It can be baffling to discover your hen(s) have been having a little snack in the nestbox – but why do hens eat their eggs?
Often egg eating starts when a hen lays a thin or soft-shelled egg which breaks or cracks in the nest box. Being naturally curious, your hens will investigate what’s inside and then discover the contents, and so begins an egg-eating habit.
It’s worth noting here that hens who have been in a caged commercial system will have never seen their own eggs, as they roll away to be collected, so sitting on them is a novelty and this can sometimes break a fragile shell.
What can be done to help?
Given egg breakage is the main reason hens begin eating their eggs, getting lovely strong shells is a good place to start.
Ensuring the hens have adequate calcium and protein in their diet will help to maintain good shell quality. A simple way to provide additional calcium is to save egg shells, bake them hard in the oven, then crush them finely before mixing back into the feed. Alternatively, a liquid calcium supplement can be given – Zolcal D is very good and can be bought from the BHWT online shop.
Next make sure nest boxes have soft deep bedding which is clean and fluffed up daily to minimise the chance of breakage when an egg is laid.
Collect eggs regularly
Check nest boxes first thing in the morning and then every 30 minutes at the time when they usually lay – this may seem tedious, but if the hens cannot break eggs, they will soon find something more interesting to do. Providing enrichment is therefore a great idea.
There is an old wives’ tale that placing mustard-filled eggs will put hens off breaking shells, but this will not work as most hens don’t seem to mind the taste!
However, one trick that has been known to work is placing rubber eggs in the nest box; this will fool the hens into believing eggs can no longer be broken and they will soon tire of their efforts trying to break them.
You could also invest in a roll-away nest box. When a hen lays an egg in one of these it rolls away out of reach where it can’t be pecked.
Finally, make sure that it really is the hens who are doing the breaking; squirrels and even crows have been known to go into coops to steal or break eggs.
Still have questions?
Hopefully you’ve picked up some tips to help get to the bottom of your hens’ egg-eating conundrum, but if you’re still in need of advice call our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084.