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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 4, 2006
    Location
    Central VA
    Posts
    52

    Default Chicken Question - Hens eating eggs

    We love our chickens, we bought them as day old chicks (Rhode Island Reds) last July and were thrilled to get our first egg in December. They're laying steadily, but we're having trouble with hens eating their eggs.

    We first had this problem late December, and after re-designing their nesting box. At first we had built a large communal nesting box (saw it on a chicken coop design on the net and it looked nice). We had read that increased activity in the nesting box could encourage the eating of eggs, so we divided the box into three 12x12 boxes. That seemed to work, but in the past few weeks the incidence has risen again - so that we're lucky to get 1-2 eggs a day!

    We have 11 hens, and they have access to roaming outdoors in a large pen (where we supplement with greens, fruits, horse manure to peck through, etc) as well has a good diet (Purina's Layena), oyster shells, grit, and water changed daily. The grain is free choice, and I've started giving additional grain but that doesn't seem to affect their habits.

    Should we just cull the ladies and start again? I'm so disappointed in my girls. I love them dearly, but we enjoy collecting our breakfast, and I sell the extras at work for a little extra cash.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov. 8, 2008
    Location
    California
    Posts
    468

    Default

    We used to have tons of chickens when I grew up and they had separate nesting places around the barn, never together, but close.
    I highly recommend feeding them back the egg shells! They may have a deficiency in their diet after all and are trying to get the calcium they need to build a strong shell. The oysters may not be enough - or not the right thing for your chickens. And why even bother with them if you have the egg shells?
    You use the eggs, they get the shells, there's no waste and everyone's happy!



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2001
    Posts
    1,339

    Default

    If you do feed back the shells, be sure to pulverize them so that they aren't really recognizable as egg shells.

    Great site for chicken questions, here's a thread on the subject:

    http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums...read.php?t=730



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov. 8, 2008
    Location
    California
    Posts
    468

    Default

    Leather -

    why do you need to pulverize the egg shells? We just crushed them in our hands, that's all you need to do. The chickens will pick them apart the way they need it.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 4, 2006
    Location
    Central VA
    Posts
    52

    Default

    I've always heard not to allow the chickens to eat their shells, because some hens develop a taste for eggs and so they become more likely to eat their shells. We typically find most of the shells laying around the nesting boxes, most of them being nearly intact, with the yolks and whites eaten, so I doubt they're just trying to get more calcium from the shells?



  6. #6
    Join Date
    May. 29, 2007
    Posts
    807

    Default

    How can you tell they are eating the eggs? Do they leave shells, or can you just tell due to a drop off in production? My friend keeps a number of hens along with a few for me, and they suddenly stopped laying. This happened around the time that her barn flooded, but it has dried out now and they still don't seem to be laying. She also added some new hens around that time, but everyone seems to be getting along, and it shouldn't be overcrowded. They get the oyster shells and everything. I just wondered if maybe they are actually eating the eggs. She had been getting 6-8 per day, and is now getting maybe 1. She has probably 30 hens in there, but probably only 10-15 who were just getting old enough to lay. She doesn't think they could be molting since they aren't even a year old yet.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2001
    Posts
    1,339

    Default

    If hens (unlike the OP's) aren't egg eaters then there's no need to pulverize them.

    If you've got egg eaters then you should crush the shells well, so that they no longer resemble the broken eggs that egg eaters usually start off eating.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2008
    Location
    MidWest
    Posts
    164

    Default

    I had one hen who ate eggs. As soon as I ID'd her she found her way into the stew pot. No more problems with egg-eating.

    Most hens won't start eating eggs on their own...maybe an egg cracked in the nest and a hen discovered how tasty it is. Once they have a taste for their own eggs it's hard, if not impossible, to break them of it.

    It is a good idea to crush eggs shells REALLY well before feeding them back to the chickens...the less it looks like an egg, the better. I let them dry first so they crush fairly easily in my hands. Hens that aren't getting enough calcium will not necessarily start eating their own eggs. You can tell they aren't getting enough calcium if the shells of their eggs are incredibly thin or the eggs themselves are leathery, like a crocodile egg.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2001
    Posts
    1,339

    Default

    The usual sign for an egg eater is yolk on the beak.

    pony89, was the flood this past fall/winter?

    Chickens usually need about 12-16 hours of daylight in order to produce eggs, so maybe the flood wasn't the real culprit?

    Also the new ones might be reaching their egg laying maturity during short daylight, so they stay "dormant."



  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 29, 2007
    Posts
    807

    Default

    The first of the hens started laying on Christmas day, and they gradually ramped up to the 6-8 per day. About a month ago, we had a warm snap - the snow melted and flooded the barn, and simultaneously, the 24/7 heat lamp got turned off for about a week since it was so warm. In this time frame, everyone stopped laying. The barn dried out, the heat lamp has been back on 24/7 for several weeks, but the laying hasn't started up again. I think there is one that is still laying regularly, no one else is now. Sorry to hijack! I just wondered if the egg eating was a possible cause, but I think she would have noticed that.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2008
    Location
    Sonoma County, California
    Posts
    2,590

    Default

    Egg eagers....been there, done that. Not fun.

    I've culled the really bad egg eaters over time (found pet homes for them).
    Egg eaters are bad news and they won't quit.

