Hen eating their own eggs 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 Does a Hen Eat Their Own Eggs?
So first of all, why do they eat their eggs? There are numerous things that can contribute to or encourage egg eating.
- Overcrowding: The recommended space per bird in the coop and run is 4 square feet 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 mean 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, freshwater 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 are 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.
- 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!
- Curiosity: Sometimes, chickens are just plain ‘or curious and they play with or peck at their eggs. It could be due to boredom, but sometimes they see a crack, speck, or otherwise on their egg, and break into it. An egg that was broken, accidentally, is something interesting to your hen; they will definitely check it out.
How to Stop a Hen 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 fewer 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.
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 them.
My ratio is ten boxes for twenty-seven hens, so roughly one box per three hens.
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 an oyster shell should be given as a side dish.
Finely crushed eggshells can be fed back to the hens, but make sure the shells are not recognizable as eggshells!
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.
Once they have sampled an egg they know how good it is, so keeping them busy is important.
Young or inexperienced 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’.
A 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.
Ceramic eggs almost always work for chickens who have taken to egg eating.
While a chicken’s beak seems pretty plain, it doesn’t take well to hard objects, especially when the chicken was expecting a delicious surprise inside.
Ceramic eggs are impossible for chickens to break open, and it will only take a few days for your hens to give up on all the eggs in the nesting box.
As long as you are ensuring your chickens have everything they need, then there’s no other reason they are eating their eggs other than a habit at this point. Ceramic eggs will break that habit.
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.
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.
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.
Hen Eat Their Own Eggs 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 from eating their own eggs in the comments below!
Read Next: 7 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Chickens
59 thoughts on “Hen Eating Their Own Eggs. How Do I Stop Them?”
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.
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 🙂
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
Debbie, that is exactly my problem also!
Debbie, just reading thru these. Did you ever find out a solution?
The culprit will have egg yolk all over his head and neck area, at least mine do. Also they tend to hang out waiting on the next one.
My own experience is that lack of enough food and water is a big contributory factor.
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.
Another great tip, thank you Gayla!
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.
I’ve outlined all of my tips in the article 🙂 Does anyone else have anymore to share?
Interesting your Australorps are egg eaters.
Mine are too.
I only have two black chooks & they have taken to eating their eggs.
Previously I had Isa Browns… No such problem.
The Australorpes are also much more flighty.
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.
Same here Monica!
Our Isa Browns love the mustard so no deterrent.
They have plenty of room and nesting boxes also top quality food with calcium, etc., and several water containers.
We are at our wits end as we have never encountered this problem before.,
Our chicken coop is fox proof and nothing else can get in because it is completely covered with two layers of wire at the top!
Are there rats?
I thought one of our three chickens were eating their eggs, everyday one or two eggs would be chipped broken and some of the yolk eaten. We would find them and throw them away etc etc.
Anyhow after time and observations we thought it strange that the chickens would lay them and roam off, why would they do this? One egg we actually found outside which we thought was strange, no way would the hen be able to move it Anyhow a few weeks later we saw that naughty family of magpies!! One came out of the house – so maybe, don’t jump to conclusions that it’s definitely the chickens, could it be something else?
My chickens just started laying, and I wasn’t home all day to get the eggs, and I think they ate two of them. I want to let the free range more, but one of my girls escaped into my neighbors yard who has a dog, and I don’t want that to happen again. When I stick them all in the fenced in garden, they try to fly out. They are bored out of of their minds!! Any other suggestions?
How big is the run which you have fenced off for them?
Clip their wings. Depending on the breed they are more or less aggressive. When we had rhode island reds and white leghorns they got out all of the time. We clipped their wings often to reduce the incidence. The other breeds, australorp, americana, buff orphington, brahma, silver lacedwingdot Plymouth rock have not been so prone to fly. But those that do get a feather trim and they can no longer fly.
Get a 8 ft fence. We did and they don’t fly out
I went to get the eggs as usual this evening, I usually get 15 to 16 eggs, and they were all gone but one! My hens occasionally break eggs with their feet, the egg and shell is usually still there and I clean it up and get rid of it. Could the problem happen that fast? There must have been more than one hen that are them all!!!!???? I’m so shocked! At first I thought my son must have collected them but there were no boot tracks in the snow! No sign of any bits of shell either, do egg eating hens eat all the shells too? Signed, totally baffled , April
No if they’d eaten the eggs it would be obvious; there would be shell and egg yolk everywhere!
Perhaps they couldn’t access the nesting box and laid elsewhere?
