Five Signs Your Chickens Are Eating Their Own Eggs

June 19, 2012

Raising Chickens

An egg eating chicken is hard to reform

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.

Egg-Eating Chickens

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? 

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4 Comments on “Five Signs Your Chickens Are Eating Their Own Eggs”

  1. eileen Says:

    Thankfully we only had this problem once, caught the culprit early before the bad habit caught on, and had chicken and dumplings.
    Try to keep from overcrowding chickens, and have plenty of nesting areas. If hens are crowding into a nest box chances are a previously laid egg will be broke in the scramble. This can lead to tasting the broken egg. Also mix oyster shell and egg shell into their feed (break the egg shell into tiny pieces so they don’t get ideas), it will help keep the shells stronger and hopefully less breakage when some big Bertha of a hen hops into the nest. Also keep plenty of cushy stuff in the nest box, (old hay, dry grass, wood shavings) it will protect the eggs, and absorb any breakage.
    It is best to catch egg eating as early as possible to keep it from spreading. If you take an egg and gently roll it a few feet in the chicken pen, (do not break it) most hens will chase it for a minute until they identify it as a carelessly laid egg and not a mouse, then leave it. The egg eating hen will identify it and start to try to break it open. If you are worried about rolling the egg and breaking it, just set it in the pen and watch, but it may take the hen awhile to notice it.



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