Egg Eating Chickens & Woodchips in the Run

eggs

Over the past couple of weeks, our egg production has significantly dropped. We were getting 5-6 eggs per day, and then all of a sudden we were getting *maybe* ONE. I wasn’t sure what was going on, until one day I discovered the problem.

Our hens were eating their eggs!

I’m not sure if it was one naughty girl breaking the eggs and then the whole gang jumping in on the action, or if there were multiple delinquents responsible. No matter how hard I tried to beat them to the eggs, they seemed to be waiting for a hen to leave the nest so they could devour the egg while it was still warm. I would be inside the house and hear them cackling (as they do when one has just laid an egg) , but no matter how quickly I threw my boots on and ran to the coop, I kept getting there just in time to find a group of hens fighting over the yolk and broken shell on the coop floor.

Good-for-nothing hens!

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I’ve heard that they will eat eggs when they’re lacking calcium. OR, if the young layers haven’t had enough protein, the shells can be very thin and prone to cracking. And once hens get a taste of that fresh yolk, you can be sure they’ll be back for more. It’s an incredibly hard habit to break.

Many resources recommend that you find the egg eater and either separate it from the flock for a while, or cull it (either by butchering, or selling the hen).

After giving it some thought, my first plan of action was to move the nesting boxes. Up until now, the boxes were sitting on the floor of the coop. I figured if I moved the boxes up higher where the eggs would be out of sight from the other hens, that might help solve the problem.

chicken nesting box

I pulled the boxes out of the coop, cleaned out the old bedding, and sprayed the poopy top off with the water hose. Once it had dried, I hauled it back to the coop and used my husband’s drill to screw the boxes about two feet off the ground, on the outside of the coop. By having the nests away from the roosting area, the boxes (and the eggs) should stay cleaner.

My husband also made a trip to Tractor Supply to get some crushed oyster shells (for calcium) and a poultry block, just in case there was some other mineral deficiency going on.

But before he even made it back home with the supplies, the hens had discovered the new setup, with fresh straw in each box, and within an hour or so I had 3 fresh, clean, UNEATEN eggs to collect!

WA-HOO!!

For good measure, I put a golf ball in a few of the nests to frustrate the egg eater, as recommended by some of you on facebook.

I’m happy to say we’re back up to 5-6 eggs a day. And not a single cracked egg has been discovered since. I’m hoping the trend continues, and that the problem is solved. Of course, you never can be sure what these crazy hens will do, but it seems that all is well again.

woodchip chicken run bedding

Now that the nesting box has been moved outside the coop, and I’ve got more room inside, I’ve got the bug to do more improving. Jerry didn’t have any work today, so I called around and found a tree removal company that had a ton of woodchips we could come and get for free. Jerry was able to get a pickup truck load, and we spent the afternoon unloading the woodchips and spreading them in the chicken run, which has been nothing but mud for the past week.

chicken run

It’s fun watching the flock enjoying their new digs. There are so many things I’d like to do, eventually. Our next project in the coop is to build a separate pen in there for the sick and injured, or for a broody hatching eggs. I plan on taking apart an old rabbit hutch to use the pieces for this project.

Anyways, always something more to do!

Have you ever had trouble with an egg eating hen? What did you do to solve the problem?

Kendra
About Kendra 1117 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

19 Comments

  1. We used to have a hen who ate some of the eggs.
    We ended up finding rocks at the bottom of a creek and used them to keep the chickens from pecking at their eggs. And we keep all of the shells, let them dry out for a few weeks and then crush them up and feed them back to the chickens. We havent had a problem since.

    The egg-sized rocks in the nesting box also helped one of our chickens who would lay her eggs out in the yard! Silly chickens. 🙂

  2. I always put a pie tin of eggshells in the oven after the oven is turned off after baking something. The eggshell no longer tastes or smell like egg shells to the chickens. I never wash or clean the shell because all that slime is protein–good for hens.