I have 18 young Four & six month old laying Isa Browns and was collecting eggs this evening when I dropped one inside the coop right in front of three young layers who instantly pecked at it and fast made the whole thing disappear -shell and all – and cleaned it up leaving no sign of egg at all – on themselves or the floor. It’s as if they licked the area clean. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it happen before my very eyes! It did not take them long – seconds and it was gone. I normally had been getting 9-11 eggs a day some in the morning and some when I put them to bed at dusk. The day before I got two eggs and wondered what happened to the eggs. This morning I got two eggs. Went in at 5:00 and found nine dropping the one. Within 1.5 hours while letting them free range found two more buried in the hay on the floor in the middle of the coop while sweeping to find more eggs as we mucked they coop a week ago. I’m thinking we put too much hay on the floor and may need to take some out and gather eggs several times a day.
That sounds like a varmint or another bird getting the nesting area…or a neighbor or someone came and gathered them. Most of the time when the eggs are eaten there are many shells or it is wet where the egg broke
i have leghorns. mine will eat the egg plus shell or most of it but leave sticky egg yolk residue on the eggs left remaining. i havent seen any egg yolk on chicken face either. the habit has absolutely caught on or become worse. mine will eat the mustard eggs, prepared mustard and also Keens hot mustard. shell and all, however its not their favourite so it does still help and reduces the problem.need to do it periodically. feeding and watering and picking eggs must be done diligently in morning in my coop.
i will try golf balls thanks. also “rearranging the furniture” helps boredom also new layer of bedding
I am having very strange happenings in the chicken coop that I would love explained. Firstly began to find eggs being broken. The shells and egg left behind. Initially the soft shell ones so I thought accidental. Now, I am seriously down on egg numbers. Hardly any eggs – maybe one or two and looks like the eggs are being sucked out, even the hard shell ones. Lately each morning 9- 11 ish the hens give alarm calls but when I go down to them there is nothing there. But to boot, I went down to coop yesterday with wheelbarrow and shovel – needed food for tree planting only to find the chicken crap gone! And there was heap as only hens can do, in the coop as I had noticed it and planned to clean them out. Any suggestions? Its not the dog as hens in wired coop. The hens are let out free roaming each afternoon/evening so hoping they not too bored and have good diet/watered well.
probably a snake or a rodent
Thank you!Will try a fake egg!!
We were doing some work on the outside of the chicken coup and actually watch three hens lay an egg, they then three of them broke it, ate it to the point there was absolutely no trace of the egg. The shell and everything was gone!
I’m going to try golf balls.
Thanks for the tips!
My girls have been great layers, they free range all day, have a great coup, all summer I would lick them up and gather 4-6 eggs.
I only have 6 hens.
THEN I dropped an egg, got busy walked away. Chickens ate it and now they are eating eggs !
I did the mustard egg, they ate it. I put in fake eggs, they got the real ones.
I think I’m going to build a roll away lay box.
I had 1 or 2 chickens that were eating eggs. After reading here about lighting and “privacy” for hens I turned off the light and added a privacy screen across the front of the nesting boxes. I have not an egg eaten since.
Thank you for sharing Jackie 🙂
It worked! I appreciated seeing a picture of those curtains so I put some shades up last night. The flock spent their entire morning staring at them! Then our present laying hen courageously entered through the veil and laid her egg by afternoon. The flock didn’t dare trespass to attempt their egg destruction habit. Additionally I’d cleaned out the box, put new straw and also cleaned out the coop as well. Fingers crossed for another successful egg laying day tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful suggestions. ?
I’m so happy for you Linda 🙂
We find yolk in the next box occasionally. This morning I caught one of our hens running around with egg shell in her mouth! Otherwise our 8 girls do fine. I’m not too concerned as long as it doesn’t become a daily occurrence.
My hens are eating her own eggs, I have 20 hens and its hard to know which one is eating the egg
Good article. Egg eating amongst hens is a common and indeed big problem for Farmers. At least we now know how to minimize the vice.
Our girls have been laying for several months. I just went out to check for eggs and 1 was actually on the ground a ways from the coop and had been eaten. Did something get in there and take an egg, did one of the girls lay an egg outside of the coop? They have not eaten their eggs before. We keep the area clean, fresh water almost daily.
The most probable is the two you mentioned. She laid and it may have cracked and tempted her to eat or it got stolen and devoured. I have had the same concern several times, a way to determine this is keep them in the coop for the day and see if they lay normal and there is no mess in the nest. If so, you can conclude fairly certainly its a predator. If there is a mess, they are getting their own eggs, take proper measures written out in the article.
Mustard eggs!! It’s the best I’ve found I have 16 chxs & have went from 0 eggs eggs a day up to around a dozen! I still have 1-2 chxs eating them but I’m getting there!
Are eggs safe to eat if your chickens have been eating some of their own eggs? Should we throw them out?
