What’s Up? Chicken Butt!

June 3, 2017

eggsI’ve got eggs again!

The four Ameraucana pullets started laying!  These pullets were born on January 11th or so, so they aren’t quite five months old yet.

My three older hens – Flower, Coco and Amelia Cordelia – also resumed laying after a bout of coccidiosis.  I noticed that something was wrong about two months ago when these three would spend their afternoons huddled by the back patio door.  At first I thought it was just because the weather was so awful, but it continued even after the weather improved.  Then I began to see that their wattles were pale, they stopped laying, and their backsides were covered in diarrhea.  First, I quarantined them and treated with Pig Swig per the local farm store’s advice.  That seemed to help perk them up a little, but about two weeks later they were back to lethargic and pale.  I decided after that to treat the whole flock with Corid (amprolium) for a week, and that did the trick!  The old gals were back to perfect health!

0406 iris and chickens

But while I’ve got eggs again, I also don’t have eggs.

Confused?  I was, too.

See, with the hens and the oldest pullets laying, we should be getting 7 eggs a day.  Even assuming that not all the hens will lay an egg every day, I should still be getting at least four eggs a day.  But I’m not.  I’m getting maybe two eggs a day, three if I’m lucky.  I wondered if they were laying in the woods or the long grass somewhere and I just wasn’t finding the nests.  But, no.  It’s worse than that.

They’re eating the eggs.

Most of the egg eating is happening in the early morning, inside the coop.  The pullets are laying on the ground, and the shells of the eggs are pretty thin at this point.  I’m going to try getting up earlier (maybe around 5:30?) to let them out and hopefully collect any early-morning eggs and see if that helps; I’m also going to install a new nest box and put out some dummy eggs to try to discourage pecking.  I don’t want to cull any chickens, especially since I suspect they’re ALL doing it, so I’m going to be trying all the tricks I can find to nip this in the bud.

What do you guys think?  Does anyone have any suggestions to stop egg eating?

8 Comments

  • Hot Mess Homesteader

    June 3, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Give them oyster shells like you would grit. It helps keep their eggshells strong. I give mine oyster and grit in little containers to free feed. It may help!

  • sproutandsprig

    June 3, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    I just got some oyster shell this afternoon! For some reason I was under the assumption that their grit had calcium in it too, but no. So hopefully that will help the pullets!

  • Hot Mess Homesteader

    June 4, 2017 at 1:47 am

    It should! When mine had soft shells i gave them that and it helped a lot!

  • valbjerke

    June 4, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Egg eating is difficult to stop. Collect as often as you can, oyster shell, and make sure they’re getting enough protein (they’re not just after the shell). Make sure there are enough nesting boxes for your hens. They’re not fond of sharing nesting space – our twenty layers have twenty spots to choose from – at the end of the day a half dozen of the boxes will have eggs in them. 😊

  • Mychael

    June 5, 2017 at 1:38 am

    I love the title of this. I so vividly remember our 1st egg. Wow!!! What a day. Now my girls will lay half the time in the coop & the other around the farm. It’s a perpetual egg hunt.

  • The Belmont Rooster

    June 5, 2017 at 3:58 am

    Yep, oyster shell will make their shells stronger. Make sure there is plenty of hay in their nests. I would hay works better for my hens than straw. I think they don’t stretch it out of their nests as much. Gather your eggs more often, too. I have had no problems with the hens eating eggs for many years but it is a bad habit to break. Coccidiosis is primarily caused by damp conditions, if I remember correctly, I saw it many times with former flockowners who had their henhouses closed tight during the winter and their litter (or the lack of) would become damp. If you have to many hens in a small space it really complicates things. You need good air circulation even in the colder months.

    OH, one thing I noticed about your eggs… The reddish brown spots on your eggs is blood. It isn’t harmful, but if you run warm water over the egg you can scrub it off… I sell fresh eggs and I usually clean the brown spots off. Egg shells have thousands of tiny pores and the tiny brown spots you see, which look neat, is actually blood in the pores. Sometimes you may notice when you boil eggs the spots disappear.

    On the historical side, the name Ameraucana is fairly new. Way back years ago when they were first introduced they were called Araucana. Then when fanciers sought to breed true color so they could show them, such as blue or white, the American Poultry Association, or someone, decided to call them Ameraucana. In my honest opinion, the Araucana is historically correct, and include a wide color, body type, etc. range. Ameraucana are the ones that are bred true to color and type and are listed in the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection. There is a very good story about them in one of the National Geographic issues in 1927. I used to have it, but that was a LONG TIME ago. Well, there is a lot of history about the Araucana, and some somewhat shady.

    I really enjoyed your post!!!

    1. sproutandsprig

      June 5, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you so much for writing!

      I did pick up some hay for the nest boxes (the local farm store is so nice and just lets me bag up all the stuff that’s fallen on the floor for free!) and agree that they don’t scratch it out like the other stuff.

      And the spotted eggs actually belong to my cuckoo maran. She’s older now, and her pigmentation is a little off. I guess it’s pretty common with marans 😛

  • Cate

    June 9, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    valbjerke knows of what she speaks. The more we do to meet chickens’ natural needs, the less we encounter unnatural behavior.

    FYI, the heat of summer will tend to make eggshells thinner; it’s a normal seasonal variation. And I would not wash eggs except to remove potentially offensive poop for squeamish customers. Hens put a “bloom” on their eggs– a thin sheen– which keeps them from losing moisture (for, say, the first laid in a clutch that will later be incubated) and helps preserves freshness (in those for sale).

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