Chickens eating their own eggs, a behavior known as egg eating, can be a cause of concern for poultry keepers. There are several reasons why chickens may develop this behavior:
Nutritional Deficiency: One common reason chickens eat their eggs is a lack of certain nutrients in their diet. Calcium is particularly important for eggshell formation. If a chicken’s diet lacks sufficient calcium, they may resort to eating their eggs as a source of this essential mineral.
Accidental Breakage: Sometimes, eggs can get accidentally cracked within the nesting box or coop. Chickens may start pecking at broken eggs out of curiosity, and this can lead to a habit of egg eating.
Stress or Boredom: Chickens that are stressed or bored may engage in destructive behaviors, including egg eating. Overcrowding, inadequate living conditions, or lack of mental stimulation can contribute to this behavior.
Broodiness: Broody hens, those that are actively incubating eggs, can sometimes become overzealous in their nesting behavior. They may break and eat eggs in an attempt to protect their nest or in response to hormonal changes.
Copycat Behavior: Chickens often learn from observing the behaviors of other chickens in the flock. If one chicken starts eating eggs, others may imitate the behavior.
Laying Issues: Hens experiencing discomfort or problems while laying eggs may become frustrated and resort to breaking and eating their eggs. This can happen if an egg gets stuck in the oviduct or if the hen has health issues.
Preventing Egg Eating
To prevent egg eating behavior in chickens, consider the following measures:
Nutritious Diet: Ensure that your chickens receive a balanced diet with adequate calcium. You can provide calcium supplements, crushed eggshells, or oyster shell grit to support strong eggshells.
Collect Eggs Promptly: Gather eggs frequently, ideally multiple times a day. This reduces the chances of eggs getting accidentally broken and minimizes the opportunity for egg eating.
Nesting Box Design: Make sure nesting boxes are comfortable, clean, and adequately cushioned with straw or shavings to reduce the likelihood of egg breakage.
Stress Reduction: Address any stressors in the chicken’s environment, such as overcrowding or predator threats. Ensure they have sufficient space and opportunities for mental stimulation.
Egg-Baiting Methods: Some poultry keepers use artificial eggs or golf balls placed in the nesting boxes to deter egg eating. Chickens may peck at these objects instead of real eggs.
Isolation: If you identify a chicken that has developed egg-eating behavior, consider isolating that chicken temporarily to break the habit and prevent other chickens from learning it.
Caring for Your Chickens: Preventing Calcium Deficiency and Egg Eating
To prevent calcium deficiency in poultry and consequently reduce the likelihood of egg-eating, careful attention to nutrition is essential. Here are some tips to avoid this problem:
Provide a Balanced Diet: Poultry feeds should contain an appropriate balance of calcium and other essential nutrients. Ensure that you are using high-quality poultry feed that meets the specific needs of your birds.
Supplement Calcium: Depending on the type of feed and your chicken’s specific requirements, you might need to supplement their diet with additional calcium. Crushed eggshells, oyster shell grit, or commercial calcium supplements can be added to their feed.
Access to Grit: Grit, small rocks or stones that chickens ingest to aid in grinding food in their gizzards, is essential for proper digestion. Make sure your chickens have access to grit, as it helps them process calcium efficiently.
Calcium-Rich Treats: Occasionally offering calcium-rich treats like leafy greens (e.g., kale, spinach) and calcium-enriched poultry snacks can help supplement their calcium intake.
Regular Health Checks: Ensure your chickens are healthy and not suffering from any underlying medical issues that might cause egg-eating behavior. Regular health check-ups by a veterinarian can be beneficial.