EGG EATING BEHAVIOR IN CHICKEN
a) Egg breakage. This is one of the main reasons hens begin eating eggs. Reducing or eliminating egg breakage minimizes the chances your hens will get the taste of raw egg. Overcrowding: The recommended space per bird in the coop and run is 4 square foot per bird if they are not able to free range. If you can free range, the space allotment is not quite so important since they have the outside to explore.
b) Not enough nest boxes: There should be a minimum of one nest box for every four hens. Too few boxes means that everyone will use the same boxes and eggs may get damaged by treading, rolling etc. If they break open- a hen is going to eat the contents.
c) Lack of water: Hens have been known to crack eggs if they are thirsty. Ensure clean, fresh water is always available.
d) Hunger: Not enough feed available to the hens. A ‘free feeding’ policy should ensure this doesn’t happen. A good quality 16-18% protein feed should be sufficient during the laying season, unless the bird is molting, in which case, higher protein content is needed.
e) Unbalanced diet: If the hen has an imbalance in her diet, she will try to correct it. If there is not enough protein available, egg eating is one way to supplement the diet with protein.
f) Boredom: Hens get into mischief when they are bored! Try to keep them occupied, if they free range, you likely won’t have a problem. If they are confined, you need to offer other activities to keep them busy- tetherball, scratching etc.
g) Too much light. Hens like a darkened, private area in which to lay their eggs. Try to cut down the light by using curtains or dimming lights. If the hen can’t see the egg, she won’t peck at it.
h) Stress: Stressed hens tend to pick and pluck more- eggs, feathers etc. To avoid stressing her while on the nest, don’t be rummaging around under her looking for eggs. Let her lay in peace.
i) Inexperienced hens: Hens new to laying can often produce eggs with weak or thin shells. Sometimes these will crack on impact and the hen will sample the goods. Curiosity is a hen trademark!
2. Egg-Eating Habit correction
Practicing the egg breakage preventions mentioned above may be all it takes to stop your hens from eating eggs, even if they've already started. Other things you can do to put a stop to egg eating is to take steps to lower stress.
Avoid bright lighting near the nesting boxes. Don't disturb hens in the nests.Make sure you have enough space for each hen in the coop. Enough nesting boxes. Provide at least one 12-inch-square nest for every 4 or 5 hens in the flock, and never fewer than six nesting boxes. Nesting boxes should be positioned at least 2 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from the roosts. Keep fresh feed and water available at all times.Set up a second feeding station if one hen is bullying the others by guarding a single feeding station.If possible, provide hens with space outdoors to roam or at least a run with fresh grass and bugs.Finely crushed egg shells can be fed back to the hens, but make sure the shells are not recognizable as eggshells. Calcium in the form of oyster shell should be given as a side dish.Always ensure that if you find a broken egg to clean up every last speck of it. Change the bedding out too. Keep at least 2 inches of clean, dry nesting material (shavings or straw) in the nest boxes at all times.Relocate any broody hens, which cause congestion in the nesting boxes.Keep eggshells strong by feeding a calcium supplement—usually sold as oyster shells—in a free-choice feeder.Feed your chickens a complete feed specifically designed for laying hens.Collect eggs early. Collecting eggs early in the day leaves less time for breakage and egg eating. Most hens are finished laying eggs by 10 a.m.
3. Extreme Cures for Egg-Eating Hens
If you have one hen who's determined to eat eggs despite all these tips, consider culling her from the flock. She'll just pass on the bad behavior to the other hens, and then you'll have a real problem on your hands.
If you'd rather not cull the hen, you are down to a few extreme measures you can take:
Buy roll-away nesting boxes. When the hen lays an egg, the egg rolls out of the nesting box and the hen can't reach it.Place golf balls in the nests. In theory, the hens will tire of pecking these "eggs."Fill an eggshell with mustard, which chickens hate. Make a small hole at the ends of an egg and blow out the contents. Replace the content with yellow mustard. Place the mustard-filled egg in the nesting box. Clip the offending hen's beak. This sounds worse than it is. Trim only the tip of the beak. Just like your fingernail or a cat's claw, the beak contains live tissue; cutting too far causes bleeding and pain.
Seed your nest box with wooden eggs. You might try replacing eggs in your nests with golf balls or wooden eggs. Instead of being rewarded for their pecking with a delicious treat, they'll get a whole lot of nothing, which will disincentive egg eating, over time.