There’s a problem in your backyard that you need to fix. You’ve found broken eggshells with the yolk and egg white gone, but you don’t know which chicken is responsible. How do you figure out who’s been eating all of those eggs?
There are several ways to tell which chicken is eating eggs:
- Observe the nesting boxes until you catch the egg-eater
- Look for a chicken with yolk on its beak
- Place an egg near the suspected egg-eater and see if they go for it
- Set up a motion-activated camera
- There is also a chance that it is not a chicken but a predator eating your eggs.
This article will go into detail with these methods so that you can be confident in knowing who is eating your eggs and how to stop it, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Table of Contents
Observe the Nesting Boxes
If your chicken coop has windows or is big enough that you can be inside it, then you can just observe who comes in to eat the eggs. No chicken is smart enough to know that she is doing something wrong and certainly not smart enough to hide it from you.
Just sit down, listen to a podcast (with earbuds), knit, or do something else to pass the time. Soon the egg eater will show up.
Of course, this does depend on the size of your coop and how comfortable she is with you being there. If she’s afraid of you or this unusual situation, she may not want to enter the coop for a while.
There Is Yolk on Her Beak
Another way to catch the egg eater is to look for a chicken with yolk on her beak and neck – sometimes even all over the breast area. Depending on how much of a messy eater she is, you may have to look a little harder.
Check every chicken right after you have found an eaten egg. If it’s been a while, she may have cleaned it off by now, but there may still be some dry egg remains on her.
Place an Egg on the Ground
Put an egg on the ground wherever your chickens are at the moment. If the egg eater sees the egg, she will likely head straight for it and start pecking it. In her mind, you are giving her a treat.
You may not even have to sacrifice an egg. Any small round object will probably work. But make sure it’s the same color as the eggs that have been previously eaten.
Perhaps Your Chickens Are Not to Blame
If the culprit is still unknown despite all your efforts, an outsider may be breaking in and eating your eggs. This could be another bird, rats, a polecat, or any other small predator.
In my yard, we have a very brash crow. It doesn’t enter our coops, but if you leave an egg on the ground to take care of other things, he will swoop down and start eating them faster than a chicken in a worm-eating contest.
If you have uninvited guests in your chicken coop, it’s important to stop it as soon as possible. Predators rarely stick to eating eggs, and soon they may start attacking your chickens or your baby chicks. Besides, many animals (rats in particular) are carriers of diseases that you do not want all over your eggs and inside your coop.
Set Up a Camera
To catch a chicken coop burglar, patiently waiting inside the coop will not work. They will remain hidden only to continue munching on your chicken eggs as soon as you have left.
However, an ordinary surveillance camera or trail camera will do the trick. I recommend a model that can be motion-activated and will send you a text when it detects movement. When you know who the culprit is, you can find a way to catch them or prevent them from entering the coop.
Note that not all cameras will survive for very long in a dusty chicken coop, so consider using a surveillance cam made for outdoor use or a trail cam.
How to Prevent Egg-eating
An egg-eating chicken will all kinds of eggs: her own, other chickens’ eggs, and even eggs from other birds, like ducks and quail. It’s essential to break this habit very quickly. Otherwise, your other chickens will find the broken eggs and also get a taste for the delicious white and yellow protein balls.
First, clean up the nest and remove all yolk and egg white. You won’t want your other chickens to relate nesting boxes with food.
Second, find out what caused the issue in the first place. There are many possible reasons why a chicken would start eating eggs:
- Lack of protein: Chickens need protein to maintain their muscles and to produce eggs. As eggs are full of proteins, chickens may start eating them if they’re not getting enough from their feed.
- Inadequate calcium: Chickens need a lot of calcium to produce eggs, and if they don’t get what they need from other sources, they will be tempted to break eggs to eat the shells. Calcium deficiency also leads to thinner eggshells which are more likely to break and expose the delightful yolk to your chickens.
- Boredom: Chickens need to be stimulated. They need exercise and things to satisfy their natural curiosity. A bored chicken may start pecking at an egg out of sheer boredom only to find out that they taste good.
- She got the taste for eggs by coincidence: Perhaps one egg broke by accident at one point and she learned about the delicious taste of eggs.
In short, to keep your chickens from breaking and eating eggs, ensure they have sufficient protein, calcium, entertainment, and exercise.
How Do You Get Chickens to Stop Eating Their Eggs?
Once you have identified the egg eater in your flock and the reason for this habit, there are several things you can do to stop it.
Use Roll-away Nesting Boxes
Use nesting boxes with trays below the nest. This way, the eggs will roll into a secured place below the nest where the chickens can’t get to them.
If you are handy, you could also build a larger sloped tray that combines all nesting boxes and rolls the eggs into a box located on the outside of the coop. This way, it will be easy for you to check if there are any new eggs.
Roll-away nesting boxes are sure to solve your problem, but you may not want to change your existing boxes, so oftentimes, it’s better to correct this bad behavior.
Collect Eggs Very Often
Collect eggs several times per day for about ten days. If there are no eggs in the nests, your chicken won’t be tempted to eat them.
She will need some time to forget about her learned habit, but usually, it takes about ten days before you can get back to only gathering eggs once a day.
Place a Fake “Egg” in the Nest
Place a golf ball, wooden eggs, or anything else that resembles the real deal in the nest. The chicken will peck it expecting a delicious treat, and she will be disappointed to find out that it’s not a real egg.
After a few attempts, most chickens will give up, and there will be no more egg eating.
Fill an Egg with Mustard
If a fake egg doesn’t stop her, and she continues to break any real eggs, you may have to take it a step further:
Blow an egg, fill the shell with mustard, and place it in the nest. Mustard is not harmful to chickens, but they don’t like it, either. She’ll be almost sure to leave the nest alone after that.
Lock Her Up
Your last chance of stopping the egg-eating would be to keep her away from the nesting boxes so she can’t peck at them. If it’s a hen, remember to collect her own egg as soon as she lays one, or get her one of the previously-mentioned roll-away nesting boxes.
I all else fails, and she continues to break and eat eggs, you may have to send your chicken to freezer camp. An unrelenting egg eater will not stop at just one egg per day. Instead, she will get more and more brazen about her ways until the problem spirals out of control. And the other chickens will eventually follow her lead.