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Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

October 13, 2008

Chicken problems, any ideas?

I've got a bad girl or two. I don't know which one it is, or if it's all of them for that matter, but somehow my chickens discovered that they like eggs. Yep, that's right, they found out that those things that they keep making and I keep taking are actually pretty tasty.

So I'm going to my master resource...you all. What's a farmer to do? Any ideas on how to curtail this problem? Or for that matter any ideas on causes?
I've read, and believe, that it's not normal behavior for chickens to eat their eggs. Some of the possible causes I've found are too little calcium in their diets, poor living conditions, infrequent checking for eggs and inadequate nesting space. These all make sense to some degree. If a chicken is calcium deficient then yeah, they may realize that they can get it from the shells, if they are in poor living conditions then they may not develop their natural nesting instincts and the longer the eggs lay around, the more likely one is to get broken and the birds will have a chance to develop a "taste" for them.
Here's the thing. I feel like we've been pretty responsible in providing adequate housing for the birds, they get fed a 20% layer feed every day that is mixed with oyster shells for calcium (and grit) and we check the coop for eggs at least twice a day. So what's left... the nesting area. This is really the only area of the coop that I've not been completely happy with. I didn't build it as separate individual boxes, more like a separate open area that fits a couple of birds where they tend to lay their eggs, or did anyway. Lately I've been finding them all over the coop area. On the grate in the middle of the coop, on the ground and some in the nesting area. I also can't get them to keep any straw in the beds. Every time I put some in, they scratch at it, and spread it all over the place. So, that's where I guess I'll work to try to solve the problem in the short term.
I'm really interested in hearing from any of you that either have or are raising chickens with any experiences that you've had with this. A lot of the places that I researched said that this is a habit that can't be broken and that the birds have to be culled from the flock. I don't mind culling a bird that needs to be, but I don't want to blame them for something that I'm not doing correctly.
Thanks in advance.
P~

10 comments:

Sadge said...

Calcium can help. We save our eggshells, dry in a big jar, and mash them up into tiny pieces - you don't want them to look anything like they used to be part of an egg - and dump the pieces in their feed box. Another thing that seems to help is making the nest boxes dark as possible. We've hung pieces of carpet with the bottom part sliced into strips over the front of the boxes (our boxes also open from the outside, at the back, for egg collection). And try collecting the eggs more frequently during the day if possible so the egg-eater doesn't have a chance to get to them. If Grandma found a chicken with egg on its beak, it was dinner that night, but we don't do that here.

Anonymous said...

We also give our girls their own crushed eggshells. They always eat them and have not broken their own eggs since.tp

Phelan said...

Agree with the two above. Also look at getting them more bugs and more greens, like clover and dandelion leaves. (the last two especially if they are picking feathers.)

rachelbess said...

It doesn't sound like calcium deficiencies, it sounds like chickens that found out they make their own tasty treats, like you said. I looked at your nest area and agree you might be better served to create separate boxes (I have found that the suggested 1 box per 4 chickens isn't enough, I do 1 box per 2.5 chickens or so) Also it looks like your nesting area has a very shallow lip. Remember that they make their nests mostly by having a large pile of material and scratching it out sideways until it's kind of a bowl shape. I would make the lip about 4-5 inches high. One thing you might try to discourage it, is be super vigilant now about getting the eggs as soon as they're laid, and then replacing them with a golf ball/fake egg covered in "rooster booster" or another anti-feather picking product that chickens hate the taste of. I have no idea if this will work, but it seems like it might be worth a shot.

Laura said...

I agree with rachelbess, and also think you may want to dust for mites. This time of year is when they're coming inside (just like fleas). All you need is some diatomaceous (sp?) earth - make sure it's food grade. Then sprinkle it liberally in the roost / nest box. Then, in the mostly dark, pick up each hen, turn her over and dust her downy bottom. You can dust their backs as well, but I usually do just the bottoms and they'll spread it around themselves.

It doesn't mean that you have a huge problem, it's just that sometimes if they're getting bitten when they go to lay they'll decide to lay elsewhere.

Which reminds me that it's time for some dusting around our house...

farm mom said...

You've got some wonderful suggestions here!! I'd try them all! You'd really be suprised by just how much the changing light during a season change cahn effect them. Put some curtains over their boxes if need be. I also agree that the boxes should be separate with a decent lip for their nest-making.

And Laura is soooo right about the pests, although she missed a big one.....mice. If they've discovered your cozy henhouse it's the nestboxes that they'll LOVE. Causing the hens to get spooked and lay elsewhere, or dig like the dickens trying to find the culprit. As for the DE, I put a big pile out in their run, in their favorite dusting hole and let them do the dusting themselves. (dust all the crooks and crannies and boxes in the henhouse too.)

And you're right my friend. Once this problem starts, I hear it's extremely difficult if not impossible to get it to stop. I've read that some people have had limited success in doing as Rackhelbess said, and being vigilant about collecting eggs and replacing them with fake ones coated in something hot/spicy or yucky tasting. Good Luck p!

Compostwoman said...

I have an ex battery rescue hen who lays really well BUT likes to eat eggs.I have stopped her by putting in seveal rubber eggs in each nest box. It seemed to confuse her, she pecked at them a bit, they didn't break, so she gave up...I only had to do it for a few weeks and then she stopped..I believethe technique is called "flooding" when used in dog behaviour world, but it worked for me and nmeant I didn;t have to consider killing a hen who was eating everybodies eggs, but who had had a bad start in life with other humans.......

Anonymous said...

It may be the lack of bedding in the nesting boxes causing the eggs to crack when laid. The girls then see the cracked egg and peck at it until they end up eating the whole egg.

When our girls whet cannibalistic on us we put wood pellets in our nesting boxes and as long as they don't scratch it all out we haven't had any more cracked (or eaten) eggs.

- www.JoeLevi.com

BTW, are you going to City Council Meeting tonight? I'm calling the Mayor on shirking his duty...

molly said...

Get an egg, put a small hole either end, blow the egg out of its shell, seal one hole in the egg with a little silicone or similar, mix a little water with any hot powders, cayenne, chilli powder, mustard, etc, inject into hole in eggg, seal.

Leave a few of these around, once tried they will never touch another egg. Has worked marvels for us over the years.

Blessings:)

han_ysic said...

In terms of where they are laying, maybe get a couple of golf or pingpong balls and put them where you want them to lay, they tend to all lay in the same spot (eg, they will all lay under the broody chook) so will normally lay eggs there, the hardness may also help in deterring the eating of eggs.
H