Why Are My Chickens Eating Their Eggs?

For most of us, keeping a supply of fresh eggs going is the number one reason for owning chickens. It’s an exciting time when your girls start laying!

chicken flock using shoveled path to get through snow
chicken flock using shoveled path to get through snow

Heading out in the morning to collect the bounty you work so hard for and- what’s this? An egg is broken! Worse than broken, it is mostly gone.

And there is the yolk and bits of shell all over the beak of one of your chickens. And then, my goodness, it’s starting in on another! This is terrible! Why on Earth would your chickens eat their own eggs?

There are several reasons why chickens might eat their own eggs, including a lack of calcium, a lack of calories, a deteriorating laying environment, or overall stress. It is possible to curb egg cannibalism with the right approach.

This is always a gruesome day when it happens, but it’s something that a lot of chicken owners will experience especially when they’re new to the practice.

It can completely stymie or even halt your harvest of eggs, so you’ve got to put a stop to it. The good news is that it’s a fairly easy issue to diagnose and then deal with.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you a lot more about the reasons why your chickens are eating their own eggs and how to stop it…

Lack of Dietary Calcium

One of the most common reasons that your chickens will start eating your own eggs, and regrettably one of the most serious, is a lack of dietary calcium.

Chickens, like pretty much every animal, need plenty of calcium in order to grow strong, healthy bones and also to keep those bones maintained. This, and many other important biological processes besides.

More germane to the topic, though, egg laying requires tons of calcium because it’s the primary component of eggshells. If a chicken is running low on calcium, their body will basically signal them to start craving calcium-rich foods. You know what calcium-rich food happens to be nearby for such a chicken? That’s right: eggs, with the shell and all!

It naturally follows that a chicken so afflicted would turn on their own eggs, or any other eggs they can get. Luckily, this is pretty easy to remediate by simply boosting their calcium intake through other dietary means.

Supplemental calcium or a different type of feed that will supply more is usually all it takes to stabilize their nutrient levels and get them back to normal.

However, once chickens have started eating eggs, they can develop a taste for them and then the behavior might persist. We’ll talk more about that in just a minute.

Not Enough Food to Eat

Sometimes a chicken isn’t lacking any particular nutrient but is instead just lacking food generally. If chickens are hungry, meaning they have a calorie deficit, they’ll start looking for things to eat, obviously. Anything, to eat.

They can get all kinds of things from their environment, including grass and seeds, bugs, worms, and any scraps they can swipe from the feeder or from other animals, but if they have a grumbling tummy or are seriously underfed, eggs will once again be on the menu.

And why not? Eggs are extremely nutritious, packed with protein, fats, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and plenty of calories.

This, once again, it’s usually easy to stop (at least theoretically) by increasing a chicken’s calorie intake. Sure, you might be putting out plenty of food for your flock according to your on-paper calculations, but are you sure that each and every chicken in the flock is getting enough?

The pecking order is a real thing, and if bully birds are preventing some others lower on the totem pole from getting enough food, they might resort to stealing eggs later on.

Keep an eye on things, and consider additional feed stations if necessary. Once again, this behavior can be especially problematic because it’s possible for chickens to develop a taste for eggs.

They Were Fed Eggs Previously

Another reason, and a truly troubling one, that chickens will eat their own eggs or the eggs of other birds in the flock is because they simply like them.

Yes, that’s right: chickens are hardly repulsed by the act of eating eggs, even their very own. In fact, most chooks I’ve known really love them!

This is obviously a major problem. Once chickens have eaten eggs, particularly raw or lightly cooked eggs, they will develop a taste for them.

Like any other food they prefer, they’ll come to prioritize eating it. If that particular chicken, say a laying hen, likes eggs often she’ll immediately turn on her own eggs when she lays them. What a disaster!

You can incite this behavior yourself by feeding your flock eggs that have not been thoroughly cooked and scrambled. You should never give chickens raw eggs deliberately!

Worse yet, chickens learn all sorts of behavior. Not everything is purely instinctive for them: most birds in a flock have close-knit relationships with one another, so “parroting” is likely to occur.

If one chicken eats an egg, another chicken will start eating an egg. And then another chicken, and then another chicken. Before you know it, you’ve got an entire flock of cannibals! This is a major disaster.

This can be very difficult to stop once it is well established, and usually takes a prolonged period of breaking procedures we’ll talk about later.

Poor Laying Environment

Your chickens might be pretty far removed from their wild jungle foul ancestors, but they still have many of the same instincts when it comes to reproduction. Chickens want a safe, secure, and healthy environment to lay their eggs in.

Once they start laying in a chosen space, it out in the wild or in a nesting box in the coop, if that environment is compromised or no longer suitable they might decide to abort laying.

Basically, the mother is declaring “no dice” and will make the decision to recycle the nutrients invested in the egg by eating it. This isn’t a behavior that’s unique to chickens; lots of birds do it.

What sort of environmental stressors could cause this behavior? A lack of cleanliness, a buildup of dangerous gasses from droppings, mold, insect infestation, temperature spikes, excess humidity, and a lot more. The solution, of course, is a tidy, clean, fresh, and well-maintained coop or nesting area.


The last thing to account for if egg eating is rampant in your flock is individual stress levels. Despite being highly social, chickens are still individuals, and if any bird, laying hen or otherwise, is stressed out or agitated, egg cannibalism can be a result.

Maybe it’s an injury, illness, or something else. If they’ve been getting into a lot of fights or constantly being hassled by fellow chickens or other animals, they can react badly and start consuming eggs.

This can be a difficult cause to pin down, but if you’ve accounted for nutrition, and the laying environment and know that the bird in question has not developed a taste for eggs previously, you need to start looking deeper.

Definitely consider exiling the chicken to a separate enclosure or to a colony with other troublemakers until you can get a handle on things. You can’t let this go unchallenged!

How Can You Curb Relentless Egg Eating?

So, after addressing all of the possible root causes above, you still have at least one chicken that is chowing down on eggs. What are you supposed to do?

You have only a couple of options to deal with these remorseless cannibals of freshly laid eggs.

For starters, you’ve got to be as quick as you can when collecting eggs. Learn the schedule of your girls, more or less, and make sure you pounce as quickly as possible to remove the opportunity and temptation to eat, and also save the eggs themselves.

This is also a great time to swap that removed egg with a golf ball or with a purpose-made decoy egg. Both are hard, unbreakable egg “surrogates” that will teach the egg eaters a painful but ultimately harmless lesson.

Once the offenders take a few pecks at the decoy, over repeated attempts they should learn to give up their errant ways. This requires time and diligence on your part, however.

As mentioned above, you can also remove known egg eaters to an enclosure or a colony for troublemakers that’s separate from the main flock. This will also help to curb the social contagion aspect of egg eating.

Lastly, sometimes, you’ve got no other choice except to cull a remorseless bird. Some chickens, for whatever reason, just won’t be broken and you’ve got to consider the time and opportunity costs associated with your ongoing efforts to alleviate the bad behavior.

Ultimately, chickens are cheap and you need to think about the health and well-being of the rest of the flock.

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