My Hen Is Eating Their Own Eggs. How Do I Stop Them?

My Hen Is Eating Their Own Eggs Blog Cover

Egg eating in the coop can be a huge problem once it takes hold.

It’s a behavior that needs to be stopped quickly as other hens may decide to join in and that is a difficult thing to stop.

This is one of the last problems you want as a chicken keeper, because many of us raise chickens solely for the eggs!

In this article we’re going to take a look at why hens eat their own eggs and what we can do about it. We will also take a look at some other egg laying behaviors that can be problematic for you and your flock.

Why Do Hens Eat Their Own Eggs?

So first of all, why do they eat their eggs? There are numerous things that can contribute or encourage egg eating.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lack of water: Hens have been known to crack eggs if they are thirsty. Ensure clean, fresh water is always available.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Curtains for Nest Box
    Try Fitting Curtains on their Nest Boxes
  • 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.
  • 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!

How to Stop Hens Eating Their Own Eggs

Give Them Enough Space

Now that we know some of the causes, what can we do to deter or stop it from happening?

Many of the causes can be dealt with quickly and easily. We know that overcrowding is probably the number one cause for egg eating. To fix this, we need either more room in the coop or less chickens.

Remember- for confined birds at least 4 square feet per bird, preferably more.

Can you add on or extend a coop or run? Perhaps get a second coop and split the flock.

Nesting Boxes

There should be one nest box for every four hens. My girls have ‘favorite’ nesting boxes, so I have put out a few more boxes so there is room for all. My ratio is ten boxes for twenty seven hens, so roughly one box per three hens.

Chicken in Nesting Box
A curious Hen looking at the nesting box! Karen

Too few nests will result in ‘heavy traffic’ to those boxes increasing the likelihood of eggs getting trampled or cracked. Make sure there is sufficient nesting material for them too.

Nest boxes should also be in darkened areas of the coop, not in direct sunlight. As crazy as it sounds, putting up ‘curtains’ can help tremendously.

Feed and Water

Food and water should always be readily available for your flock.

Sometimes bully birds will guard the food and water, so put out a second or third station so the more timid flock members can safely eat and drink.

It is important to ensure that the feed you are giving them is well balanced. Most commercial feeds are precisely formulated, so it should not be an issue.

Homemade rations can sometimes lack vital nutrients such as vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium. These vitamins, in conjunction with calcium and protein are metabolized by the body and produce sturdy shells.

There are vitamin D supplements for chickens available on the web. Calcium in the form of oyster shell should be given as a side dish.

Finely crushed egg shells can be fed back to the hens, but make sure the shells are not recognizable as eggshells!

Boredom

Boredom- the number one enemy of hens and teenagers! I can’t help with teenagers, but for hens there are a few things you can do to keep them out of mischief.

We have discussed in our boredom busters’ article ideas such as cabbage tetherball, rolling treat dispensers and chicken swings. Employ all these methods and more of your own making. Hens are curious about things, they are smart too.

Chicken Cabbage Tetherball
Chicken Playing Cabbage Tetherball!

Once they have sampled an egg they know how good it is, so keeping them busy is important.

Young or inexperience hens may lay weak shelled eggs at the start of lay. If the egg cracks and breaks they will naturally sample the contents.

Always ensure that if you find a broken egg to clean up every last speck of it. Change the bedding out too.

Make sure the youngsters have sufficient areas to nest in- the older birds may jealously guard their favorite box. A stressed hen may eat her own eggs simply because she is stressed by the other hens.

Even More Ways To Stop Your Hen Eating Eggs

If despite all our suggestions, you have a hen that persists in this bad habit- what to do?

There are a couple more things you can try before we get to ‘decision time’.

Blowing Eggs

Filling Egg with MustardA favorite deterrent is ‘blowing’ eggs. You make a small hole at the ends of the egg and blow out the contents. Replace the content with mustard. Chickens can’t stand the taste of mustard and this will stop them in their tracks.

A friend tried Plaster of Paris filled eggs- the hens ate them! So calcium was possibly a deficit… however, you can try using ceramic or wooden eggs, even golf balls. The theory is the bird gets tired of pecking with nothing to show for it.

Changing the Bedding

Removing all bedding in the nest box is said to help since the egg will roll away when pecked at.

Roll away nesting boxes can also be used. When the egg is laid, the egg rolls out from the hen and cannot be pecked at.

Beak Clipping

A little more draconian is clipping the beak. Only the very tip of the beak is trimmed so that it is more difficult for the hen to break the egg.

Care must be exercised when doing this since the beak is living tissue and cutting too far down will cause bleeding and pain.

Isolation

If all of these measures have been tried and the habit persists, you are now down to your final option- isolate the bird.

You should follow the process outlined within our broody hen article.

This can be tried for as long as it takes to break the habit.

Summary

Hens eating their own eggs is a form of cannibalism and it needs to be stopped. It can be time consuming to try and break a determined hen of this habit, but it can be done.

We all know how good fresh eggs taste, so we really can’t blame them!

Many of the ideas mentioned here can be quickly implemented with little fuss and disruption.

Be diligent with this behavior. Some people initially think it’s cute, but change their minds when they don’t have any eggs! Once you have a couple of hens doing this, it becomes a much more difficult thing to remedy.

I’d love to hear your ideas about how to stop hens eating their own eggs in the comments below!

Comments

  1. Gayla Mitchell says

    We raise a lot of chickens in rural Missouri. Our family and many many of the ole’ timers have used porcelain, ceramic doorknobs, but the younger generation like me who has been doing this for years use golf balls and leave them in the nests 2-4 of them and the chickens don’t know difference between golf balls and eggs so they stop. Also added benefit of golf balls is they disappear sometimes. Thay usually means the snake that visits your chicken house got a folf ball instead of egg and they go off and die because they can’t get it out or digest it. Eventually you will find the golf ball unless it is under a floor of a building where they like to live. Remember if you see one snake it’s mate is somewhere by.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Thank you so much for sharing this Gayla!

      Great tip about the snakes as well. Luckily we don’t have any near us, but for those that do give this a try 🙂

    • Debbie says

      Used the golf ball trick and it didn’t help the “egg eating, they don’t keep the fresh bedding in the nesting boxes very long and the eggs are eaten quickly, hard to know when to get out there to get them before they are eaten. Very frustrating, they have a large run, are given scaps along with their regular food, and plenty of water….not sure which chicken or chickens are the culprits

  2. Gayla Mitchell says

    If you gather your eggs several times a day they have less time to think about eating one and seem to forget the habit over time.

  3. Heather Foster says

    My girls are all doing the Egg Eating.. They have a good diet and free range access to over half an acre and plenty of nest boxes. I am at my wits end as I have good Large Black Australorps and they are doing it too… I have been advised to do a light Beak trim and see if that helps.. Any advice is appreciated.
    Cheers Heather

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Heather,

      I’ve outlined all of my tips in the article 🙂 Does anyone else have anymore to share?

      Claire

  4. Monica says

    I have tried filling the eggs with mustard, they like the mustard and still eat the eggs. I have ceramic eggs in the nest boxes and some days I pick and some I don’t. I check the boxes at least 3 times a day. I am at my wits end with these birds.

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