They are safe to eat and they most certainly got the necessary vitamins they need, including calcium from the shell
My chickens are about three years old. Extremely friendly. Then I could come and sit with you while I’m outside. They’ve always been really good about going to their nest and laying their eggs however recently one of them started just walking and out drops an eggs. They have a high protein diet which is their normal feed along with the fact that we get them crickets and worms from when my husband goes fishing. They also get a variety of fruits and vegetables and greens every day. They roam on 1 acre . And there are only three chickens/3 ducks. Which they all get along very well. They all like to sleep around each other. But as soon as she walks and lays she turns around along with the other two chickens and they just start eating it. Not sure what I should do. There are six water buckets scattered throughout our yatd as well as a little pool. Their coop Is shaded. Nearby their own herb garden.
Where can I buy roll away egg nesting boxes?
Here is a functional one. https://amzn.to/32M50Oc
I have this problem as well. It started when an egg or two got crushed a few months ago. Right now I try to get to the coop often, but sometimes I cannot do that. I will try the mustard trick – I already have a ceramic egg with them, but am also adding two more. I have no idea which hens are eating my eggs. I’ll note that it seems that the newest hen isn’t doing so – I know she’s laying because she’s got the smallest eggs to date. (Born on site back in July.)
Thank you for sharing this.
Me too even tried hot sauce with the mustard now they are worse
I have 3 hens. One has never laid. The layer of big eggs stopped for a while then restarted, but the shell is fragile. The non-laying hen sits beside her and gets the egg as soon as it is laid. They seem to tolerate mustard so now I am trying to remove the egg immediately and replace with a rubber one.
My first of 5 layers layed an egg right in front of me, while I was sitting in the rocker, turned around and broke it, taking the shell with her while the other 4 ate it all up! She ate the shell and stood 2 feet away from the others, with her back turned. I was in such shock, I said to my friend on the phone, “It looks like my #1 hen just layed and told her bitches to clean it up!” 15 minutes later, she layed again, doing the same thing, turned and broke it while the “bitches” came running to clean it up!! What the hell is happening?! After reading other posts, I’ve decided I will clean out their boxes, put up curtains and pray for a miracle.
has any one thought about putting up a game camera in the hen house you might find the culprit eatng or stealing the eggs also is there any way to tag each chicken with different colors on their feathers or a colored collar around their neck that won’t come off a different color for each chicken. just a thought to help the chicken owners
Hi there! Love The Happy Chicken Coop!
Anyway, you stated that Henson eating their eggs is a form of cannibalism. I went looking for a list of treats that chickens like and came across one that said to throw a left over chicken carcass from dinner into the pen for them to peck clean. I was appalled by that suggestion. Are they serious?
I have some [new] chickens just now coming into their first laying season. There is a separate coop with nesting boxes, plenty of boxes for the chicks. Problem is I cant get them to lay their eggs in there. They roam during the day on a couple of acres…and are laying the eggs out in the woods somewhere I suppose. I’ve ‘locked’ a couple of the chicks in the nester a few times, and they do lay, but they go right back to the woods the next day. HELP!!
My 2 Isa Browns gave an abundance of eggs last year. Went off the lay over the colder months. One is laying again, but I watched the other week, and both ate the yolk as soon as the egg was laid. The shell is softer, and I think breaks on laying.. why, I don’t know, as they have the best laying feed, along with shell grit and food scraps…. I’ve done all but the mustard egg, which is tomorrow… otherwise, I don’t know what to do!😢
Implementing some or all of these recommendations should help with your egg eating problem. It did with mine! For some, the very last thing to do is cull. Some feel this is incredibly cruel, others view it as a flock problem that must be dealt with seriously. Personally, I can see both sides. Egg eating CAN be a hard problem to solve and it can spread to other hens if not solved effectively. At the end of the day, it is a personal decision that we each have to make.
Hi, We have 3 white leghorns that we have had for over a year. At the most, we have only had 12 eggs in that time. They are in a mixed flock
Eating well, healthy free-range.
any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Is Whole grain rice good for chicken?
pLEASE EMAIL ME AT: okieprime17@ gmail.com
This is very simple to solve!
1. After morning feed check all boxes and remove eggs.
2. Late afternoon check boxes again, remove eggs of any.
3. Chicken do not lay egg during nightime!
4. In winter check it more often as eggs do freeze…and if it occurs, hardboil those and feed it back to them chopped.( They love it!)
5. Feed your chickens greens every other day…any green, fruit peels, etc. All should be chopped!
Note: Your chickens will learn to expect these from you ….and will reward you with beautiful eggs. TRY THESE. If you cannot meet these important steps, raising chickens is NOT for you!
Roosters can also break and eat eggs.
My chickens are pets, and I don’t care about eating their eggs; but broken eggs are messy and require cleanup and change of bedding.
Roosters are curious about eggs; so eggs can get broken during their investigation. After that, they sample the contents…