Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?
Chickens often eat their own eggs, these include both pet chickens and/or hens part of the meat and egg industry. However, although we have mentioned that this behavior is habitual, it is a warning sign that may indicate a health or behavioral problem in your chicken. This is why this behavior cannot be ignored and, if noticed, should be attended to. But, why do chickens peck holes in their eggs?
For more about why do chickens eat their own eggs, keep reading here at AnimalWised. We will be analyzing this behavior and its causes in addition to explaining what you can do to stop your chicken from eating its eggs.
Why do chickens eat their eggs: is it bad?
The ingestion of eggs in hens is not abnormal behavior and is not harmful to a chicken’s health. However, when it happens, it is a sign that something is wrong. Chickens eating their own eggs is a possible symptoms of health problems and/or stress. This is why it is vital to make sure your chicken is surrounded by fair living conditions that maximize its state of health.
But, how do you know if your chicken is eating its own eggs? This can be observed if you notice an absence in eggs or decrease in laying. It is also possible that you may notice egg or feather remains on your hen’s beak. Visible residue is not very common as a hen will generally ingest an egg in its entirety, including the shell.
In most cases, chickens acquire this habit accidentally. The consumption of eggs by chickens helps them increase levels of calcium, fat and protein in the body. Therefore, if this occurs, it may be a sign that your chicken is suffering from a feeding problem. In some cases, chickens may also eat the eggs of others.
But why do chickens eat their own eggs? What motivates this behavior? Keep reading to find out.
Why do chickens eat their own eggs?
How do you prevent chickens from eating their own eggs? Although there are systems that help avoid this behavior, such as the use of cages, you must know that this method does not help to solve the cause of the problem. In fact, even though adding cages may stop chickens from eating their eggs, it doesn’t treat the anxiety or stress which your chicken is suffering from.
Therefore, the best way to prevent chickens from eating their eggs is to identify the problem that is causing this behavior and treat it. Below we list the 3 main reasons that explain why chickens eat their eggs:
There are several poultry diseases that can affect our chickens, such as bronchitis or the presence of parasites, internal and external. Therefore, if in addition to observing that your hens ingest their own eggs, you also notice abnormal symptoms, we recommend consulting a specialist. A specialized veterinarian will be able to help you identify the specific cause and how to treat it accordingly. For more, we recommend reading our article about the most common diseases in poultry.
2. Nutritional problems and/or lack of water in pens
Nutritional deficiencies are another reason that could explain why a chickens eats its eggs. When a chicken doesn’t receive a balanced diet and lacks essential nutrients for proper development and/or maintenance, it’s common that it will manifest problems related to food, i.e: eating its own eggs.
As we have mentioned previously, eggs are an excellent source of fat, protein and calcium. This means that you need to make sure your chickens are receiving the right amount of these mentioned nutrients in their daily feed. In this case, we recommend seeking professional guidance from a specialized veterinarian, especially if dealing with breeding chickens.
In addition, the consumption of water is as important and necessary as the contribution of a properly balanced diet. A dehydrated hen can resort to eating her own eggs in order to ingest missing liquids that her body requires. While this behavior can occur at any time of the year, it is more common in summer. Therefore, NEVER forget to offer your chickens fresh water constantly throughout the day.
3. Stress and anxiety
Along with the appearance of pathologies and nutritional deficiencies, stress is the third most common risk factor that could explain why chickens eat their own eggs. Overcrowding, meaning the accumulation of individuals in an extremely small space, is one of the main problems that motivate this behavior. This is more common in chicken farms.
Another reason that may cause a development of stress in chickens is poor lighting. Sufficient lighting is extremely important for chickens. This problem, again, is more common in inhumane factories where a chicken’s living conditions are beyond comprehensible.
As with other animals, stress triggers abnormal behavior in chickens, which includes:
- Pecking between individuals (plucking feathers from each other ).
- The appearance of stereotypies (repetitive movements with no apparent purpose)
- Eating their own eggs,
In these cases, it is essential to focus on bettering your chicken’s enrichment, well-being and environment.
How do you stop chickens from eating their own eggs
Now that you know the main causes behind the behavior of chickens eating their own eggs, how can you stop it?
1. Offer your chickens a high-quality balanced diet
Feeding is crucial when trying to keep your chickens healthy. You must offer your chickens a diet containing the necessary amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and calcium that they need. Chickens have a tendency to suffer from calcium deficiency, especially in laying hens. This can directly affects a chicken’s health and the health of the egg’s shell, which can becomes weaker and more brittle.
Therefore, it is fundamental that you offer your chickens a complete feed, perfectly adapted to its needs. If you suspect that diet is the reason for this behavior, we recommend consulting a veterinarian to to confirm the diagnosis and consult the option of supplements.
2. Improves your chicken’s welfare
Distribution and organization of a hen-house is essential in keeping your chickens happy. Therefore you must take into account the space you have to offer before adopting these birds.
Nests within cages should be placed at a certain distance from the ground. They should also contain an adequate, soft, abundant and comfortable filling. Ideally, you should offer a minimum space of 600 cm2 per bird. This is in addition to encouraging foraging behavior with perches, as well as free access to an outdoor area with vegetation during the day.
In addition, lighting should be scarce. We do not recommend placing light bulbs in the nest, much less have them on all day. Remember that chickens are also very sensitive to loud noises or sudden movements, therefore, their nests should be installed a fair distance away from any stimulus that may cause stress or anxiety.
3. Remove the chicken eggs frequently
One way to prevent chickens from eating their eggs is by removing them frequently. We recommend doing this twice a day, after 10 o'clock in the morning and at the end of the afternoon.
4. Offer your chickens adequate preventive medicine
Apart from consulting a veterinarian to rule out the presence of health problems that may be causing this behavior, offering your chickens quality veterinary follow-ups on a regular basis is essential in preventing and detecting pathologies.
For more, we recommend reading our article where we discuss everything you need to know about chickens as pets: guidelines and breeds.
If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
- Laying hens - farming (egg production). 2019, de Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Disponible en: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/farm/layinghens/farming