Our Chickens are Eating Eggs!

So our chickens are eating their eggs, and it is cutting our egg production by 10% (minimum), and makes a mess of the remaining eggs (yolk is on them and bits of straw/hay/nest box material sticks to them!)  Ugh!

The big mistake: laziness and not understanding the why around the what I am about to share here.

Justin Rhodes talks about washing and crushing egg shells to feed back to chickens for a good source of calcium.  But I didn’t understand the reason to wash and crush the egg shells.  It’s because of the egg residue left on them. Chickens love it! And if you don’t crush the egg shells, they can tell by the shape that that tasty residue came from…you guessed it! An egg! More recently I’ve heard you should even possibly “toast” your egg shells to remove the taste entirely.

If you don’t wash, crush, and possibly toast/heat up the egg shells, your chickens will get a taste for egg yolk, which is what they ate while in the egg.  (Ah, the good old days.)

If they get a taste for it, they will eat eggs!

So How Do You Fix It?

Some options for remedying this problem:

  1. Calcium supplement – oyster shells –  we get a 50lb bag for ~$10 at our farm co-op.
  2. Golf balls in the nest box to give the birds are sore beak if they are pecking at objects in the nest.
  3. Roll-away egg boxes (this isn’t an option for us and it doesn’t really fit with God’s design for the chickens in my opinion.)
  4. Collect the eggs more often – don’t leave any tasty treats for them to eat!
  5. The Hamilton Beach vacation for those offending hens.

We have tried most of these options and the behavior has settled down quite a bit.  #4 above has been the most helpful and… wait, I forgot the best option:

Pray and ask the Lord to change the chickens’ taste buds.  Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you!  1 Peter 5:7

 

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Layer Chicken Housing: ChickShaw

Once the layer chickens are ready to graduate from the brooder box, what now?

If you read my previous post, you would have seen that I recommended you order the Premier 1 Supplies for netting around the chickens, but we haven’t discussed the actual housing yet.

Chickens need a place to roost and at night is when they drop most of the fertilizer onto the surface below.  So the ideal house would provide:

    1. roosting poles (about 1ft width per chicken)
    2.  a clear path to the ground for the droppings to fertilize below
    3. mobile so the fertilizer can be spread around
    4. shelter for the birds from the sun
    5. dark nesting boxes for hen privacy (1 box per 10 hens minimum)
    6. easy to move by hand
    7. good defenses against predators

We have used several different houses for our layer chickens, but the one I like the best is the ChickShaw from Justin Rhodes at Abundant Permaculture.  He has free plans for two sizes of ChickShaw.

Plans are available here: https://abundantpermaculture.com/Mobile-chicken-coop/

Now before you get all excited about this excellent house and plans…you have to build it yourself.  We had a good time building ours over Christmas break in 2019, but it took about two weeks.  (Did y’all hear that…2 weeks!)

It is a big job, but at the same time we had some quality family time working on it.

I recommend downloading the plans and reading them entirely before cutting any wood or even buying any wood.

Some things to look out for in the ChickShaw 2.0 plans – Justin has you cutting 2x4x8’s the long way into 2x2x8s, which you need a table saw to do.  So if you have a table saw, go for it, if not, buy 2x2x8 for some of the lumber.  (Refer to above where I recommend reading the plans entirely first.)

Also, wow, this is not going to be a cheap chicken house.  In 2019 this was north of $800 dollars in materials alone.  I’d expect this is probably closer to the $1000 mark now if you choose to use Cedar wood.  Treated lumber will be a bit cheaper.

Also Justin is working on the ChickShaw 3.0 plans, which from what I can tell the main difference is incorporating a towing option instead of a manual move process.  Personally, I like moving it by hand, but loaded with 40 chickens it is pretty heavy.

Okay, so you’ve made the investment, you have all the materials, and you are building this thing…great!!!  What do you do when the chickens are ready to graduate from the brooder box?

Evaluate if your chickens will be able to sneak through your Premier 1 poultry netting…and if not:

I would put them out in the ChickShaw (locked in it) for 24 hours or so, to instruct them where they live.  (Only if it is going to be above 75 degrees and below 100 degrees.)

Next morning, open the door and let them out within the fencing.  Throw some feed on the ground (if you are going to use feed versus grass/bugs/”free-range” only.)  Have a good water supply for them and turn on the energizer until dusk.

I like to collect eggs in the late afternoon before dinner…depending on the age of your chickens that is…most chickens won’t start laying for 3-6 months.

When it is dusk, they should know where to go – back into the house to the roosting poles.  If they roost up near the nesting boxes – shoo them off and close the nesting box frame.  Finally close the main front door of the ChickShaw and they are put to bed.  Come morning open the front door and open the nesting box frame.

 

 

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