Have you ever suddenly experienced a drop in egg production?
While seasonal changes can often be to blame, sometimes the accuser can be a crafty predator or even one of your very own hens!
Extreme temperatures of late summer and mid-winter darkness can trigger a lapse in egg production. Also, a hen’s feather molt in late fall can also be a reason she will lay less. However, if one day you are getting lots of eggs, and the next you have almost none in the nesting box, you might have an outside culprit.
If you are finding drastically less eggs, broken eggs in the nest box, or even eggs on the ground, something may be trying to steal your eggs. Even with the most secure coop, a cunning thief can find a way in.
Using these clues, you can determine what is stealing your eggs!
Rats or Mice
- Eggs on the ground or faraway corner
- Eggs broken on the ground under nest box
- Rodent droppings in corners
- Small holes along outside of coop
- Eggs disturbed day or night
It is almost impossible to have a truly rodent proof coop. Rodents are first attracted to the coop by the smell of food. Unfortunately, if a chicken can reach the food, so can a rodent. Occasionally, they will develop a taste for eggs. I have personally caught a large rat red handed, in an older coop, trying to push an egg out of the nest box. Rats will attempt to move the egg to their nest, eating it in privacy.
Rats and mice are a real pain and danger to your flock. They carry diseases and can put a serious dent in your chicken feed and egg collection! Extermination is the best remedy.
- Gooey egg matter in nest boxes; no shells
- Eggs disturbed during day
- Snake in the nest box!
Without fail, every summer I experience at least one or two snakes stealing eggs in my coop. Usually the snakes are non-venomous. My mother-in-law often recalls the time she reached into a nest box, and felt the warm coils a snake instead of eggs! Snakes can hide UNDER the shavings as well, so be careful!
Snakes are drawn into the coop by either the smell of rodents or the eggs themselves. Snakes will usually try to eat as many eggs as they can while staying IN the nest box, then crawl out to hide in the coop until they get hungry again. A non-venomous snake is not a threat to your adult birds, and only wants the eggs. He will, however need to be removed and relocated FAR away from the coop. They are very smart, and will return in a few days if allowed. Black racers and rat snakes are the most common egg thieves.
- Eggs disturbed during the night
- Eggshells smashed and eaten all over the coop and run
- Predation on adult birds
If your coop has even the slightest entrance, a predator can find it. If you are finding many eggs going missing at night, AND adult chickens are being harmed, you most likely have a large predator issue. The most common predators in a coop are raccoons, opossums, weasels, coyotes, and foxes. Properly enclosing the entire coop at night is the only way to fix a large predator issue.
While we may often jump to conclusion that something outside is stealing our eggs, if can be coming from the inside.
Egg eating hens, inexperienced pullets, or even simply having too few nest boxes may be the answer.
- Smashed eggs in nest box
- Always happens during the daytime
- Occasional random egg on the ground
- Hens with egg matter on their beaks
This spring I was finding less and less eggs and some were smashed in the nest box. I’m no newbie to coop predators and was determined to find the culprit. After much observation, I found out it was actually my young pullets doing the damage!
Young hens that are just starting to lay can be clumsy.
They know that egg needs to come out, but just haven’t 100% figured it out yet! I personally witnessed one young pullet flip around in the nest box like a bundle of nerves. She wasn’t careful and broke an egg under her feet. At the sight of a broken egg, chickens cannot resist eating it. I was finding hens with egg yolk on their beaks and thought I had an egg-eating hen.
It was actually the young pullets accidentally breaking eggs, leading to eating! They also were laying eggs in the ground.
Within a few weeks, the young girls got the hang of it, and I no longer had missing eggs.
A true egg eating hen can be a serious problem. She will not stop once she acquires the taste for them.
Too Few Nest Boxes
- Eggs on the ground
- Happens only during the day
This is a simple fix! The best ratio is one nest box per every 4-5 hens. Often, hens will all have a “favorite” box. They will line up in a queue, waiting to lay in that particular box. It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t know why they do this, but it happens quite a lot. After waiting in line, if the hen cannot hold it any longer, she will just lay her egg on the ground!
Eggs disappearing can be frustrating, but learning to study the clues can help you to quickly diagnose and solve the case! Good luck!