First published in The Journal on August 22, 2022.\
Last week’s article on the right way to store eggs sparked additional conversation about egg related issues. One that can be very frustrating is discovering that you have an egg eater in your chicken flock. Egg eating can have many causes and is best dealt with preventatively. Today we will cover why poultry may eat their own eggs and what can be done to end this destructive behavior.
Appropriate egg collection, nutritional provisions, stress reduction, and good coop design are all important to reduce the likelihood of egg eating from developing.
The longer freshly laid eggs stay in the chicken coop, the more opportunities there are for shell breakage, which will often lead to the first incidence of egg eating. Clean and plentiful bedding will help cushion eggs to prevent breakage. Providing spacious and plentiful laying boxes (at least six 12” x 12” boxes) will also help. Take all required actions with coop design to keep predators from entering the coop and breaking eggs.
Always feed a complete poultry feed designed for laying hens. Nutrient deficiencies and/or hunger can prompt egg eating. Limit the provision of scratch grains to avoid diluting the effectiveness of the complete feed. If feeding scratch grains, only provide as much as can be consumed within 15 minutes. Feeding an appropriate diet will also ensure eggshell strength and reduce the likelihood of breakage.
It is ideal to check for eggs multiple times a day, with a morning check before 10 a.m. If an egg breaks and a chicken gets a taste of the yummy inside, they will learn that they can break eggs to get more. Within the flock chickens imitate their flock mates and suddenly one egg eater can multiply into many. Egg eaters will often have dried egg on their beaks and heads.
Many people find it helpful to introduce chicks to wooden or ceramic eggs before they begin laying. In their curiosity, they will peck the eggs but get no reward from their efforts, thus discouraging egg pecking in the future. If you have addressed all the points listed above and egg eating persists, you must identify which birds are eating eggs and cull those problem birds from the flock. Beak trimming is not a recommended control for dealing with egg eating in small farm or backyard flocks.
Never eat eggs that have damaged shells from pecking behavior even if the membrane of the shell is still intact. Discard any damaged eggs immediately.
There are many more guidelines and nuances that pertain to egg production that producers should be familiar with including state regulations for sale. To learn more contact the Noble County Extension Office at 740-732-5681 or email Christine Gelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.