Chickens are omnivores and will eat just about anything when the mood strikes them. They also eat some things that are a little unsettling, including chicken eggs. Even their own eggs!
While this behavior is definitely disturbing to new owners, some people assert that it is, in fact good for chickens. Others claim you should never let them do it.
What’s the real answer? Can chickens eat eggs?
Chickens can definitely eat eggs, and they are highly nutritious. Eggs are a great source of protein for chickens, and they are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals. However, choosing to feed eggs to chickens must be done carefully to prevent instilling a cannibalistic taste for their own eggs.
Oh, boy, this is going to be an interesting subject. On the one hand, chicken eggs are absolutely great for your chickens, but on the other feeding them eggs the wrong way can lead to them eating up the ones they or other chickens lay.
Don’t panic, as the practice is actually more common than you might think. Keep reading to get the full story.
Nutritional Profile of Eggs
Chicken eggs are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They are particularly high in vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin B12.
They also contain significant amounts of iron, phosphorus, calcium, and selenium. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair.
All of these nutrients are essential for health and have been linked with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
Nutritional Benefits of Eggs for Chickens
Chickens get many benefits from eating eggs, even their own eggs!
First, eggs are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients, which help chickens to grow and stay healthy. Protein is essential for productive egg laying and feathering in addition.
Eggs provide chickens with a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by their bodies, also important for egg production and for strong bones.
The vitamins present in eggs are also important for good health.
Vitamin A helps chickens to maintain a healthy immune system and reproductive system.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage, and vitamin B12 is necessary for proper red blood cell development.
Selenium is a trace mineral that helps to protect cells from damage, and is important for reproduction.
Choline found in eggs is important for liver health, and may also help to prevent heart disease.
Eggs are also a good source of fat, which provides energy and helps the absorption of vitamins.
It is no understatement to say that eggs are wonderful sources of nutrition for your birds, and they can thrive by adding some eggs to their diet.
However, there is a dark side to giving your flock eggs, wherever they come from, that must be addressed. More on that in just a minute.
Can Chickens Have Raw Eggs?
Yes, chickens can safely eat raw eggs. Raw eggs contain all of the nutrients that chickens need, and are easy enough for them to digest.
Can Chickens Have Eggshells?
Yes, chickens can eat eggshells. Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium, and chickens need calcium for strong bones and egg production.
Feeding Chickens Raw Eggs or Eggshells will Lead to Cannibalism
Now we come to the problem at last. It is highly likely that if you feed your chickens whole eggs, raw cracked eggs, or unprocessed eggshells they will quickly develop a taste for them and then start eating their own eggs.
This is because the smell of eggs and the association with food (delicious, nutritious food at that) makes them think “dinner” whenever they smell their own eggs, overriding their parental instincts. Kind of gruesome when you think about it.
Even giving the chickens eggshells alone, maybe taken as scraps from your morning breakfast, is enough to trigger this feeding instinct for their own eggs.
The flipside is, as mentioned, that eggs are extremely good for chickens, especially layers, and they can definitely benefit from eating them. You just need to be smart about it. Keep reading.
Can Chickens Have Cooked Eggs?
Yes, all cooked eggs are fine for chickens to eat, and the preferred way to serve them. Baked, scrambled, poached, boiled, omelette, it doesn’t matter.
Chickens will love them all the same, and they’ll get all of the wonderful nutrition that eggs have to offer without any risk of cannibalism.
Cooking/Processing Eggs and Eggshells Helps Prevent Cannibalism
When you cook eggs or eggshells, the proteins change and the smell is altered.
This means that chickens will no longer recognize the meal as “eggs” per se, eliminating the correlation between egg, the item, with nourishment and so they will not be tempted to eat them.
That’s really all you have to do to keep your flock from gobbling their own eggs.
Now, you should do the same with eggshells. Cook them thoroughly, either by boiling or baking, to change their smell enough so the chickens don’t quite recognize them as “eggshells” anymore.
Even better, after cooking grind up the shells and mix them into their feed or grit for a major calcium boost with no chance that they will recognize the eggshell for what it is.
Just remember, if you give your chickens unprocessed eggshells or whole raw eggs, even a little, there is a significant chance they will turn to cannibalism. You have been warned!
Never Given Eggs Prepared with Harmful Ingredients to Chickens
You also need to be careful about how you prepare the eggs you give to your chickens.
If you use any harmful ingredients like salt, fat, cheese, or oil, these can make the eggs unhealthy or even poisonous for your chickens.
This is a particular issue when giving them eggs leftover from your breakfast table.
Only give them eggs that have been prepared “clean” without any harmful ingredients, and make sure they are cooked thoroughly, again.
How Often Can Chickens Have Eggs?
You can give your chickens eggs every day if you like, although 2-3 times per week is probably plenty.
They are very nutritious and good for them, but too many eggs can lead to obesity and other health problems, so don’t overdo it.
Experts advise that you not give your chickens more than 10% of their total calorie intake in foods other than chicken feed, even healthy foods like eggs.
How Should You Prepare Eggs for Chickens?
As mentioned above, cooked is the way to go, and scrambling is the very best and most convenient way though any other method of cooking is fine.
Place the eggs in a bowl or on a plate and let your birds dig in. Eggshells should be baked or boiled and then ground up as described above.
They can pick at ground eggshells, eat them mixed in with other grit or enjoy them mixed in other food.
Can Baby Chicks Have Eggs?
Yes, following all the guidelines above and starting at about 6 weeks of age. However, be extra cautious when feeding eggshells to chicks.
Too much calcium can actually be fatal to young chicks, and larger pieces of eggshell can get stuck in their throats. Ensure any eggshell is ground into a powder-like consistency for safety.
Remove All Leftover Eggs after Your Chickens are Done Eating
You don’t want uneaten eggs sitting out in the open where they will rot and attract pests and predators.
Cooked eggs will draw in other creatures from all around and that can make life hard for you and your birds. When they are done, remove all uneaten eggs and scraps to avoid this problem.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.