What came first- the chickens or the blog?

The guilty one has egg on her face

on April 30, 2014

This week we have had glorious Spring weather and enjoying more than our fair share of time outdoors. But there has been a rather big cloud over my contentment.
Someone has been eating the Gillybirds eggs. Not us. Not the lucky recipients of the odd box of freshly laid eggs.
But the Gillybirds themselves. One of them. Maybe all?
Consulting the hen community online this does appear to be a common problem. And there are as many reasons why they do it as there are solutions to stop this annoying habit. Here are some of the online suggestions and my response –

It may come as a surprise to learn that hens will eat their own eggs, but who can blame them? They’re fresh, tasty and nutritious. However, egg-eating is a habit that should be discouraged as soon as possible after discovery. Not only does it reduce the number of eggs available for collection, it is also a habit that is quickly learned by other flock members. Some hen experts suggest culling of the guilty party! This seems very drastic.
Reasons for broken eggs in nest boxes range from the presence of too few nest boxes, more than one hen jockeying for position in a nest box, bored chickens and broody hens intimidating laying hens and monopolizing the nests.
With only three hens, none of whom are broody these don’t appear to be the cause of the problem.
Improper diet (wrong feed or too many treats/scraps, not offering oyster shell in a separate hopper, etc.) can result in a lack of protein, Vitamin D or calcium deficiency, leading hens to seek out alternate sources of nutrition.
I have reduced treats and offered oyster shell in case this is the issue.
Stress from being disturbed or startled in the nest box can cause breakage, creating a curiosity and the opportunity for the habit to begin.
There is building work going on the the house behind ours right now. Hens do appear to be easily stressed by any environmental changes.
Exposed or brightly lit nest boxes may lead to nervousness and picking at eggs. Hens prefer dark, private locations for egg-laying.
The Gillybirds eagle is a very dark, cosy secure place where they have never had any problem laying before.
Thirsty hens may eat eggs for the liquid.
It has been warmer and drier, but the water trough hold 5 litres of fresh water and there is always plenty.

Identifying the culprit
The coop should be checked for possible security. Predators such as rats, are known egg thieves; even the smallest of holes can allow an egg-eater access to the goods. If no egg thieves are identified, missing eggs are likely due to a flock member.
The fact that there is a beak shaped hole in the top of the egg is a bit of a giveaway!
Take note of activity around the nest boxes during peak egg-laying times; egg-eaters can be found loitering around them, looking for their next snack.
Egg-eating is messy business; egg-eaters can usually be found with egg yolk on their beaks, faces or feathers.
I am checking for yolks faces with no luck so far. No one looks guilty either.
Collect eggs frequently. If eggs aren’t in the nest box, they can’t be eaten.
Provide at least one 12”x 12” nest box for every four hens.
Break broody hens that are not sitting on hatching eggs to free-up nest box space.
No one is broody.
Ensure adequate nest box material, which will reduce the likelihood of eggs cracking on the hard floor. Straw or plastic nest box pads are much better choices than pine shavings or hay. Employ roll-out nests, which roll eggs out of the nest when laid, removing any temptation or opportunity.
The nest box has a deep bed of straw as usual.
Provide layer feed for laying hens and limit treats in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Supply oyster shell or finely crushed eggshells in a separate dish to strengthen eggshells of all layers, to meet the calcium needs of the egg-eater in particular and reduce the probability of weak-shelled eggs breaking accidentally.
Allow hens to work, undisturbed in the morning, keeping busy children and other noises away from the hen house to minimum.
Hang nest box curtains for laying privacy to increase privacy, reduce stress and hide eggs from snack-seekers.
Curtains! You’re kidding!
Place decoy eggs in nest boxes on the theory that pecking at an unyielding ‘egg’ will deter such conduct in the future. Decoy eggs can be golf balls, wooden eggs, marble eggs, plastic eggs, etc.
I am heading to the attic to take out the Easter decorative eggs for this very purpose.
Fill blown eggs with mustard and seal with a dab of paraffin. The hope is that the unpleasant flavor of the unexpected contents will deter future egg-eating.
Euw! Yuk.
Ensure access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
Ensure adequate space in the coop and run for chickens that do not free-rage. Minimum recommendations are 4 square feet per bird inside the coop and 10 square feet per bird in the run.
Provide confined flocks with activities such as healthy treats for pecking (eg: Flock Block substitute)
Segregate the egg-eater daily until the rest of the flock has finished laying eggs for the day. Worst case scenario, they eat their own eggs, but not anyone else’s.
Egg-eating need not be cause for culling a chicken from a backyard flock. With some minor coop revisions and changes in routine, even the most avid egg connoisseur can be rehabilitated.
Let’s hope so!


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