Can Chickens Eat Eggs? Egg-cellent Tips for Safe Feeding

Whole and Cracked Eggs in Chicken's Nest

Article Summary

  • Chickens naturally eat eggs, a behavior observed in wild hens as a means to regain lost nutrients and maintain nest cleanliness.
  • It is advisable to avoid feeding cracked, dirty, or rotten eggs to chickens, as they may pose risks of contamination or disease.
  • Implementing strategies such as frequent egg collection, improving nesting areas, monitoring and catching offenders, utilizing fake eggs with food dye, etc. and persistently applying these solutions can effectively curb and discourage egg-eating habits in chickens.

Eggs are a superfood for chickens! But just how many eggs can chickens eat, and is it safe to feed eggs to backyard chickens? Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding eggs to chickens.

Do Chickens Eat Eggs?

Yes, chickens absolutely can and do eat eggs!

In fact, egg eating is a completely natural behavior for chickens. Mother hens in the wild frequently eat their own eggs to regain lost nutrients.

Egg eating also helps hens keep the nest clean and prevent attracting predators. A hen’s eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients for her.

Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Eggs?

Eating eggs is totally safe and healthy for chickens. Eggs provide:

  • High quality protein to support muscle growth and egg production
  • Healthy fats for energy and vitamin absorption
  • Important vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and B12

The nutrients in eggs support overall health, a strong immune system, and productive laying cycles for hens.

As long as the eggs are from healthy chickens, eating her own eggs poses no risk of disease transmission or infection for a hen.

Benefits of Eggs for Chickens

Boiling Eggs in a Pot
Boiling Eggs in a Pot

Here are some of the key benefits eggs offer chickens:

Supports Egg Production

Eggs provide the exact nutrients hens need to produce high quality eggs of their own. The protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients in eggs fuel the egg production process.

Eating eggs helps hens maintain their laying ability even when feed sources are limited.

Supports Feather and Skin Health

The omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc, and other nutrients found in eggs promote shiny, bright feathers and healthy skin for hens.

These nutrients support skin cell regeneration and protect chickens’ skin from damage or infection. The biotin in eggs also helps with overall plumage quality.

Boosts Immune Function

Eggs are packed with immune-supporting nutrients. The vitamin D, selenium, zinc, and vitamin A in eggs all help build disease-fighting antibodies and boost chickens’ immunity.

Eating eggs provides antioxidants to fight inflammation and infection. The protein also helps immunity by preventing muscle breakdown during illness.

Provides Quick Energy

The compact package of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats in eggs offers chickens an energy boost.

Hens can access fuel quickly from eggs to stay active foraging and nesting. The nutrients also support endurance for chicken behaviors like perching, dust bathing, and free ranging.

Supports Gut Health

Pastured eggs contain lots of omega-3s and vitamin E, both of which promote a healthy gut and digestion. Amino acids like cysteine also support gastrointestinal health.

A strong digestive system is crucial for chickens to fully utilize nutrients…

A strong digestive system is crucial for chickens to fully utilize nutrients from their feed. Eggs provide the nutrients hens need for good gut function.

What Type of Eggs Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely enjoy:

  • Their own eggs
  • Eggs from other healthy hens in the flock
  • High quality commercial eggs

Avoid feeding chickens:

  • Cracked eggs (salmonella risk)
  • Dirty eggs
  • Eggs from chickens that seemed sick or lethargic

Always cook eggs from unknown sources before feeding to hens. This kills off any potential bacteria.

For optimal nutrition, choose pasture-raised or organic eggs when possible. These have higher omega-3s and more vitamins than conventional eggs.

Can Chickens Eat Bad Eggs?

It’s best not to feed chickens eggs that are cracked, dirty, or seem rotten. Bad eggs increase the risk of salmonella contamination or other diseases.

However, backyard hens commonly eat their own broken or dirty eggs. This is a natural habit to prevent attracting predators and disease to the nest.

