Monday, January 20, 2014

the chicken dilemma

Oh the chickens, how I love them so, but not right now.  No, right now they are not laying eggs.  Actually, I’m not entirely sure that is the truth.  I think they are laying eggs, but they are eating them. 

We had been getting five glorious eggs each day.  I was shocked.  This is their second winter, and I know that normal chickens like to take the winter off.  But, my girls just kept on laying – well, not the araucana, she only ever laid one egg every couple of days and most definitely took last winter and this winter (and fall) off.

Then we had that incredible cold snap, and I am not sure why, but I think this triggered my girls into cannibals.  So, now they are eating their eggs.  Matt went to check on them one morning and they were all eating one egg – but just one.  Since then I was trying to get out there to get eggs as soon as they are laid.  Unfortunately, my chickens are also strange in their laying times.  Sometimes they lay early, sometimes they lay in the afternoon, and I swear that one likes to lay eggs around dinner time.  So unless I am prepared to go out and check every hour (I’m not), then I don’t think I have much of a chance of getting all the eggs.

Well, we haven’t gotten one blasted egg in the past two weeks.  It is cold here in Maine, obviously my hens are not out playing and eating grass and bugs.  No, they are eating very expensive organic feed.  And they were going through it like no tomorrow.  That was until I realized that we have something living under our chicken coop that has gnawed through the floor and was stealing chicken food (and possibly the eggs my chickens are not eating. 

So, we have a couple issues.  One being the infestation of something under the coop (please don’t say rats, please don’t say rats), which I think is probably rats, because I am assuming weasels would attack my chickens, any chicken experts out there?  The other issue is that we are going through too much feed, whether it is the chickens eating and not laying, or something stealing the feed out of the coop.  I think we will be butchering our chickens (or taking them somewhere to be processed) in the very near future.

It definitely makes me sad because these chickens have been a real blessing to us.  But, it also means that I can look forward to new chicks in the spring, which is always a fun thing to look forward to.  I’m not sure how excited my husband will be about getting chickens again (he hates when he has to do anything with regards to the chickens), but I know that he enjoys eating the many eggs we get.  My hope is that we can eradicate the problem of the critters under the coop and start new in the spring.  And in case anyone is wondering, we keep the bag of chicken feed in our house, and nothing is in our house eating the food!  We started taking the feed in at night hoping whatever is under the chicken coop would go away, so far it hasn’t worked. 

Any tips for chickens that eat their own eggs?  What do you do with hens that don’t lay in the winter?  Critter proofing a hen house?  We didn’t have any issues last year!  Why now?!

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop


  1. I am no chicken expert but I hope some will help you with this dilemma. Sounds like its a doozy :(

  2. Hi there! Chickens - gotta love em, but egg-eating is not allowed. Last winter my girls did the same thing so I put several golf balls in the nest. They can't tell the difference. I think pecking the hard golf balls stunned those salivating beaks just enough to stop them from trying it anymore. Hope it works for you, too. Have a great day.

  3. Oh I feel for you. Too much space on my blog was once attributed to de-mystifying this problem and getting a solution... so maybe I can offer some insight.
    Let me tell you now, chickens will find ways to perplex you and give you real managerial work to do- like a day-care center!
    First, don't fall for the idea of filling an egg with mustard to discourage them - it won't work. Chickens apparently have no taste-filter for either mustard or pepper or chilies. It doesn't faze them.
    The golf-ball trick works to SOME degree (and may encourage laying if a nest has several of them in it). The reason it only works to SOME degree is that it only discourages chickens if they are curious, or testing the density of it. (They will often tap their own eggs to check the density- if the shell is too thin and it breaks, they may accidentally taste it, ingest, and LIKE it- turning it into a habit.
    In winter, when they are cooped up so much, I suspect boredom 1st, not nutrition. If the hens see something new in the coop, like an egg that wasn't there before- they might just peck it out of boredom. They need a few things to keep them content, and one of them is something to 'do'/investigate. A melon half, or a cabbage, even some black-oil sunflower seed tossed around for them to scrounge (dig for) will help.
    The only way that worked for me though, was actually 'jailing' the offensive hens (in the coop). They obviously knew they were being incarcerated. The egg-eating stopped immediately -first only(short-term, as it started up a few times again- but each time I jailed the hens it stopped when they got out (or laid inside the jail). After 4 times of jail for the worst offender (2 days max), over a time of 6 mos., it stopped.
    I then decided to hang curtains over the nests (with a slit in the middle like a theater-stage curtain for easy access), so that the egg-eaters wouldn't just spot an egg and get curious again. I also raised the nests higher as they were at floor level for these heavy-breed hens.
    I have 2x the number of hens now in the same space and no egg-eating for over a year and a half.
    Anyway, that's what worked for me.... good luck!!!

  4. What breeds of chickens do you have? From the photo it looks like some industrial leghorns? Unfortunately, the industrial leghorns are notorious for egg eating and cannibalism. You can build a nest where the eggs roll away, that could help if your coop can be modified. As for the critter under the floor, I would bet you money its eating your feed as well as eggs. I hope you get your chicken problems sorted out and I hope I was helpful!

  5. I saw a post about roll away nest boxes last week used to keep the hens from eating their eggs. You can see an example here:
    I do tend to agree with Emily that whatever is eating all the feed could very well be eating the eggs too. I hope you guys can figure it out!

  6. Good luck. I will say that we had chipmunks under our coop. I don't know if that's a possibility where you're at, but they like feed.

  7. My suggestion is to add a light or heat lamp to the hen house. This may help with egg production. Because of the cold, the animals may have sought the area under the coop for shelter and found the chicken food as a plus.


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