Building a chicken coop is not the easiest of tasks, but if you do the necessary research and use the appropriate methods and materials, you will have a sturdy coop for your birds in no time.
Once that is done and you put your chickens in it, there are many things you will notice. Although they seem to be simple-minded creatures, they have their own order, habits, and routines.
Speaking of habits, did you know that some chickens develop the bad habit of eating their own eggs? If this were to happen once, it would not be a big deal. But what if you start noticing a decrease in your egg production? In order to avoid this, it is important to understand why chickens eat their own eggs.
Why Does It Happen?
Chickens eating their own eggs can seriously impact the business of chicken farmers since it reduces the number of eggs they sell. There are a few reasons behind this new habit and luckily, a few methods to stop it.
Usually, chickens start eating eggs by accident. These birds have a tendency to eat whatever looks like food, so if one steps on an egg which brakes, she will soon discover new tasty food and start breaking eggs intentionally. The problem is that once a hen does this, the others will soon follow suit and you will end up with an entire flock eating all the eggs.
So, let us look at the most common factors that can contribute to or encourage egg eating. Overcrowding is a problem. The recommended space for a bird in a coop is four square feet if they are not able to free range. If they do not have enough space to explore, stepping on eggs by accident is not at all unusual.
Not enough nesting boxes is an issue as well. You should have a minimum of one nest box for every four birds. If the number of nest boxes is not sufficient, everyone will be using the same box which may easily lead to eggs getting damaged. We have already established that once an egg is cracked opened, a hen will eat the contents, no questions asked!
Chickens are also known to crack eggs if they are thirsty. Therefore, you need to make sure that your birds have clean, fresh water at their disposal at all times. Furthermore, if there is not enough feed available, the chickens may start eating eggs. A high-quality 16 to 18% protein feed should be enough during the laying season. When the birds are molting, higher protein content is required.
Also, if the hen has an imbalance in her diet, she will do whatever she can to correct it. In case there is not enough protein available, eating eggs is one way to supplement the diet with the necessary amount of protein.
Although this does not happen only with chicken, we need to mention that they also get into mischief when they are bored. It is important to keep them occupied. In case they free range, you will probably avoid these problems. However, if they are confined, you should offer them some activities to keep them busy such as scratching or tetherball.
Too much light can be another factor. Hens prefer a darkened and private area in which to lay their eggs. You can try to cut down the light with curtains, for example. If the bird does not see the egg, she will not peck at it.
You should also know that stressed chickens tend to pick and pluck more. Usually, this action involves feathers and eggs. In order to avoid stressing the hen while on the nest, you should not be searching around under her looking for eggs. She should be left to lay her egg in peace.
There are also the inexperienced hens. They are new to laying and can often produce eggs that have weak or thin shells. Sometimes these eggs can crack on impact and the bird will taste the goods. Chickens are also known for their curious nature.
How Can You Tell That Your Chickens are Eating Eggs?
Although you might think you can find visible residue after a hen has eaten an egg, that is not always the case. A chicken will usually eat the egg entirely, including the shell.
The first sign that can tell you this is happening is a decrease in the number of eggs you collect from the coop. You may also notice egg or feather remains on your chicken’s beak. Once you notice this, it is time to investigate and take action.
What Can Be Done?
As you can see, there is no specific cause that makes chickens eat their own eggs. It can start by mistake, out of pure curiosity, or because they lack something, especially in their diets. Moreover, they like the taste of eggs, so once a hen has eaten an egg, she will continue to do so.
As mentioned above, the other birds will start doing the same in no time. For this reason, you need to take action fast or remain with fewer eggs to sell or to eat. Since you have a chicken coop, we are sure that you do not want to end up buying eggs from somewhere else.
In order to correct this behavior, you need to find out what caused it. Based on the possibilities we already discussed, there are some methods you can apply in order to stop your chickens from destroying the egg production.
Many of these causes can be dealt with easily and quickly. We know that overcrowding is probably the most common reason behind egg eating. Therefore, in order to fix this issue, you need to either provide more room or to keep fewer chickens.
Please keep in mind that a hen requires at least four square feet of space in a confined environment. If possible, more is even better! If you cannot enlarge the existing enclosure, but want to keep all of your birds, you can get a second coop and split the flock.
It is also very important to have at least one nesting box for every four hens. If you can set up even more of them, it would be best. As explained earlier, having too few nests can result in heavy traffic to those boxes. This increases the chances of eggs getting knocked out, stepped on, and cracked.
In addition, the nest boxes should be placed in the darker places of the coop and not in direct sunlight. If there is too much light getting in, you can use curtains to cover these areas.
Another thing to consider is making sure your birds have enough food and fresh water at all times. Also, bullies may guard the feeding station, and the bullied cannot feed. It is always a good idea to have at least two food and water stations in the coop.
Finally, providing your chickens with a balanced diet is very important. Since most commercial feeds are specifically formulated, this should not pose an issue. If you decide to provide homemade rations, which can often lack vital nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus, make sure you give them the appropriate supplements.