Are your chickens pecking holes in eggs before you can collect them? There is always an underlying problem.
Did you find holes in your freshly collected eggs? Are you wondering – why do chickens peck holes in their eggs? Believe it or not, it is a common problem that all chicken owners experience from time to time. You simply need to know what to do.
Finding holes in your chicken eggs is frustrating. We raise eggs because of their ability to lay eggs, a beloved source of protein and nutrients. Even a small hole means that we can’t use them, and they have to be tossed.
For farmers or backyard chicken keepers who sell their eggs, chickens pecking holes in their eggs is also a costly problem.
In general, there will be a reason for this behavior. The longer that the hens peck at their eggs, the harder it is to break the habit. There are several reasons why chickens peck holes in their eggs, so you have to watch your flock to determine what the root cause is to decide a solution.
Regardless of the reason, pecked eggs can be a real problem for those who raise chickens. Not only do they represent a loss of potential income, but they can also attract pests and predators to the coop.
So, let’s dive into the reasons why chickens peck holes in their eggs, as well as some strategies for preventing this behavior.
Why Do Chickens Peck Holes in Their Eggs?
Egg eating can be a frustrating problem for many backyard chicken keepers. Chickens peck their fresh eggs for a reason; here are a few that may be the problem.
Chickens are naturally curious creatures, and they may peck at their eggs simply out of curiosity. This behavior is more common in young chickens who are experiencing laying eggs for the first time.
Chickens want to understand the world around them. That means their own eggs could be a source of curiosity. Chicken owners will likely notice this if their chickens are allowed to wander around the property.
In general, if simple curiosity is the reason for egg eating, it won’t last that long. Generally, the chickens poke holes in their eggs because they want to know about the contents.
Chickens that are bored or confined to a small space may peck at their eggs as a form of entertainment. Providing environmental enrichment, such as toys or access to a larger space, can help reduce this behavior.
Keeping your chickens entertained is essential. They need plenty of space to roam and explore, which keeps them out of close proximity to their own eggs.
Chickens that don’t have proper square feet of space are more likely to suffer from boredom. Chickens are quite intelligent animals, so they’ll find stimulation to reduce their boredom, even if that means you lose eggs.
3. Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is an essential nutrient for eggshell formation. If a chicken is not getting enough calcium in their diet, it may peck at its eggs to consume the calcium-rich shell.
Even if you use store-bought chicken feed, it may not be enough to supply a hen’s calcium needs. Chickens that lack calcium will lay eggs with softer shells, and these eggs are more prone to egg breakage. If you find soft-shelled eggs, you will know calcium deficiency is the problem.
You also may see other signs that a lack of calcium is a problem, such as:
- Soft-shelled eggs
- Abnormal skeletal development
- Feather Loss
- Chickens pecking at stones
Providing a calcium supplement or offering crushed oyster shells can help prevent this behavior.
4. Testing the Shells
Chickens may peck at their eggs to test the strength of the shell. Hens may test their eggs to see if they’re viable for hatching; a broody hen won’t sit on a weak egg with a soft shell.
Eggs with weak shells will be discarded by the hen who wants to sit on them to hatch the eggs. Sometimes, the other chickens in the coop will eat the eggs once the hen pokes a small hole into the shell.
Other times, the hen tests the shell, but she pecks too hard. However, testing is typically used to find soft-shelled eggs, which are unlikely to hatch a healthy chicken. Soft eggs are most common in older hens and hens with a calcium deficiency.
5. Protein Deficiency
Protein is also essential for egg production. If a chicken is not getting enough protein in their diet, it may peck at its eggs to consume the protein-rich contents.
Check the nutrient label on the feed bag to determine the prone content. You also can give your flock meat scraps, sunflower seeds, grubs, and mealworms.
A protein deficiency often comes with other signs, such as:
- Weakened immune system
- Abnormalities in wings or feathers
- Reduced muscle size
6. Enjoy the Taste
Unfortunately, some chickens may learn that the contents of an egg are delicious and begin to peck holes in their eggs to access the yolk and egg white. This behavior can quickly become a habit and is difficult to break.
A dedicated egg eater is hard to stop. They recognize that eggs are a tasty source of food. Like humans, eating eggs is a bad habit, but it is possible to break the habit if using the right solutions.
How Can I Tell Which Chickens Are Eating Eggs?
To determine which chickens are eating eggs, there are a few things to look out for.
First, observe the behavior of the chickens. Chickens that are eating eggs will often be seen pecking at them or hovering around the nesting boxes. They may also have egg yolk or shell fragments on their beaks or feathers.
Another way to tell which chickens are eating eggs is to place a fake egg or golf ball in the nesting box. Chickens that are eating eggs will often peck at the fake egg or the golfs ball in an attempt to break it open.
All of this requires you to sit and watch your flock regularly. Another option is to install cameras near the nesting boxes and watch to see which chicken is the criminal.
