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why is hen eating her own eggs?

hillies Junior Member
edited January 2013 in Poultry Health and Welfare
I'm sure this is a very basic question however I am new to it all. Brought home 3 hens yesterday. Just went to check on them and saw one hen eating the remains of her own egg. It was very soft. Why do they do that? Is it permanent? Thanks


  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited October 2006
    Being a soft shell it probably broke and this is why she ate it

    Here is a list of reasons why hens eat eggs...

    Egg Eating Birds

    Egg eating in a laying flock can cost a producer considerable money. Like many bad habits, it is much easier to prevent egg eating than to cure the habit once it has developed. It is usually initiated by accidental egg breakage, but birds will then learn to break eggs themselves.


    Egg eating occurs primarily in flocks that are kept on the floor (i.e., not in cages). A number of factors can contribute to egg eating.

    Egg eating can result when
    The hens are overcrowded,
    When light intensity is too bright,
    When there are inadequate nests,
    When the nests are not constructed properly,
    Or when there is insufficient nest litter.

    Some small flock owners throw cracked or broken eggs on the floor for the chickens to eat. This practice will encourage egg eating.

    Failure to house pullets before heavy egg production begins
    Failure to provide nests on range, or
    Failure to train pullets to lay in nests may also cause egg eating to develop.

    When pullets begin laying, or when they are moved to the laying house, they should be trained to use the nests.

    Providing roosts during the growing period contributes to greater ease in training pullets to use nests.

    A little time spent each day in putting floor layers in nests will assist in reducing egg breakage and reduce chances of an egg-eating outbreak.

    The tendency to eat eggs can be aggravated by either a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D in the ration.
    Such deficiencies also contribute indirectly to egg eating by causing poor shell quality and broken eggs.

    If the flock is receiving a commercial layer ration, such deficiencies are rare.
    When a small flock owner mixes a commercial feed with scratch (i.e., cracked grains), they are diluting the previously complete diet.
    Under such cir***stances, deficiencies may occur.

    Control Measures

    If there is a problem with egg eating in a flock, the following control measures may help:

    1. Gather eggs more frequently. Once a day is not enough -- three times or more is better.

    2. Be sure plenty of nests are provided. Allow one regular type nest for each four layers or 1.3 square foot in a community type nest for each three to four layers.

    3. Darken nests. Dark nests reduce egg breakage and egg eating as well as the numbers of dirty eggs produced.

    4. Feeding of liquid milk for a few days often reduces egg eating.

    5. Break an egg in a bowl and mix 1-2 teaspoons of ground pepper into it. Pour the mixture on the floor so the birds will eat it. The bad taste may reduce egg eating.

    6. Replace Their eggs with artificial wooden or plastic eggs, a few unsuccessful pecks at them and they will often times lose interest.

    7. Hang feed sacks or other heavy material in the nest fronts, leaving only 2-3" of space underneath, the hens will crawl under to lay but usually they don't crawl under to eat.

    8. Put peepers on em, the red plastic ones will usually work well enough to stop them from eating eggs.

    9. As a last resort, beak trim the birds. Often it is only a few hens, which are doing most of the egg eating.

    It is up to you to retrain them not to eat eggs, they will not do it on their own, once one starts they teach the others how to do it… and they are very quick learners

    However, it is difficult to break birds of the habit and it is best to cull those that begin eating eggs

    How to find the culprit

    Observe your hens and try to identify such hens.
    The presence of egg yolk on the beak often helps in identifying them.
    These hens can be removed from the flock or at least beak trimmed by cutting off ¼ inch to ½ inch of the upper beak.
    Beak trimming the entire flock while in heavy egg production may result in reduced production unless care is taken to see that feed consumption is kept at a normal level.
  • Lil Red Hen Junior Member
    edited January 2013
    I have recently discovered that my hens have been eating their eggs. I caught one today eating an egg that someone had laid out in our yard. I have 6 hens and 2 adequate nest boxes. I have read some of the suggestions of replacing the eggs w/plastic ones, but if they're laying outside of their pen, should I keep them all inside their pen for a week or so, along with the plastic eggs and/or golf balls? They're on the DuMor layer feed, along with a combo scratch grain mixture and oyster shells. They are free-ranging most if the day normally.
  • undautri Senior Member
    edited January 2013
    hi and welcome to the forum
    i wouldnt confine them as it may stress them out if they are used to freeranging
    im wondering why that egg was laid in the yard and not in the nest box
    soft shelled tend to turn up in odd places so if that was the case then itsperfectly natural they ate it
    maybe they re squabbling over the nest boxes and so some are forced to lay elsewhere
    try adding nest boxes so they have somewhere else to lay if the favoured nest box is occupied

    if however they are eating hardshelled eggs from the nest box then thats another story.....very tricky habit to break but i wouldnt cull or debeak
    it may just be a case of you needing to collect the eggs quicker or more frequently.
    hope this helps
  • sandiesbrahmas Super Moderator
    edited January 2013
    Yes, welcome to the forum.

    Kath has given a good resume.

    My lot will eat any and every egg that gets broken, but I don't have any that eat the intact type. Hens that do this are, thankfully, rare.Young hens often seem to be taken by surprise by their early eggs and lay them anywhere until they get used to the procedure.

    Mine free range over a large area, and some will lay in the nest boxes, some will not, no matter how I try to persuade them. I have 6 nest boxes...they only ever use 2. Hens are strange creatures.

    I wouldn't keep them in the coop, they will probably go on strike from laying due to stress. If they are very early layers, then you could keep them in a little longer in the morning in the hope that they get the message.

    Good Luck,

  • doormouse Senior Member
    edited January 2013
    Like the others, mine will fight over all soft shells and any that get broken - I have 10 hens who stuff themselves into the 2 coop nestboxes to sleep - a rabbit hutch with 2 dark cosy areas and a large cosy cardboard box, so potentially 5 laying areas but they all want the hutch:rolleyes: ...I've seen 3 stuffed in there laying - 2 on the floor and 1 perched on top of them!:eek: but if the eggs stay intact they leave them alone...:) M
  • edited January 2013
    Some great advice above doormouse but it is certainly a difficult vice to cure once they get into the bad habit.

    Maybe you could improve the other nest boxes to make them more attractive?

    I would hang an old feed bag over half of the entrance to make it dark and welcoming (as nests go!) and add dummy eggs or golf balls to the nests to encourage them to lay there.

    Good luck!

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