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Chicken Eating Eggs

 
                                    
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Hello, to my dismay we figured out today that the flock of chickens we had acquired is eating their own eggs. They are currently in two small coops and will be until the 3 feet of snow goes off the ground, then they will be in chicken tractors, and will be moved daily, yes, but we cannot paddock them as we have a ton of predators in the area (took pictures of bobcat tracks a 100 feet from the coops yesterday). Sooo…

Does anyone know how to prevent them from eating their eggs? I'd hoped to keep these girls for another year while I rear a flock from chicks. These birds are 3-4 years old and I got them from a guy who has younger birds in their place. My Dad though maybe we could make nest boxes that would cause their eggs to roll to safety outside the coop. Any thoughts on how to build that?
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I would image a slightly leaning base on the nest boxes, with a board at the back (down hill side) which is adjustable and set 2" or so up off the base.  The nest box base will have to continue past the house interior to the outside and have a surrounding lip and cover on hinge, which you can open to retrieve the eggs.

When an egg is laid it should roll back, under the back-board and into the outside holding area.  If I would building this I would make the base adjustable - so I could play with the angle for best results.  And the back-board adjustable to I could make it just large enough for whatever side egg I was getting.

All this contraption building is a lot of work - First, I might try adding something to their food, just to mix things up and please their taste buds, things like nutritional yeast, kelp, garlic and/or Italian seasonings, split peas, lentils, etc.  AND add a bunch of new litter to the floor of their coops - like hay, leaves, etc. and maybe throw some meal worms or such into the bedding.  The goal: to enrich their environment.  You'd be surprise how much 'misbehavior' is do to restless boredom.  (just like people  :lol

All the best!
 
nancy sutton
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Here's advice from the April 1926 American Poultry Journal, as quoted in Countryside Vol. 83, 1999 -

"Author F.L. Platt advised readers to feed chickens a mash that contains animal food....skim milk in pots, if possible...plenty of crushed oyster shell in litter and on the ground... nests are well padded with stsraw bottoms... scatter some artificial eggs around... make all nests dark, and have a few secluded nests...gather eggs as often as possible, and allow the hens to range.

Most queries come in March....there is a mineral deficiency ... due to confinement and lack of direct sunlight...recommended direct light, unfiltered by windows. 

In addition, bonemeal and cod liver oil were added to chicken rations in the 20's."

(I ran across this yesterday when processing piles of old info, to file for future reference.  The future arrived today!
 
Joe Skeletor
Posts: 113
Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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Something that was already briefly mentioned, but I will mention again as a personal experience, is to collect the eggs as soon as they're done laying. Earlier the better.

If the eggs sit around for hours, and they are bored, they may start eating them.

 
John Polk
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They sound like they are looking for more protein.  Hens will begin eating their own eggs if there is insufficient protein in their diet.
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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ive found that egg eating is more of a learned behavior rather than one out of necessity. anotherwords lack of calcium. 

there are a number of ideas that ones have tried.  debeaking,  force feeding a diet of nothing but eggs for a week.  taking a blown out egg and putting hot sauce, hot mustard in it.  adding new and different litter. changing their diets, etc, etc. some of these may work at times. some may work for a short period. or most are only a limited success.... ive found that some hens regardless of what you do, they are encourageable.  and refuse to be broke from the nasty habbit. these type hens are nuisances and will teach this bad habbit to others.  they should be weeded out of the flock and culled.  a layer is a dime a dz.  no great loss to cull one for eating eggs.  left alone she will ruin the whole flock
 
            
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Location: California
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Good points in the posts above. I've heard them all suggested (except for the "lack of protein" bit). There's pushing calcium (oyster shells, cooked eggshells fed back to the ladies), false eggs (ceramic eggs, golf balls, plastic eggs.. I've even heard ping-pong balls). As a first resort, I'd reiterate the advice to pick eggs often (three times daily if you're serious about it). I've heard repeatedly from old-timers that egg-eating is a learned behavior, and can be circumvented by picking often. A last resort would be the aforementioned slatted nesting box that rolls the eggs by gravity into an area unaccessible by the hens (last resort because it requires the most substantial investment of time and materials).
 
                                    
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I just wanted to say thank you to all of you that have posted on this. Unfortunately, I do think this whole flock has the bad habits. I'll keep them separate from the new flock I'm starting this year, and I'd already planned to do them in this fall. They are between 3-4 years old, so I won't overwinter them, the new hens should be laying by then. My kids have been picking the eggs at least twice a day (more frequently on the weekends). I'm going to take a couple pieces of scrap wood and build the slanting nest boxes and see if that helps, but until we get these guys out of the greenhouse I am afraid their world is a bit boring (except for the kids coming out and talking to them. My 5 year-old son thinks they are his pets).
 
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