Even though it may seem unlikely, there are some chickens who will take to eating eggs. Upon discovering how delicious and nutritious eggs are, stopping an egg-eater can be rather difficult. Worse yet is that this is a behavior that catches on and can spread amongst the birds in your flock. In some cases culling is recommended, but that is far from being your only option.
To get to the bottom of why eggs are being eaten, some homework may be necessary. There are several reasons that chickens might start eating eggs, the first of which relates to voids in their diets. If an animal is in need of a certain vitamin or nutrient, they tend to crave and pursue it. In such a case, eggs could be eaten to fill a need for the nutrition they contain. Also possible is curiosity in which innocent exploration of nesting boxes results in broken eggs which are then consumed, creating an egg eating habit. Stress and nervousness can cause breakage as well, through startled movements or pecking.
It will be necessary as well to identify the problem bird, or birds, before you can stop egg eating behaviors. Predation should be ruled out since there are animals (snakes, rats, etc.) that could be making their way into the coop and stealing or breaking eggs; a sign that a predator is not to blame is eggs with beak-shaped holes in them. Once predation is off the table, look for signs of guilt on your birds to narrow down who might be responsibility. That guilt can be found in the form of yolky feathers or beaks. Egg-eaters may even lurk around nesting boxes when laying is taking place, lying in wait for their next tasty snack. You could also place some eggs out for a temptation of fate and see who makes a move to take the bait.
Once you know who the guilty party is, you can work towards directing the attention of that bird elsewhere. If you feel it necessary, culling or relocating the bird is an option. Otherwise, some other choices are available to you.
- Provide layer feed and a separate source of calcium (oyster shells, crushed egg shells) to fill any nutritional voids that may be present.
- Puncture each end of an egg with a tack to drain it, then fill the egg with mustard, sealing it closed with a patch made of wax. When an egg-eater breaks into the egg and receives a mustardy surprise, that may be all it takes to deter future attempts at egg consumption.
- If you have broody hens trying to hatch eggs, move them away from the laying area so developing embryos are not lost.
- Increase bedding in nest boxes to prevent accidental breaks, and if breaks do occur, clean them up immediately.
- Remove stressors from the laying area.
- Place curtains on nesting boxes for not only privacy but also to keep eggs out of sight of birds who are inclined to consume them.
- Use decoy eggs to discourage attempts are breakage. If enough failed attempts are made, giving up seems inevitable.
- Opt for nesting boxes that have an incline down which eggs will roll, away from the hen and any other birds waiting to access eggs.
Egg eating is a frustrating behavior. It also takes away eggs that your family could be eating as well as puts viable eggs for hatching at risk, possibly costing the lives of future birds. Egg eating is not necessarily a death sentence, although to some it very well may be. If you prefer to attempt to work it out, give the steps above a shot. Sometimes all it takes are a few minor routine changes to rehab an egg-eater and return a sense of normal to your flock and the supply of fresh eggs in your fridge.