Why Hens Eat Their Own Eggs
What do I do to stop my hens from eating eggs? This is one of the most asked questions by many poultry farmers. Whereas these farmers are desperate to get answers to this question, they (the farmers) fail to ask one more question whose answers would answer their question. Have I confused anyone with this statement!? What it simply means is that the actual question the farmers should be asking is ‘what causes hens to eat their own eggs?’ This is a more objective question. By knowing the reasons why hens eat their own eggs, a farmer can be in a better place to come up with countermeasures for this menace.
Egg-eating habit by hens is a costly behaviour to any farmer. Nothing irritates the farmer than collecting shells of eggs in the laying nests every day, not because the hens have just hatched bouncing baby chicks but simply because they have just devoured on their own eggs soon after laying.
These are the main factors that can cause birds to eat their own eggs.
Overcrowding: The recommended space per bird in the coop is between 2 to 4 square foot per bird if they are not able to free range. If birds are overcrowded, they will definitely step on the eggs which can cause damage and subsequently tempting the birds to eat them. Overcrowding also increases stress in birds which may breed this unruly behaviour – egg eating.
Inadequate laying boxes: It is recommended that one nest box for every four hens. Inadequate laying boxes mean that hens scramble for the boxes and eggs may get damaged by treading, rolling etc. If they break open- a hen is going to eat the contents.
Lack of water: Hens have been known to crack eggs if they are thirsty. Ensure clean, fresh water is always available.
Hunger: A hungry hen is most likely to eat her eggs compared to a well-fed one. A good quality 16-18% protein feed should be sufficient during the laying season unless the bird is molting, in which case, higher protein and calcium content is needed.
Unbalanced diet: If the hen has an imbalance in her diet, she will try to correct it. If there is not enough protein available, egg eating is one way to supplement the diet with protein.
Boredom: Hens get into mischief when they are bored! Try to keep them occupied, if they free range, you likely won’t have a problem. If they are confined, you need to offer other activities to keep them busy- tetherball, scratching etc. or play them some music!
Too much light. Hens like a darkened, private area in which to lay their eggs. Laying boxes should, therefore, be kept areas with minimal light.
Whereas it is important to know the remedies for egg-eating habit in layers, it is even more important to understand the main causes of egg-eating behaviour in layers. Egg-eating vice can be caused by a variety of factors which can be particular for different flocks. As a farmer, it is crucial to establish probable causes of this vice and subsequently implement appropriate countermeasures to avert losses.