Perhaps you’re desperately seeking an answer to this question: “Why do chickens peck holes in their eggs?” This is a common problem that both new and experienced chicken owners alike deal with from time to time. So, I decided to do some research.
It’s no fun to come across our beloved chickens pecking holes at their own eggs. It can be very frustrating, since the whole reason for keeping chickens is usually for their eggs. Even just small holes pecked in chicken eggs makes them virtually unusable. It can make this whole process of keeping backyard chickens begin to feel like a waste.
It is very important to do something about this problem in a prompt manner. The longer that egg-pecking hens continue their habit, the harder it is to break them of it. You don’t want them continually identifying their own eggs as a source of food for themselves.
So, we want to know what we can do about it, right? But we need to talk about what causes chickens to peck at their own eggs in the first place. Because sometimes, knowing the root cause makes coming to a solution much easier. And after that, we will cover some specific ways to hopefully stop your chickens from pecking holes in their eggs!
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Why do chickens peck holes in their eggs?
Sometimes chickens peck holes in their eggs due to boredom. If you keep your chickens in a small area and rarely move them or give them opportunity to roam and explore, they are more likely to get bored. It also forces them to stay in closer proximity to their own eggs.
Chickens have a natural sense of curiosity, and they like to explore what’s around them. Sometimes that means they devolve into pecking their own eggs, if there aren’t enough other things for them to do. If you have room in the chicken coop, consider providing some ladders or swings for them to perch on. You can also create a specific area for them to take a dust bath in. Chickens typically love rolling around in mulch or loose dirt. Making sure they have enough space to spread out is also helpful.
Another way that a broody hen pecks out of curiosity is to test its strength. This can help the mother hen determine the health of any potential baby chicks hatching.
Another reason that chickens sometimes peck holes in their eggs is due to a calcium deficiency. Calcium is one of the most important components of a chicken’s diet for this very reason. Often times, store-bought feed alone is not enough to supply a hen’s calcium needs.
A chicken that is lacking in calcium lays eggs with softer shells that are more prone to egg breakage. And there are other symptoms you can watch out for to determine if your chicken is calcium deficient. External signs can include abnormal skeletal development and feather loss. Finding that a chicken pecks at stones is another sign that it isn’t getting enough calcium.
There is another type of nutritional deficiency that can cause chickens to peck at their own eggs, and that is a protein deficiency. If your birds are hungry for more protein, they may turn to egg eating as an easy way to source it. So be sure to provide them with plenty of grubs like meal worms, seeds such as sunflower seeds, and even some meat scraps.
Additional signs of protein deficiency in chickens include lethargy, a weak immune system, or abnormalities in wings/feathers. (source)
It pays off to sit and observe your chickens from time to time. Doing so will help you stay on top of dealing with these kinds of nutritional deficiencies.
Developed taste for the egg
Unfortunately, sometimes the problem of chickens pecking holes in their eggs is caught or dealt with too late. When this happens, usually the chicken is a full-fledged egg eater and has developed a preferential taste for them. It’s become an easy and tasty source of food, so they figure, why not search it out?
This also means that the bad habit is more deeply ingrained in them, making it harder to break.
But, don’t give up hope yet! Let’s cover some solutions that can be implemented, even if you are already at this stage.
Ways To Stop Chickens From Pecking Holes In Their Eggs
The first method I’m about to list is, I believe, the most effective at stopping chickens from pecking at their eggs. The best part is, it’s simple and tends to work fairly quickly. I’ll also share some other ways to help stop chickens from pecking holes in their eggs. Feel free to combine different tactics to help stop your chicken egg-pecking problem as fast as possible!
Use decoy eggs
Decoy eggs are fake eggs that are usually made of wood. I prefer the unpainted wooden eggs, because I feel like they’re healthier for the chickens. You can also find ceramic eggs, which are usually a little cheaper.
These fake eggs can be placed in the nest boxes where chickens typically lay eggs. This is the most hands-off way to put them to good use. However, throwing the eggs straight into your coop area one or two times a day (basically, whenever you feed your chickens) is usually the quickest, most effective way to make them get the point.
I don’t know about you, but my chickens flock to me whenever I head over to the coop area. They know that I usually come bearing food or treats. So when I throw an egg on the ground, they immediately start trying to peck at it. I’m sure they’re disappointed to find that they can not pierce through the egg, but that’s okay. You can give them other treats at this time too.
Some bonus tips for you:
- Although I’ve never tried it myself, I’ve heard of people coating their fake eggs in petroleum jelly as an additional deterrent.
- If you don’t want to buy fake eggs, you can try hollowing out a few real ones and replacing the contents of the egg with mustard (which chickens hate the taste of).
- You can try using a golf ball in place of a decoy egg.
Collect eggs quickly so chickens can’t peck holes in their eggs
This may seem obvious, but collecting eggs often is another great way to avoid having pecked eggs. Sure, it’s a little annoying and inconvenient. However, if you do find the time to head out to the coop 2-3 times each morning as the hens are laying, you will end up with fewer damaged eggs.
But if your schedule doesn’t permit you to do this, there are still more options you can implement!
Supplement with calcium
As already mentioned, calcium is a critical component to helping your chickens lay strong eggs that withstand pressure or pecking. Supplementing with calcium can also help eliminate any desire that chickens have to peck holes in their eggs.
There are lots of ways to add extra calcium to a chicken’s diet. The easiest is to purchase a simple food-grade calcium powder that can be mixed into regular layer feed. Other great sources of calcium include crushed oyster shells, chipped limestone, or any leafy green.
You can also use broken egg shells as a calcium supplement for chickens, but in this situation, be careful that they are finely crushed. You don’t want to encourage any association between eggs and food.
How to know which chicken(s) are pecking holes in their eggs
Sometimes it’s helpful to narrow down to which exact chicken(s) are causing the problem.
There are really only two ways you can figure out exactly which chickens are pecking at their eggs:
- Install cameras near nesting boxes and try to catch them
- Take the old-fashioned route and sit and listen/observe one morning (listen for the breaking of the shell)
But, the only time I would care about separating the problem bird from the rest of the flock would be because I want to cull or rehome that particular egg-eating chicken. Sometimes it just ain’t worth the fight anymore, and that’s okay.
Summary on chickens that peck holes in their eggs
There is no inherent danger for chickens that eat their own raw eggs. But for the person whose sole purpose in having chickens is to eat or sell their own fresh eggs, a chicken with an egg-eating habit can be quite a setback.
Seeking to understand the common reasons why a chicken pecks at its eggs is the first thing to do when having this problem. And implementing the solutions listed here will result in even more healthy eggs to provide to your family or community!
You may also enjoy these posts on homesteading:
Are Chickens Hard To Keep?: A Quick Guide
14 Frugal Homesteading Blogs: Homestead Living Tips
The Homestead Cow and Why They’re Great