    You can tell them by the yolk on their beak. They teach others to eat eggs, too.

    What's helped us (besides culling) is to make sure the hens have:
    1) Ground oyster shell flour, a whole separate pan of it, for calcium
    2) Free range at least part of the day (reduce boredom)
    3) Pick up eggs often

    Don't feed the shells back to them unless you grind them up. It teaches them to eat eggs otherwise. Good luck. Some of my hens are 8 years old and still laying!



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 2, 2009
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    448

    Default

    I don't know if its true or not, but was told to put hard plastic eggs(fakes) in the nest area. It did seem to slow them down. I also added more "grit" to the hens diet.

    good luck,

    Karen
    Strange how much you've got to know Before you know how little you know. Anonymous



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 26, 2008
    Posts
    878

    Default

    I once thought I had an egg eater but it ended up being a skunk coming in every night through a hole I didn't even know about, he didn't bother the chickens but loved their eggs. What a shock that night I walked in on him.

    To find out if you have a serious egg eater then take an egg and roll it across the coop floor and see if anyone dives on it to eat it.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar. 11, 2006
    Location
    Eastern Washington
    Posts
    1,641

    Default

    Get rid of who ever is the egg eater(s). Once they start, they don't stop. We had a few hens who would just wait for the other ones to get off the nest to eat the eggs. Not worth keeping them, believe me.
    Unbridled Oaks - Champion Sport Ponies and Welsh Cobs

    Like us on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/unbridledoaks



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2002
    Location
    West Coast of Michigan
    Posts
    36,321

    Default

    I was reading my chicken newsletter today and they suggested a couple of home remedies for confirmed egg-eaters: break the tip off one egg and squirt some hot sauce in there so the chicken learns that eggs taste BAD, or coat an egg in vaseline since they don't like goopy beaks. As I still do not own even a single chicken, this must be considered COMPLETELY theoretical advice, however.
    Click here before you buy.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun. 9, 2006
    Location
    Grand Junction, CO
    Posts
    1,777

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by deltawave View Post
    I was reading my chicken newsletter today and they suggested a couple of home remedies for confirmed egg-eaters: break the tip off one egg and squirt some hot sauce in there so the chicken learns that eggs taste BAD, or coat an egg in vaseline since they don't like goopy beaks. As I still do not own even a single chicken, this must be considered COMPLETELY theoretical advice, however.
    Actually, chickens LOVE hot sauce!



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
    Posts
    22,489

    Default

    Crap.

    Mayhew or any other chicken experts - I've got a problem. I think.

    Every other day or so I notice the tip of an egg is broken. The contents are not disturbed and there is no yolk on any beaks. Just the tip is caved in; cracked.

    It's the Black Australorps egg and the rooster has been beating up on her pretty badly - it's time for him to go. Probably Sunday. I don't know if that might have anything to do with it.

    Anyway - the hens have ground oyster shells available as well as free ranging and the eggs do not appear weak, thin or brittle.

    But the tip is just cracked all the way around and the shell depressed. Just the tip.

    She lays the largest egg and the one with the sharpest angled tip. Is it possible there is just not enough nesting material?

    I'd appreciate any feedback.

    Deltawave - you've not ordered your chicks yet? I'm very late but am ordering mine today! cheep cheep I haven't forgotten my promise to send you pictures but I can't figure out how to download them from my camera. I'm becoming a Luddite, I'm afraid......



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2008
    Location
    MidWest
    Posts
    164

    Default

    Jswan...Every now and again we'll get an egg with a weak shell just at the tip. I think it just happens sometimes, regardless of how much calcium they have available.

    Roosters can stress out the hens, especially if he doesn't have enough hens to keep him from picking on one. Generally one rooster for every 12 hens is recommended. I have two roosters and about 35 hens...no one hen is picked on too much because the roosters are kept pretty busy with all the other hens. The roosters don't fight, either, which surprised me. I guess there are enough girls to keep 'em both happy!

    Is your Black Australorp trying to go broody?



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2002
    Location
    West Coast of Michigan
    Posts
    36,321

    Default

    Deltawave - you've not ordered your chicks yet? I'm very late but am ordering mine today!
    The feed store won't even take orders until late March--we get snow here until mid-April so I'm in NO hurry. Coop isn't even built yet, and I don't enjoy barn chores and putzing around outside until it's at least 45 degrees!

    If you're a Luddite that's OK. I am done dissing anyone for their beliefs.
    Click here before you buy.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
    Posts
    22,489

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BramblewoodAcres View Post
    Jswan...Every now and again we'll get an egg with a weak shell just at the tip. I think it just happens sometimes, regardless of how much calcium they have available.

    Is your Black Australorp trying to go broody?
    No - she's such a great bird I'm going to order more. Lots more. Fantastic dual purpose bird.

    Since it's not happening consistently and there appears to be no cannibalism I'll just feed it to the dogs.

    Deltawave - just joking about being a Luddite - I'm just not up to speed on all this new stuff and have not bothered to read the directions for my camera.

    I got a CD player/radio for my truck for Xmas and it came with a remote control. Trying to figure out why anyone in their car would need a remote to change the station or turn up the volume. The darn radio is right in front of you.

    It's a puzzlement......

    Thanks for the feedback and hope it warms up for everyone soon. It's warm here and tomorrow is going to be even better. happy happy joy joy



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