Chickens eating their own Eggs
Some theories on why and how to stop it
It is not the best feeling when you go to the Chicken Shed to collect the daily eggs only to find empty eggshells in the Nest Boxes. Something is eating them and once it starts it is very difficultto put right.
First things first though, make sure it's the Hens who are eating the Eggs, Rats are partial to a quick easy snack as well.
Why do Chickens eat Eggs?
I've a few theories of my own here.
1. They're bored
I've often found the habit starts during a long wet spell and this is exaggerated more through the Summer. Chickens are active during daylight, so mid Summer they're often out and about by 5am. So, more time to kill. Basically, they're bored?
2. Starts accidentally
It could be that one breaks one day and it starts from there. It's strange, but if you see an egg break, watchthe Chickens, they're be over in a second and eating the contents before you have a chance of clearing it up.
3. Broody Hens and Nest Box Size
A Broody Hen will sit on eggs for days and quite often very difficult to move. If you don't have sufficient Nest Boxes for your Hens, they will squeeze into one and that's when accidents (and fights!) happen.
I've seen one Hen lay an egg whilst balancing on top of another one!
Prevention and hopefully CureSo, from the above you will see there are some obvious thing's we can do to lessen the risk and need to ask ourselves...
Have the Chickens enough space to keep themselves busy? If they're not going outside when it's raining, consider putting a Shelter on the Run, or at least some of it.
One theory is to hang a Cabbage up and they will spend a lot of the time pecking away at it.
Have you sufficient Nest Boxes and are they big enough for all Hens to be in at the same time?
A Nest Box should ideally be around 12" square and you shouldhave one Box to every four Chickens as minimum.
If your Flock have gone through the above checks and still having periods of eating eggs, try these ideas out...
Put a dish of Milk down inside the Run or House. After a few days it was observed they stopped the habit (Source: University of Florida)
Put a substitute Egg in such as a Ceramic Egg, even a worrying stone, the idea being they'll give up, on that one anyway!
Pierce a hole in the top of the Egg and pour out the contents, fill with Mustard and put it back. This is hearsay and something I haven't and don't think I'd try.
By far the best way I've found is simply trying to be first to the Eggs. If you have a couple of days or so at Home, just keep on going up to the Shed and wait for one to settle down for laying, then just wait patiently and as soon as you hear any movement and it's apparent they have laid an Egg, get in there quick and take it out immediately. This is good only in so far as you having just three or four Hens, if you have 20, your weekend has just gone out the Window!
In fourteen years of keeping Chickens I've only had problems with this about four or five times and I like to think that the reason for it being quite a rare event is that they have a large house with plenty of Nesting areas, a Shelter attached to the Shed and a large Run to play around and rummage in.
Finally, make sure it's the chickens who are eating them, could be Rats.
One of those annoyances which is the same as any other, but you can win the battle OK !