As a chicken farmer, you will want to do your best to prevent your chickens from starting to eat eggs. Why? Not only does it cause economic loss, but once they start they can form a habit of it. The longer they eat eggs the more difficult it is to break the habit. So it is imperative that they stop the habit as soon as possible. It is not easy and the remedies are not obvious. You may need to try several techniques to stop egg-eating behaviour before you find something that works. So be patient and persistent.
Here are some tips to help you prevent or stop the egg-eating habit.
Proper nesting: Reduce chances of Accidental discovery
Chickens may form the habit of pecking their own eggs due to accidental discovery. Once the egg is broken, an egg is broken for one reason or another, the chicken may begin to eat the yolk and the shell and end up developing a taste for eggs. To reduce chances of accidental discovery:
• Collect eggs frequently: Try to collect eggs early in the morning before 10 a.m. Most chicken will have laid by then. Go round checking for eggs later in the day.
• Keep the eggshells strong. It is important to make sure that your hens are getting enough calcium in order to build strong shells. A thin shell is a broken shell and an eaten egg. The easiest way to do this is to supplement with oyster shells. If an egg does break, clean it up quickly!
• Provide a cushioned nesting box. No, you don’t need to sew an ACTUAL cushion. Just make sure there is enough natural material in the box that when the hen lays the egg, it falls softly and doesn’t crack.The probability of an egg being pecked on is higher if it is outside the box. So provide adequate laying boxes. Provide spacious at (at least one 1-by-1-foot) nest for every four to five hens in the flock.
• Elevate the nesting box: Position the nesting boxes at least a foot off the ground and away from the roosts.
• Cushion the nesting box: Cushion the nesting box by lining them with at least 2 inches of clean, dry nesting material such as wood shavings, grass or straw.
• Relocate any broody hens
Broody hens occupy space that other chickens have identified as their nesting place. Competition for space often leads to broken eggs and subsequent temptation to feed on the broken egg
Correct the Deficiency in the Diet
Chickens may begin eating eggs due to nutrient deficiency. Deficiency in protein or Calcium may cause a chicken to seek out a supplemental diet of eggshells. Eggs are loaded with protein, and the shells are made up of almost pure calcium. These two things are essential to a laying chicken’s diet and overall good health. If chickens aren’t getting enough of either, they may turn to eat their own eggs to compensate. Feed your chickens a good quality feed specifically designed for laying hens. Chicken feed which provides probiotics and increases nutrient absorption is a good supplement to the usual feeding. The protein ratio in their layer feed should be at least 16%.
Give them leafy greens and grass, but also incorporate plenty of protein-rich treats like mealworms, black oil sunflower seeds, or home-sprouted seeds and grains. You can also scramble up some eggs to feed back to your chickens if protein difficiency is acute.
You can supplement their diet with milk, yogurt and/or sunflower seeds. If you feed hens eggshells for calcium, smash them to a powder so the chickens don’t associate them with eggs.