A hen’s digestive system is equipped to handle her own eggs, even if slightly dirty or cracked. But avoid intentionally feeding spoiled eggs to be safe.

RECOMMENDATION

If an egg from your collection goes bad before you can eat it, you can boil it first to kill bacteria before feeding to your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Egg Shells?

Yes, chickens can safely eat egg shells. Eggshells provide calcium, an essential mineral for chickens.

About 94% of a shell’s composition is calcium carbonate. Chickens need lots of calcium for building strong bones and eggshell production.

Egg shells also contain small amounts of protein, magnesium, and potassium. Their gritty texture even helps chickens grind food in their gizzards for better digestion.

Dried, crushed shells are easiest for chickens to consume. You can bake shells to sterilize them first or simply rinse well. Offer shells free choice in a separate dish.

Can I Feed My Chickens Raw Eggs?

Raw eggs are fine for chickens to eat. Salmonella in raw eggs and other bacteria is not a risk for chickens like they are for humans.

In fact, chickens have shorter, stronger digestive tracts that quickly eliminate harmful pathogens. Their guts actually benefit from the probiotics in raw eggs.

A hen’s intestines are colonized with enzymes and bacteria…

A hen’s intestines are colonized with enzymes and bacteria specifically meant to process her eggs. She even produces a powder in her crop that cleans the shell as she eats it.

So go ahead and add raw eggs from healthy hens to your flock’s diet or allow broody mamas to eat their own eggs. No need to cook them first.

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Eggs?

While raw eggs are fine, cooked eggs also make a tasty, nutritious treat for chickens. Some ways to serve cooked eggs include:

  • Hard boiled
  • Scrambled
  • Poached
  • Fried

Cooking eggs makes the protein more digestible. But don’t overcook them into rubbery, tough bits – chickens prefer eggs that still have a soft, crumbly texture.

Avoid cooking eggs in lots of oil, salt, spices, or other flavorings. Plain cooked eggs will be healthiest for chickens. Let them cool before serving.

Can Chickens Eat Eggs Scrambled or Hard Boiled?

Both scrambled and hard boiled eggs are excellent options for feeding chickens.

Scrambled eggs provide a soft, simple texture for hens to enjoy. Plus, cooking them gently in a pan without oil or seasoning keeps their nutrition intact.

Plain Scrambled Egg
Plain Scrambled Egg

Hard boiled eggs retain more protein quality through the cooking process. Their firm but crumbly texture is still appealing for chickens to eat.

Boiling also kills any potential bacteria, making hard boiled eggs a safe choice when the egg source is uncertain.

For variety, offer chickens a combination of raw, scrambled, and hard boiled eggs across the week. All provide the fantastic nutrition hens need.

How Much Egg Can You Feed Chickens?

In moderation, eggs make a healthy treat or protein boost for chickens. Here are some feeding guidelines:

  • Treats: Feed 1-2 eggs 2-3 times per week
  • Protein supplement: Feed 1 egg per hen daily
  • Main protein source: Feed 2-3 eggs per hen daily

Limit high egg diets to certain circumstances like brooding, molting, or very cold weather when chickens need extra protein.

During normal conditions, too many eggs could displace other nutrients. For most backyard flocks, 1-3 eggs per hen 2-3 times a week is sufficient.

Adjust amounts based on your chickens’ body condition and egg production levels. Free choice oyster shell or limestone provides extra calcium.

How Often Can You Feed Eggs to Chickens?

Aim to feed eggs in moderation 2-3 times per week at most. Here are some tips:

  • Broody hens can eat 1-2 eggs daily to support chicks
  • Molting hens need extra protein – try 1 egg per hen daily
  • In peak winter, supplement with 1 egg 2-3 times a week
  • Limit treats to 1-2 eggs just 2-3 times weekly otherwise

Feed eggs more frequently only if chickens become deficient and need protein, like during high stress periods. Monitor hens’ condition and adjust as needed.

