Why Do Chickens Eat Their Eggs?

Why Do Chickens Eat Their Eggs Featured Image
Chickens eat their own eggs due to a lack of calcium or protein in their diet. They may also copy other chickens who have come to enjoy the taste of egg yolks and shells.

If you have a flock of egg-laying hens, it is best to pick up the eggs that they laid as soon as possible to avoid accidental egg breakage and egg eating. Hens will usually finish laying their eggs mid-morning and it is best to collect them as soon as you can to preserve the eggs.

Unfortunately, even if you do collect the eggs in your chicken coop early each day, you may find that some eggs are damaged. Chickens are omnivores and will eat almost anything – including layer feed, mealworms, fruits and veggies, and sadly, their own eggs.

This article will discuss why chickens eat their eggs, and what you can do to help prevent and even stop the behavior.

What Causes a Chicken to Eat Eggs?

Backyard chickens of any breed can be prone to egg eating, which is unfortunate because it reduces the number of eggs you can collect to eat and sell.

The primary cause of egg eating in chickens is calcium deficiency. Egg laying hens require a great deal of calcium because egg production demands high levels of it and eggshells contain enough calcium to act as a supplement.

Some broody hens will accidentally break their eggs. This tends to happen if a chicken coop doesn’t have enough space, especially in nesting boxes.

girl collecting eggs in chicken coop
Chicken coops like this can be too overcrowded

Once a chicken tastes a broken egg, it may like the egg yolk or shell, and this may lead to the undesirable pattern of eating eggs. Chickens learn from one another, so if one of your hens has taken to eating eggs, the rest of the flock may copy her and become egg eaters.

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Another reason chickens may eat eggs is if they aren’t getting enough protein. Eggs are full of protein so it’s important that you feed chickens a good layer feed that has a high protein amount (at least 18%).

How Can You Stop a Chicken from Eating Eggs?

Chicken keepers often struggle to break chickens from their egg-eating habits. Luckily, there are many things you can do to stop egg-eating hens.

One of the best ways to prevent egg-eating is to expand your chicken coop.

Overcrowding is one of the biggest causes of egg eating and you can stop it from happening by making the following changes to the nesting area:

  • Provide nesting boxes that are at least 12” x 12”
  • Each coop should have at least 6 nesting boxes
  • Nesting boxes should be placed 2 to 3 feet above the floor, and at least 3 to 4 feet away from roosts and perches
  • Always keep at least 2 to 3 inches of clean straw or other dry nesting material in your nesting boxes
  • Remove broody hens from nesting boxes where other egg-laying hens are residing
  • Avoid having bright lights or sunlight near your nesting boxes
  • Be careful to not scare your hens inside the nesting area or unnecessarily frighten them

Additionally, you should ensure that your egg-eating chickens are given plenty of time outdoors to free range and forage. This is a boredom buster and ensures that your chickens are preoccupied with other things while also giving them access to nutrients they may be missing.

hen laying eggs in nesting box
With plenty of space and away from sunlight, chickens should be happy to leave their eggs in one piece after laying

Another important thing that you should do is provide your chickens with oyster shells or dried, cleaned and crushed egg shells. Free-feeding these along with grit and layer feed should provide a balanced diet and offers an alternative to egg eating.

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If you notice that some hens are being bullied by others and are not allowed access to the feeding area, set up a second feeding area to ensure all of your hens are getting proper nutrition.

What Additional Measures Can You Take to Stop A Chicken from Breaking and Eating Eggs?

If you’ve tried all of the suggestions above and your hens are still going after eggs, there are additional steps you can take to break them from their bad habit.

  • Roll-away metal nesting boxes. When a hen lays an egg, it rolls away into a collection area that prevents her from breaking or eating the eggs.
  • Place golf balls in the nesting area. Golf balls are the size of chicken eggs and your hens may peck at them. The theory is that they will grow tired of pecking at the golf balls and thus, will not continue going after the eggs.
  • Use ceramic eggs or wooden eggs as they can appear more realistic if your hens are too smart to go for the golf balls.
  • Make a small hole in an eggshell, remove the egg and fill with mustard (which chickens hate) and place it in the nesting box. This is behavioral therapy at its finest.

Note that chickens are prone to cannibalism in addition to egg eating if they are overcrowded. Chickens peck at one another and may bully each other if they are kept in conditions that don’t provide enough square feet or are bored.

Christina

A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Chicken Care Taker in 2022.

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