How to keep chickens from cracking and eating eggs
Once a chicken gets a taste of egg yolk it’s hard to stop them.
There’s really just three options, catch the culprit(s), try and break the habit or invest in a nesting system that removes and protects the eggs from the chickens as soon as they are laid.
Next to collecting the eggs as frequent as possible, the easiest solution is probably to just identify the perpetrator(s) and make a big pot of chicken stew.
This is not always easy and does take some detective work.
Depending on the size of your flock, there may be more than just one.
You might just luck out by checking the beaks for possible egg yolk residue.
If you just have a few, try the process of elimination by isolating them as best as possible to identify the culprit.
Rotate them through a temporary holding pen and nesting box. As you remove one hen from the flock for a couple days at a time and the issue stops you will know you have the culprit.
If you find one particular nest(s) that seems to be hit the most and you have a wall or post directly in front of the nest, consider going high tech with a surveillance video cam and see if you can capture the perpetrator in action.
Surprisingly it may not actually be a chicken but another egg seeking predator, such as a rat or snake that you may only capture on video.
In using a video you might need some type of ID system to mark the back of the head of the hens if there’s not already distinguishing features.
Some water based face paints dabbed on the comb or feathers, or a number when they are on the roost will help to provide the positive ID.
If you have a large flock and want to try breaking the habit, some decoy eggs might work. These can be either wooden or plastic eggs. Some have even used golf balls.
The concept is to collect the fresh eggs soon as possible and replace them with a decoy egg. As the chickens peck the decoy eggs hopefully they will discover they are wasting their time and will give up.
Others indicated they have had success by taking a regular egg and poking just a large enough hole to remove the yolk and egg white and then replacing it with mustard.
If your just tried with messing with broken and cracked eggs and want to upgrade your nesting boxes consider roller egg nesting boxes.
The name basically says it all. The egg rolls forward into a covered compartment as soon as they are laid to prevent them from being seen by the chickens.
You can find roller egg nesting box plans on line if you want to try and build them yourself. You can also find galvanized metal roller egg boxes on line, such as the ones in the pictures from Cottage Craft Works .com.
The galvanized nesting boxes are an initial investment but they are built for many years of use. The key is to find them made without any plastic parts that will eventually break off.
If you need to purchase new lumber to build the nesting boxes from plans, really sharpen the pencil and figure out the material cost.
With the price of new lumber these ready made galvanized ones may not be that much difference.
You will have a labor factor on either type, as you will either be building wooden ones or assembling the metal ones. But there’s no measuring or cutting, so assembly won't be as much labor time.
Metal nesting boxes are also easier to clean and disinfect than wooden nest in case you ever have an infestation problem.
The nesting boxes in the pictures come with mounting cleats so that the entire section can be lifted and taken outside to pressure wash and disinfect.
Roller nesting boxes do take some changes in the way you work with them. They are designed to use little nesting material or none at all so that the eggs can roll forward into a covered compartment.
As odd and foreign as this might sound, doing completely away with nesting material also means less chance of infestations.
The nesting boxes from Cottage also come with a wooden training egg to encourage the chickens to begin nesting.
If your chickens are accustomed to nesting boxes with bedding, you can start out with full nesting material to begin with and then gradually pull out the material until you have completely eliminated it.
The quicker that you can capture the eggs into the roll away compartment the faster you will be able to have your eggs protected.