Several of our chickens have developed a really bad habit: they’ve begun eating their own eggs. It’s a nasty habit that’s hard to break. In fact, we’ve seldom rehabilitated an egg-eating chicken, so I don’t hold out much hope that this time will be any different. But we’ll see.
How can you tell if you’re chickens are eating their own eggs? There are five tell-tale signs:
There aren’t any eggs
It may seem obvious but chickens make eggs. There are exceptions, of course. When chickens are molting they typically don’t lay very often. The same goes during the winter months when the amount of sunlight has decreased. Older chicken lay less, too. However during the summer months, young healthy chickens should be laying. It’s what they do. If you’re not finding eggs, something may be amiss.
A marked decrease in egg production
We have most of our chickens confined in portable chicken tractors. Any eggs produced should be in the same tractor with them. If there is a dramatic decrease in their egg production, we know that they aren’t hiding their eggs elsewhere.
For truly free-range chickens, a decrease in eggs is noticeable but it’s harder to confidently say they are eating them. They may actually be laying as many as ever, just in a spiffy new location that they’ve found but you haven’t.
There is no sign the eggs
Frequently, if a predator is absconding with eggs, there will be other signs. Sometimes you can find egg shells or there may be damage to the chicken tractor or pin. When a chicken eggs her own eggs, or the eggs of another chicken, she typically consumes the entire egg, shell and all.
The egg was here a minute ago
We try to remove eggs from the chicken tractors as soon as we notice them. Leaving them in with the chickens is asking for trouble. An egg may accidentally get broken somehow, leaving its delicious yoke and white there for the chickens to see… and taste. Or the chickens may be bored and peck it to see what happens. Nevertheless, removing eggs as soon as you notice them is a good idea.
Occasionally, you may have your hands full and cannot get the egg immediately. You intend to come back for it but get busy and forget. It happens. But when you do eventually get back to the tractor, the egg is gone. Missing. That’s another indication that your chickens may be eating their eggs.
Egg on their face
The smoking gun is finding egg on the face and neck feathers of your chickens. Sometimes this is hard to notice, especially with Buff Orpingtons. A close examination may not even allow you to see the telltale yellow yoke. But don’t let that fool you. Look at them closely for several days in a row. Eventually you may be able to see the yoke on them somewhere.
Have your chickens eaten their own eggs? What have you done about it?
- Barnyard Chickens, Part 15 (What to Do When Your Birds Eat Their Own Eggs)
- Barnyard Chickens, Part 14 (or Why are my chickens bald and not laying?)
- Barnyard Chickens, Part 12 (or “NOW where are the eggs?”)
- Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Country Living