the hens about 3 weeks ago, returned one to the flock a week later. In 3 weeks I think we got only one egg and that was early on. Should I try adding another hen to the flock and see if the egg-eating in the coop starts up again? I am afraid to add another hen to the flock for fear that she'll teach the others to eat the eggs. Has anyone had any experience with this?

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#2  Unread postby SixGun » Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:56 am


Whenever we've had hens that have become egg eaters our only option was to cull them all. They will teach the other hens to eat them as well.

A broken egg can turn a whole flock into egg eaters so we put a cut piece of yoga mat at the bottom of each nest, along with straw.
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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#3  Unread postby MaggieJ » Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:02 pm


I've had egg-eating hens on occasion. A nice pot of chicken and dumplings :chef: is one solution, but not the only one.

I believe it is a learned behaviour that usually results from an accidentally cracked egg. One hen gets her beak in it and that attracts the attention of the others. They soon learn they can open the eggs for themselves.

I think it can be unlearned, but only if you can remove the opportunity for a time. A nest box that slants and rolls the egg into a compartment out of reach is one device you can use. After a couple of weeks, they may forget about egg eating . . . but as long as they have access to eggs daily, they will remember, continue the habit and possibly teach the others.

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#4  Unread postby heritage » Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:03 pm


Ugh... mine drive me nuts with this! I think some of it is boredom (when they are penned up vs. free ranging), I think some of it is searching for nutrients, I think some of it is picking on broody hens, and I think some of it is opportunistic eating - when they stand up as the egg pops out, sometimes it will hit another one. As soon as they hear the "crack" they go nuts. I have heard of people blowing out egg shells, then filling them up with mustard... it makes it very obvious who is eating the eggs!

Some things that has helped for me in the past:

softer nest boxes = fewer broken eggs for them to eat (when they kick all the hay out is when they start back b/c they hit the wood too hard and break)
when I have broody hens it's always bad, I guess survival of the fittest. they are merciless with the eggs the broodies are sitting on
a ceramic egg in each box seems to deter them, at least for a little while
curtains over the nest boxes - out of sight, out of mind I guess

All in all? I do think it's a learned habit. It only took one to start it in my flock before they all went nuts. I was given poor advice by numerous "old timers" that feeding fresh eggs shells (vs. baking and crushing them up) wouldn't teach them, but I truly think that's what did it (on a chicken forum no less. They were kind of ugly about it, too). I never had any issues while I was feeding baked/crushed shells. I don't bake them, but if there are quite a few in the chicken scrap bucket I will step on them to crunch them up a bit.
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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#5  Unread postby JudyM » Wed Oct 05, 2016 1:21 pm


Thank you all for your help! I didn't realize it was so prevalent!

I did some internet research and found that people have videos of egg-eating nest boxes! So I will go that route first. I planned on converting the old shed into a little coop for my rooster and his 2 red hens. They're my outcasts: the hens because they eat eggs and the rooster because he attacks me. (The rooster, "Rudy," would be chicken soup but my son and him are like a boy and his dog.) So, If I make these new nest boxes for a new coop it will hopefully work!

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#6  Unread postby SuburbanHomesteader » Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:19 pm


When one starts, it doesn't take long for the others to learn. Then the only solution is to get rid of all of them (since it's nearly impossible to figure out which one(s) is/are doing the deed). I had to replace my entire flock a couple of years ago - had two dozen chickens and was down to getting only one or two whole eggs a day!

Since then, I place several (2 or 3) ceramic eggs in each nest box. I also feed LOTS of oyster shell so that the shells are harder. The theory behind it is that if they are trying to peck the eggs, the fake eggs up the odds they'll just get a sore beak. Making sure they get oyster shell or some other form of calcium helps to ensure that the egg shells themselves are harder and less likely to crack or break if pecked.

Best of luck to you!
Last edited by SuburbanHomesteader on Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#7  Unread postby akane » Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:02 pm


If you don't want to cull you can try to keep them from seeing the eggs in the box. Block as much light on the current sides as possible (caulk the cracks, tarp, black plastic, whatever) and put in a smaller door or if they'll use it a hinged door or old cat/dog doors. You might have to block the doors half open at first which making them duck in might block enough light by itself that they don't need to be fully closed. It can also help to slope the boxes toward the back with lots of padding so they roll away a bit and aren't around the next hen to go in the box. Aside from a few exceptions birds have worse night vision than humans and they don't rely on smell much like other animals. If they can't see the eggs they won't try to eat the eggs.
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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Rainey » Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:38 am


The hens we have now we bought as day old hatchery chicks in 2014 and raised them without a heat lamp or chick starter. They started laying at least as early as any we'd had before, never got layer mash. They don't free range (too many predators and don't want them tearing up the gardens) but they have an 8'x8' compost area and a 6'x10' run that is moves around the compost and coop so it is on fresh ground every few days. We feed sunflower seeds, wheat and oats, garden and kitchen scraps, offal from butchering, minnows from the pond, Japanese beetles we have to pick from garden plants, whey when we don't have a pig. They are the first chickens we've had that don't eat eggs and don't peck bald spots on some of the flock. Maybe it's just coincidence but I think not being bored and getting the nutrients they need may prevent those behaviors.

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Truckinguy » Thu Oct 06, 2016 3:16 pm


I wonder if it's because they are not getting something that they need nutritionally. I have about 50 birds and I know that they eat eggs from time to time although I think it's just eggs that get broken in the nest. If I get a real poopy egg I throw it on the ground and they all pile on it like they've never seen food before. However, when I get home from work there are still nests full of eggs waiting for me to collect. I usually feed them enough feed that there is some left over at the end of the day so I know they are all getting as much to eat as they want.

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#10  Unread postby GBov » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:46 pm


I put four or five china eggs into each nest box with nice deep hay to cushion them. My hens tried several times to eat teh eggs but with so many china eggs they mostly hit really hard eggs instead of breakable ones.

Worked for me. 8-)

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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Galadriel » Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:29 am


We put golf balls in our nestboxes, and it really has worked. We went overnight from a lucky couple of eggs a day back to ten-fourteen a day. Bet there are some pretty sore beaks out there!
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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#12  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Thu Nov 10, 2016 9:19 pm


when I have trouble with hens eating eggs, I boost the amount of animal base protein [meat ] in their diet , and they quit, - or if you can free range they get their own- and then they also quit eating the eggs.
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Re: What To Do with Egg-Eating Hens

Post Number:#13  Unread postby SableSteel » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:35 pm


I like to get rid of the egg eaters, but one of my friends would blow out eggs, fill them with mustard, and put them back in the nest, so the egg eater would be rewarded with a mouthful of mustard that they hate
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