Stopping Chickens That Eat Their Own Eggs

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“I have young pullets starting to lay, but they have discovered that they can eat the eggs. Is there a way to retrain them?” ~ Barbara Jagoe

Hi Barbara thanks for the question.

The short answer to your question is “Maybe”. You can try to retrain them but some chickens are more difficult to retrain than others.

Most of the time, chickens will eat an egg for the first time because it was dropped, stepped upon and broken, or some other accident. Being the curious foragers that they are, they can’t resist this new squishy treat. Sometimes they’ll eat the shell, other times they’ll leave it. But once they’ve tasted an egg, it can be hard, maybe impossible habit to break.

Let’s address some preventative measures.

Make sure your nest boxes have a lip on the bottom of the front to keep eggs from accidentally being kicked out. Also, the nest boxes should be large enough that the chicken can move around easily without stepping on the eggs.

Also, make sure there is a good supply of bedding material in the nest boxes. In this way, a little jarring from the chickens won’t matter all that much because the eggs are protected from underneath.

Finally, an egg is easier to break if the shell is thin. Be sure to have oyster shell available at all times for your hens to increase their calcium and thereby strengthen their shells.

But what if the chickens have already developed the habit?

Try to eliminate the opportunity to eat the eggs by collecting often. The longer an egg sits, the more likely it will get eaten. If your hens all lay in the morning, be sure to collect as soon as they are done. If they lay throughout the day, make a point of checking for eggs very frequently for awhile.

If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to get more creative.

Everyone has their favorite way of trying to break chickens of this behavior, here are just a few;

A popular remedy is to place golf balls in the nesting boxes. The premise is that the chickens won’t know the difference between a golf ball and an egg. A few pecks on a hard ball is intended to discourage them, hoping they’ll loose interest and leave the eggs alone. This didn’t work for us but people swear by it.

The same principle is recommended by those who think chickens are a little smarter. They suggest placing wooden eggs in the nest boxes. The premise is the same but the assumption is that the wooden eggs will really fool the chickens. We didn’t try this because we didn’t have wooden eggs on hand.

Another suggestion is to remove an egg and heavily coat it with petroleum jelly and then replace it. When the hen pecks at it, she gets a beak full of goop. We haven’t tried this either but I’d be willing to give it a try.

I’ve saved the best (or worst) one for last;

I’ve heard it suggested that you chip one end of the egg and add hot sauce to the contents. Place the egg back where you found it and wait for the chickens to start pecking at it. Hopefully a little zing from the hot sauce will convince them that this egg eating thing isn’t such a good idea after all. I also haven’t tried this one.

Sometimes chickens will start pecking at the eggs out of boredom in the same way they start pecking at each other. We’ve talked before about trying to keep things interesting because a bored chicken just gets into trouble.

One way I’m absolutely sure will work is to figure out if just one chicken is the egg eating culprit. If you can determine who’s causing the problem before she teaches this bad habit to the others, separate her from the rest of the flock and their eggs. You may even consider culling her from your flock if you cannot break her of this habit.

So are you wondering what we do?

Our flock only eats their eggs if we don’t collect until late in the afternoon. Most days, we’re home and able to bring in the eggs earlier in the day. We’ve been very lucky that it hasn’t become a real problem. If it does, I’ll give some of these ideas a try and let you know how they worked for us.

Good luck Barbara and thanks again for the question.

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