  3. We are always wanting to add and make changes to our coop as well. It’s become almost a hobby. We actually feed our chickens used egg shells and my neighbor is convinced they are going to dig into their fresh eggs because I do that. I feel it’s giving them that “grit” they need which is keeping them from eating their own eggs. Time will tell. One year in and there have been no egg eaters yet. Knock on wood:) I’m really enjoying your blog and recipes!

  4. We have been lucky, but have once had a determined egg eating hen. This needs to be caught early, or more hens may pick up the habit. After feeding the chickens, gently roll an egg on the ground in the chicken pen. Curious hens will inspect it, and decide some idiot hen carelessly deposited the egg out in the open and then leave it alone. The egg eater will go after the egg like a duck on a June bug. The best cure I could recommend would be a nice batch of chicken and dumplings simmering all day in the crock pot. Please do not try to sell the hen to someone and pass on the problem, unless of course they are in need of a stewing hen.
    Now, if I could only find a cure for egg eating dogs…

  5. I’ve heard that you can actually feed your chickens the egg shells once they’ve been cleaned, dried & then finely crushed. Sure would save money!

  6. I’ve had issues with egg eaters too. Some of my older hens lay eggs with rather thin shell, despite the enriched feed and free choice oyster shells. I am slowly culling the older hens and will hopefully have the problem under control again. I think the thin shelled eggs get cracked when the hens step on them in the nesting box.

    I’ve also used golf balls, and that helped for awhile, but it also encouraged some of my hens to go broody on a nest of golf balls!

  7. I had an egg problem–no eggs for several days. I found broken shell. Finally, I saw a rat snake and think it was the culprit. I apologized to the hens. The rat snake also had cleaned my yard of ground squirrels, so I let it stay. I did go out early and often to get eggs, so that the snake would not get them. I really and truly think it was a snake.

    One day, I let an egg roll off the picnic table. I had four very watchful hens nearby. They ate the egg in a frenzy and never ate another egg.

    One day, I saw what looked like a junior-sized, used condom, hanging from a hens bottom. The other hen pecked it off, cleaned off more from the hen and turned and ate the remains of the shell-less egg. Life is exciting with only two hens.

  8. Hahaha… I had to do this very thing last week!
    I also cut a piece of art canvas I had, and weighted it down across the top (I’m using plastic crates as nests so couldn’t staple it down). Then cut some slits in it where the nests were, making ‘curtains’ of a sort. a few of the hens were very curious about it and were funny to watch as they checked it out. The hens took to it for laying without a problem and not one egg has been eaten… so this definitely helps to keep eggs out of sight (and out of mind!)
    Of course, then I had to add a ramp…
    In my coops’ case, I think it is mostly out of boredom that they are seeking something ‘new’ to do… like when we rummage around in the fridge between meals and eat out of boredom.
    It might not be true though since all last summer I had once caught up to 4 hens AND their rooster all pecking an egg. I put them in ‘chicken jail’ for a day (a rabbit hutch) and all but one quit doing it after that! (I think they knew what chicken jail was!)
    I often remark that managing the coop is much like having a playhouse… there’s always something that can be improved upon, or the furnishings need to be re-arranged…lol.

  9. Who would have thought? Wow. Someday, I’d like to have chickens of my own, but the hubs isn’t too keen on it…”They stink”. So, for now, I get farm fresh from a friend who does have her own chickens. Maybe when the kids are older I make a case for it.. :~) I’ll have to keep all of this in mind for *when* it happens.

    • Theresa,

      Chicken houses (like the commercial kind) stink for sure! But I honestly haven’t had any problem with having a “smell” coming from the coop. Sure, if you go *inside* it doesn’t smell too fresh, but if he’s worried about the chickens stinking up the backyard, that’s not too likely. Especially if you don’t have dozens of them. 🙂

  10. I had one egg eaten. It was laid right by the chicken door for some reason, early in the morning before I’d let them out. When I let them out the egg was eaten and I could see the leftover bits. I’m theorizing that someone jumped off the roost onto it. Haven’t had it happen again so hopefully they’ll keep laying in the boxes and I won’t have to deal with it!

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