Causes and Cure of Egg Eating in Poultry

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One of our readers complained on Livestocking WhatsApp Group about his hens eating their eggs. He further stated that the farm has done everything possible but the habit of egg eating didn’t stop. This propelled me to write a post on this particular issue.

What is Egg Eating in Chickens?

Egg eating is an uncommon, terrible habit (a form of cannibalism) developed by some hens where they eat their own eggs or the eggs laid by other chickens. This is common menace among chickens raised on a deep-litter system. This particular habit is a financial threat and must not be taking lightly by farmers.

What are the Causes of Egg Eating Habit in Chickens?

The origin of this particular habit could be traced to boredom, curiosity, nutritional deficiencies or other management error. It is obvious that chickens are very smart and it wouldn’t take long before they realize that the eggs they lay are very tasty and rich in protein. Other causes of egg eating include:

Overcrowding: If laying hens don’t have adequate space within their pen or scoop, overcrowding would lead to stress and hence, might aggravate to eating their eggs.

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Poor nesting space: If layers are not provided with good nesting space or bedding to lay their eggs, they might be pushed to engage in egg eating.

Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiency in vital nutrients such as protein, calcium and/or vitamin D could make your layer chickens eat their eggs. The lack of these nutrients in their feeds would make they crave for these nutrients and hence discover they are present in the eggs they lay.

How to Prevent Egg Eating?

Preventing egg eating is easier than curing the habit in your flock. Do the following to prevent this habit in your flock:

  • Provide adequate nests and space for your layers and place the nesting box in a dark and quiet place within the pen.
  • Always collect eggs as often as possible. This limits the chances of egg cracking or breakage which encourages the hens to eat them up. It is recommended to collect eggs every hour, especially in the morning.
  • Provide a well-balanced, formulated feeds for your hens and ensure such feed does not lack calcium, protein, and vitamins.
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How to Cure Egg Eating Habit in Chickens?

In case your hens have developed the habit of eating their own eggs, it is still possible to resolve the problem through some nutritional and management modifications which include:

  • Feeding your laying hens with calcium supplement such adding limestone, bone meal and/or oyster sell to their feed. The additional calcium in their diet would enhance the strength of the eggshell which indirectly lowers the chances of soft-shelled or cracked eggs.
  • Provide the hens with liquid milk and allow them to drink it. This should be done continuously for several days and the rate of egg eating would greatly decrease.
  • Immediately isolate any hen caught engaging in eating eggs. Normally, this particular cannibalistic habit starts with one hen before other hens or chickens join. Always keep a closer and careful look on your chickens immediately you notice they eat their eggs. Look at the beak of each chicken and any birds you spotted with egg yolk or pieces of eggshell on their beaks should be removed from the flock instantly.
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Final Note: If after doing all the above and the habit persists, the best thing is to cull all birds and get a new flock. Since keeping them would incur financial losses for you.

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