Just when you thought (hoped) that the chicken posts were done for the season…here comes a doozy.
Last Friday when I opened the garage door to get the chicken feed to bring out to the girls, I didn’t hear the usual “bockbockbockbock” greeting I usually get from behind the garage (the sound of the garage door opening cues them to the fact that food is headed their way.)
I walked back there prepared, as I have been every morning since we got them, to find two chicken carcasses, victim of the UGLY AS SIN possum that has been hanging out in our yard.
Pretty sure it’s this guy.
Instead I found the two of them, still alive, happily sitting in their coop…MUNCHING ON THEIR OWN EGG AGAIN.
So, there are a few reasons why chickens might actively eat their eggs, including protein or calcium deficiencies, not enough water in the coop, and boredom (seriously). In our case, it’s most likely none of the above, but rather an issue of not providing enough cushioning for the eggs early on, so they’d break upon landing.
When you google “chickens eating their own eggs”, the A#1 most common suggestion is: prevent it from starting altogether, because “if this (habit) goes on too long, it will be nearly impossible to break”. Wonderful. Obviously too late for that.
Next most common suggestion, after asserting that chickens don’t naturally eat their eggs and blaming the problem on “poor husbandry or management practices” (pfft), most poultry forums state that it’s generally only one or two chickens in the flock that are the culprits, and highly encourage you cull the problem chicken(s) (I had to look up what that meant.)
Well. We only have 2 chickens. No culling happening here.
A little more poking around the interwebs led me to Ten Steps for How To Keep Chickens from Eating Their Own Eggs…which was actually only 3 steps when you took into account the fact that our chickens are a.) already eating their eggs, and b.) should be getting plenty of protein and calcium in their diet (we feed them spinach and other leafy greens regularly, as well as protein-fortified feed…though maybe we will start throwing in some oyster eggshell supplements to help).
- Collect the eggs more often than once a day, so they’re not laying around for your bored chickens to peck at
- Put used golf balls in the nest. Not only will this show them where they are supposed to lay, they will also try to peck through the golf ball and, when they can’t do it, will stop trying
- Take an egg that they’ve already started to eat and replace the yolk with English mustard (had to look that up too)
I really wanted to go for the last one, but it required pretty precise timing. And I didn’t know if French’s mustard would work (English mustard? Wtf?)
We already do #1, but that schedule is dictated by working hours. So not a lot of flexibility there.
So #2 it was! We went out and found ourselves some golf balls.
We also decided to add some additional protected nesting space outside of the coop, since many sites recommend you provide plenty of nesting boxes “at least two feet off the ground and at least four feet from the roosts”. Our “flock” is so small that generally speaking, so long as we keep providing clean straw, nesting space has not been an issue for us. But all of the nests we provided were on the ground (which may be why they started laying from their perches in the coop where they sleep?) Plus the eggs laid in the coop seem to be the only eggs they go after. So, more encouragement to lay outside.
And so, Paul built this:
That’s from the chicken’s perspective. In reality:
A sky high penthouse. The really hilarious thing is that Michelle (the one you can see inside the box) literally ran up the ladder and got to work making a nest as soon as Paul finished it.
PLEASE GOD LET THIS WORK.