Scientists have successfully decoded the mystery of ‘Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” riddle. The answer is an egg! But there’s an equally puzzling question that has intrigued and frustrated poultry farmers and ‘chicken enthusiasts’ for a long time. And that is: Do chickens eat their own eggs?
Isn’t that just cannibalism? And if yes, what’s the answer to why chickens eat their own eggs? Also, is it just their own eggs, or do chickens eat other hens’ eggs too?
Do chickens eat their own eggs? Chickens will eat just about anything, including their own eggs. There is no reason other than them being greedy. As cannibalistic omnivores, chickens eat their eggs along with worms, bugs, and even their own poop feces. It’s a bad habit they have and it can be hard to break that habit.
The answers, actually, are many and run deep. So, without further ado, let’s solve the mystery!
Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?
Yes. As cannibalistic omnivores, chickens eat their own eggs.
In fact, chickens eat everything that remotely looks like food: From their own poop to Styrofoam, these domesticated fowls love to nibble on almost everything.
So, don’t be surprised if you witness your chicken hungrily lapping up the white and yolk of a broken egg or pecking at shells.
However, the real problem arises when your chicken realizes that eggs are ‘good food’ and intentionally starts breaking them. It gets even worse when the whole rotisserie joins in as chickens have a ‘herd mentality.’
Before you know, there’ll be no eggs left for you. Well, don’t panic yet!
We’ll get to the bottom of this problem and figure out why chickens eat their own egg.
But prior to diving into the whys, you need to understand that more than a habit, it is a red flag showing health and behavioral complexities.
Why Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs
Here’s a rundown of a few reasons why chickens display this behavior:
Hens, at their peak, require around 4-5 grams of calcium every day. Just like pregnant women are sometimes naturally inclined to eating dirt due to mineral deficiencies, hens are also susceptible to eating eggs when they lack calcium. Eggshells are roughly 40% calcium. So, that’s quite clever of them, right?
Remember to add Oyster shell grit to their diet to help them digest their food easily.
Little known fact: Chickens want more than a dirt enclosure and hen house. They don’t fit into the standard definition of household pets like cats and dogs, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to have fun! It’s best if they have a playground to explore. But if not, try offering activities like scratching and tetherball. Or else, it’s only a matter of time before chickens become bored and start eating their eggs.
Anxiety & Stress
Science has shown that chickens can very well experience stress and anxiety. Factors like a chemical imbalance in the brain, overcrowding, and bad lighting can trigger this. As a result, they often pick on eggs and even feathers to channel stress. So, don’t forget to watch out for symptoms like lethargy, panting, and diarrhea.
Luck by Chance
Sometimes, the whole saga of why chickens eat their own egg can start from something as simple as an accidental discovery. If there’s a broken egg lying around, there’s a good chance that chickens will peck at it. And once they discover the taste, oh boy, are you in trouble.
Too many chickens cramped together is a foolproof recipe for disease and dirt. It is also the root of behavioral problems in chickens, including gnawing at their own eggs. The general rule of thumb is 3 square feet per chicken inside the coop. If it’s possible to free-range, there’s not much to worry about it.
Cramped Nest Boxes
Chickens are quite private when it comes to laying eggs. There should be at least one nest box for every four hens. Too few boxes and too many chickens translate to rolling and broken eggs. If one of them breaks, and a chicken gets hold of it, you know who to blame. You!
Hunger and Lack of Water
A lack of fresh drinking water and daily feeding won’t just reduce egg production: It is also responsible for why chickens eat their own eggs. A good quality feed with 16-18% protein concentration is enough for your chickens during the laying season. Chickens at their prime can consume a lot, so make sure that you give them nutrient-rich food.
Young, Inexperienced Hens
Hens that have just hit ‘puberty’ (known as pullets) or just started laying eggs often produce weak or thin shells. So, owing to their delicacy, there’s a chance that these will crack with the slightest impact. And once your hen tastes the egg, there’s no going back. Be careful!
Lighting’s Not Right
It’s true that hens like dark areas to lay their eggs. But it doesn’t mean that they like to stay in the dark all the time. Aim for about 14-15 hours of light each day. Experts believe that anything over 16-17 hours will lead to stress, and we all know what happens next — chickens eat their eggs!
This one’s an unlikely culprit. Don’t let that poker face fool you. Thanks to their sophisticated sensory abilities, they’re pretty smart. So, sometimes, out of plain curiosity, chickens may peck at their eggs. The odds are even higher if there’s a broken egg lying around. That’ll definitely interest your chicken, and it’ll do what it does the best — eat. There’s no going back then.
Do Chickens Eat Other Hens Eggs?
While researching for this article, I compiled a list of the weirdest things people have caught their chickens eating.
- Pine shavings
- Eyeballs (failed attempt)
- Dog food
- Plastic plant tags
So, yes. Chickens eat other hens’ eggs. And that’s pretty normal compared to the list above.
How to Stop Your Chickens from Eating Their Own Eggs?
Here’s a short list of do’s and don’ts to remember next time you wonder why chickens eat their own eggs:
Remove the Eggs Frequently:
Collect eggs two or three times a day, at least once in the morning and again in the evening. Regular collection helps to keep the eggs clean and reduce the chances of cracking because of hen traffic.
Pay Attention to Chickens’ Welfare
Meticulous organization and upkeeping of henhouses are essential to keep your chickens happy. So, you must consider the factors like the space you offer for nesting and the lighting you set. As chickens are very sensitive to loud noise and movements, make sure that the nests are placed far from stimuli that trigger stress.
Address Calcium Deficiency
Give your chickens a well-rounded, nutritious feed that’s rich in protein and minerals. It won’t just put a full stop to why chickens eat their own eggs but also yield healthier eggs. To fortify the calcium in the diet, you can use the leftover eggshells from your own baking or cooking; crush them thoroughly before feeding to your chickens. But make sure that the crushed eggshells don’t resemble an egg at all. If it does, the plan backfires!
Yes, chickens eat their own eggs, and chickens eat other hens’ eggs as well. With these birds, cannibalism is quite normal and potentially rampant if not treated in time. But before you rule this behavior as a character flaw, make sure that you’re doing all you can to avoid this problem.
If you’re encountering this challenge, take a step back and find out why with the help of the above list. It’s not something you can solve in a day. Be patient with your chickens and yourself.