If you own a number of chickens, you may have noticed that they have started to, or routinely, peck holes in their eggs. Why do they do this, what does it mean and are there any ways to stop it? Wondering why my chickens partake in this behavior, I since decided to conduct some research into the topic. I would like to present this information here with you today. Hopefully, it will be of great benefit.
So, why do chickens peck holes in their eggs? Chickens peck holes in their eggs because they are either curious, hungry, testing the strength of the shell, or want to support their baby chicks during the hatching process. Sometimes, your chickens may be accidentally stepping on their eggs which gives off the illusion that they are pecking them.
Removing eggs frequently and placing fake eggs in the nesting box are two effective methods to limit and eliminate egg pecking from chickens.
Let us now explore this topic in further detail. We’ll also be looking at how you can eliminate this behavior for good and how to identify which chickens are the culprits!
Why Do Chickens Peck Their Eggs?
There are multiple reasons why chickens peck their eggs. Your chicken(s) may:
- Be curious as to the contents,
- Have Developed a taste for Eggs due to previous pecking/broken eggs
- Are testing the strength of the shell(s)
- Are attempting to support the hatching process,
- Have a calcium deficiency
Alternatively, your chickens may not actually be pecking their eggs. A lot of chicken owners report that they have mistaken holes in the egg for pecking when in fact, holes are the result of accidental stepping on the eggs.
The sharp toenails pierce the shells. This often happens with small nesting boxes and/or a nesting box that is overfull with fresh eggs.
It’s important to consider, that at first when a hen begins to lay eggs, they are thin and tend to break easily.
Pullets (hens that are younger than a year old) are susceptible to curiosity. In many cases, they are inquisitive as to the contents of the eggs in which they lay.
By pecking, and discovering a delicious treat inside, hens (particularly pullets) can soon develop a taste for the eggs. For this reason, it can quickly become a habit whereby they partake in this behavior frequently for their tasty reward.
Alternatively, other chicken owners have reported that their chickens are simply testing the strength of the shell in which they have produced.
In this way, the egg is being evaluated and tested to see if it is worth attempting to hatch.
A strong egg with a thick shell will ultimately be sat on. On the other hand, a weaker egg will be discarded and potentially eaten so that the hen can focus its efforts on another egg with a great chance of success.
Pecking of eggs can also indicate a calcium deficiency in your hens.
Eggshells are naturally abundant in calcium, so it may well be that your hen is looking to consume more of this much-needed mineral to replete it.
This is why you need to be particularly careful if you supplement eggshells to your hens for calcium.
You need to make sure that when supplementing, they are sufficiently crushed and provided in a specific way. You do now want your hens to learn that this supplement has derived from the eggs in which they lay.
Lastly, depending on the age of the egg, your hen may be attempting to pierce the shell in order to support the hatching process.
In this scenario, pecking is typically more gentle and only occurs at a particular stage following the egg being laid.
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How Do You Stop Chickens From Pecking Eggs?
If you notice that your hens are pecking at their eggs, then you need to do all you can to stop this behavior as quickly as you can. It can become a frequent and reoccurring habit that is impossible to break if left ignored.
As the contents of an egg are enjoyed by a hen, you do not want them to identify an egg with food. This is an association you need to avoid.
The main strategies are:
- Collecting eggs frequently and often
- Strengthening eggs through calcium supplementation.
- Adding ‘fake eggs’ to the nesting box
- Adding harsh tastes/flavors to ‘decoy’ eggs
One of the best strategies is to collect your hen’s eggs frequently and as often as you can. This will give your hens less opportunity and time to consider or proceed with pecking.
If you are unable to adhere to this schedule for whatever reason, then there are some other strategies to employ.
As thin and weaker eggshells are easier to pierce, you can introduce a calcium supplement to strengthen the shells and discourage pecking due to the increased effort involved.
To do this, you will need to source some powdered oyster shell (this organic, natural option from Amazon is ideal). Feed this to your birds regularly; you can even add it directly into the layer feed for daily consumption.
Another solution is to add hard fake eggs to the nesting box. The idea here is that you can trick your chickens into believing a real egg is present.
When your chicken’s peck, so long as the fake egg is hard enough, it will cause some minor discomfort and be clear to your chickens that they cannot pierce through.
It will leave them feeling defeated in their efforts and less likely to pursue this activity again. White golf balls work particularly well here.
Alternatively, you can cover a golf ball/fake egg with an obscure texture or taste to deter the chickens from pecking. Mustard works well here as chickens do not like the hot taste and flavor.
You can also take an uncracked egg, make small holes in the top/bottom, remove the contents of the egg and replace this with mustard.
You can then add this to the nesting box and similarly when your chickens peck and pierce through, they will be greeted with mustard as opposed to their usual tasty reward.
The idea is that you are introducing a negative association to the pecking process. Do this frequently and often enough, and you’ll soon find less pecking and holes in your eggs!
Finally, if you have your suspicions that one particular hen is the main culprit, you can isolate them from the group and observe them.
This may be enough to break the habit in the rest of your flock as chickens routinely follow along with the habits of others.
Ultimately, prevention is always better than cure. Monitor your birds and their behavior and ensure that you are providing a nice, comfortable and spacious environment to begin with.
Make sure the nesting box is sufficiently sized and this will help to stop pecking before it has even begun!
- QUALITY MATERIALS - This nesting box is made of high density, impact-resistant polyethylene that will not rust, rot, or corrode. It can be securely mounted vertically or side by side.
- EASY-TO-CLEAN - This smooth plastic surface is easy to keep clean and does not get as cold as metal, making it more comfortable for the nesting chicken or other small bird.
- INCLUDES PERCH - This plastic nesting unit features an entrance perch that gives hens a place to land before entering the nest and ventilation holes for fresh air. The lowered box floor helps prevent a loss of bedding, sloped roof prevents roosting.
- WALL MOUNTS - This box mounts to 16” on-center studs. If you hang three units vertically we recommend the first unit be mounted 24” off the ground to protect from predators, while the top unit will be low enough from the ceiling to prevent roosting.
- PLASTIC PREFERRED - When compared to wood tables or metal unit supplies, plastic stays warmer in winter months, is easier to clean, more sanitary, and reduces mite and bug infestations.
How Can I Tell Which Chickens Are Eating Eggs?
If you suspect that you have specific chickens pecking or eating the eggs, then you are going to need to be very observant and monitor your flock closely.
To tell which chickens are eating the eggs, you are going to need to strategically separate your chickens, one or two at a time, and inspect all eggs throughout the process.
Of course, this will depend on how many birds that you have and the space that you have available to you.
However, a good starting strategy is to first begin by separating the hen and the rooster. This will help you to identify which of the two is the main culprit.
If you find that the rooster is the wrongdoer, then you may want to consider replacing him.
This is because egg eating is difficult if not impossible habit to break once it has formed. You’ll never be able to acquire the number of eggs you want unless you can permanently rehouse your rooster away from the eggs.
Alternatively, if is instead the hen, you may need to accept the fact that she may not be producing any eggs for you going forward unless one of the strategies above does not prove successful.
Chickens peck holes in their eggs for a multitude of reasons.
Regardless of why they partake in this behavior, it is something that you are going to want to prevent ahead of time or proactively take measures to stop and eliminate.
If chickens develop a taste for their own eggs it can be difficult if not impossible habit to break. As chickens are omnivores, they thoroughly enjoy the taste of an egg’s contents.
So, be sure to monitor and examine your flock, and undertake some of the methods mentioned above.
This way, you should find that you can limit if not eliminate egg pecking in no time. You’ll have more eggs at your disposal before you know it!
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.