How to Stop Chickens from Pecking Holes in Their Eggs
As soon as you notice your chickens peck holes in their eggs, you have to stop the behavior. Feel free to try to combine a few of these tactics to stop the problem as soon as possible.
Collect Eggs Frequently
One of the most effective ways to prevent chickens from pecking holes in their eggs is to collect them frequently. Chickens are naturally curious birds and may peck at their eggs out of boredom or curiosity. By collecting the eggs frequently, you remove the temptation for them to peck at their eggs.
I send my kids out at least two or three times per day to check for eggs. However, if your schedule doesn’t allow for this, there are other things you can try.
Add Fake Eggs
Another way to prevent chickens from pecking holes in their eggs is to add fake eggs to the nest boxes. This helps to trick the chickens into thinking that the eggs are already laid and reduces their curiosity.
Decoy eggs are often made of wood; unpainted wooden eggs are a great choice, but you also may find ceramic eggs at local farm stores.
Fake eggs should be placed in the nesting boxes or nesting areas where your chickens often lay eggs. This is a hands-off way to deter chickens from pecking eggs. Another option is to simply put the eggs into the chicken coop area a few times a day. They tend to get the point fastest this way.
Here are some other suggestions to try when using decoy eggs to discourage chickens from eating their eggs.
- Use a golf ball rather than a decoy egg.
- Instead of buying fake eggs, you can try removing the contents of the egg and filling it with mustard. Chickens hate mustards
- Coat the eggs in petroleum jelly, an additional deterrent.
Give More Entertainment Options
Chickens that are bored or stressed are more likely to peck at their eggs. When they lack an outlet for their energy, they’ll turn to their nesting area. So, add some sources of stimulation.
Here are some suggestions.
- Provide chicken ladders or chicken swings for your chickens to perch on throughout the day.
- Create areas for a dust bath, an essential way for chickens to stay clean and entertain themselves.
- You can get a collection of chicken toys.
- Try a cabbage or lettuce holder; chickens love to peck at them.
- Allow your backyard chickens to free range as much as possible.
If your chickens are comfortable being handled regularly, some petting time each day adds stimulation and enhances bonding.
Use a Calcium Supplement
Chickens need calcium to produce strong eggshells. If they are not getting enough calcium from their diet, they may peck at their eggs to get the calcium they need. Adding a calcium supplement to their diet can help to prevent this behavior.
There are plenty of ways to add extra calcium to your flock’s diet. Here are some suggestions.
- Try a food-grade calcium powder, and mix it into your flock’s regular layer feed.
- Put out containers of crushed oyster shells; chickens will take them if they need them.
- Leafy greens added to your chicken’s diet will naturally increase their calcium amount.
- Technically, you can use crushed eggshells as a calcium supplement, but you should be careful with this. You don’t want to encourage the idea of eating eggs.
Add More Protein to The Flock’s Diet
Take a look at your feed bags and change the protein percentage. Your flock may prefer a higher percentage. I keep my flock on a feed that is 20% protein, and it seems to help with their protein needs.
Of course, there are other protein sources for chickens. Here are some good choices.
- Fish or fish meal
- Pumpkin seeds
- Black oil sunflower seeds
- Meat scraps
- Insects & Grubs
Change the Taste of the Eggs
Chickens may simply enjoy the taste of the eggs, so if this is the case, changing the taste of the eggs should help stop the egg-eating chicken.
Stopping this behavior takes some trickiness. You want them to take a bite – a few tastes over a few days – and discover that their beloved eggs taste horrible now.
You can do this with soap and mustard. Fill an empty eggshell with dish soap and mustard – this combination is like egg whites and egg yolk. Peck a small hole into the egg, empty out its contents, fill it up, and leave it in the nesting boxes to be discovered.
Create Soft, Cushioned Nesting Areas
When a chicken lays an egg, they stand up and squat until the egg comes out. That means the egg may fall a few inches before it hits the nesting area. if the area isn’t soft, such as an exposed wooden bottom, the egg may break.
A broken egg is all it takes for a chicken to discover they enjoy the taste of an egg.
So, line the bottom of the coop nesting boxes with soft material, such as nesting box pads. I put some more straw on top because they like to dig and fluff in their boxes.
If you do notice an egg broke in the nesting boxes, clean it up fast, or they may discover this yumminess for themselves.
In conclusion, chickens peck holes in their eggs for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Lack of calcium in their diet
- Stress or boredom
- Lack of space in their coop or nesting box
It is important for chicken owners to take steps to address these issues and prevent egg pecking. This may include providing a balanced, healthy diet with adequate calcium, ensuring the chickens have enough space and stimulation, and collecting eggs several times per day.
While it can be frustrating to deal with egg pecking, it is important to remember that chickens are animals with their own instincts and behaviors. By understanding why they peck eggs and taking steps to address the underlying causes, chicken owners can curb this behavior before it becomes a real issue.