If feeding eggs daily long-term, provide less than 50% of total protein from eggs to maintain diet balance.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Eggs?

Baby chicks under 12 weeks old should not eat whole eggs. Chicks’ digestive systems are too immature to handle the thick albumen in eggs.

Baby Chicks on Top of a Hay
Baby Chicks on Top of Hay

Instead, try these options for feeding eggs to baby chickens:

  • Hard boiled yolks: The yolk provides protein without the egg white. Crush into small pieces.
  • Scrambled eggs: Lightly cook the eggs into small, soft pieces for chicks.
  • Crumbled boiled eggs: After boiling eggs, crush the entire egg into tiny bits with the shell for baby chicks.

Add these cooked egg options to chicks’ feed in small quantities, just 1-2 times per week. Avoid raw eggs for young chicks.

How to Stop Chickens From Eating Their Eggs

If your hens develop a habit of eating their own eggs, try these tips to break it:

  • Collect eggs at least twice daily to minimize exposure
  • Add golf balls or wooden eggs to fill the nests
  • Increase protein in diet to curb hunger for eggs – Keep nesting boxes dark, private, and comfortable
  • Use fake eggs injected with mustard – the unpleasant taste deters hens after one peck
  • Apply pick-guard bits to deter pecking
  • Separate bullies catching and eating eggs
  • Consider more frequent collecting or switch to dummy eggs until the habit stops

NOTE

Addressing stressors, overcrowding, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of nesting site privacy can help curb egg eating.

How to Tell Which Chicken is Eating Eggs

To identify the culprit eating eggs:

  • Watch the nesting area – the guilty hen may linger nearby after laying
  • Check for yolk stains on feathers near vents
  • Look for unusually round, full crops on hens
  • Place a fake egg injected with food dye in nests – dye stains beak/feathers
  • Catch hens in the act by waiting silently in the coop when eggs appear eaten
  • Isolate hens one at a time to see if egg eating stops with a particular bird removed
picture of hen in a coop with eggs
A Hen Near The Eggs

Once caught, discourage egg eating by increasing protein (some chicken-safe human food options have the beneficial protein), modifying nesting sites, or separating the culprit for a few weeks. With persistence, the habit can be broken!

Conclusion

In conclusion, chickens absolutely can eat eggs safely and benefit nutritionally from moderate egg intake. Be sure to only feed chickens high quality eggs from healthy sources. Both raw and cooked eggs make great supplemental protein.

Eggs provide many essential nutrients to support hen health and keep chickens happily laying. By following the feeding tips above, you can safely incorporate nutritious eggs into your backyard flock’s diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to feed chickens their own eggs?

Yes, it is generally safe to feed chickens their own eggs. However, it’s essential to ensure they receive a well-balanced diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies. If done properly, this can be a sustainable way to recycle nutrients.

Can I feed my chickens eggshells?

Yes, you can feed chickens eggshells as a calcium supplement. Crush the eggshells finely to avoid encouraging egg-eating behavior. Providing sufficient calcium helps maintain strong eggshells and overall bird health.

Can I give my sick chicken a raw egg?

Yes, offering a sick chicken a raw egg can provide a nutrient boost. However, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to identify the underlying health issue and ensure the egg doesn’t replace proper medical care.

What should you do if chickens are eating eggs?

If chickens are eating eggs, take preventive measures to address the root cause. Collect eggs promptly, provide a well-balanced diet, and consider adding supplemental nesting materials to discourage pecking. Seek advice from a poultry expert if the issue persists.

Why are my chickens eating their eggs?

Chickens may eat their eggs due to various reasons, such as nutritional deficiencies, inadequate nesting conditions, or boredom. Address these issues by providing a balanced diet, comfortable nesting spaces, and enrichment activities to curb egg-eating behavior. Regular monitoring and adjustments can help resolve this concern.