WHEN CHICK­ENS ARE LEFT WITH EGG ON THEIR FACES Egg eat­ing is a vice: check if the chick­ens are get­ting enough nu­tri­tion in their reg­u­lar feed

Country Smallholding - - Forum Vet's -

QWe have a mixed flock of five hens who free range hap­pily to­gether and lay well. How­ever, we of­ten have an egg that has been bro­ken and eaten. Most of­ten it is one of the blue eggs from an Arau­cana/ Cream Leg­bar cross, maybe be­cause her eggs have quite frag­ile shells. But other eggs also get van­dalised. Do you have any tips on how to avoid this hap­pen­ing? We al­ready use roll­away nest boxes, but even with those we have bro­ken eggs, which shows a cer­tain level of de­ter­mi­na­tion and cun­ning. We don’t know who the cul­prit is, or if there is more than one. Any ad­vice is most wel­come.

VIC­TO­RIA ROBERTS SAYS:

In or­der to find your cul­prit, put an open egg in the hen coop with some green food colour­ing in it — then you will see who has egg on her face. Egg eat­ing is a vice — check on the qual­ity of the feed you are us­ing as some­times the hens are not get­ting suf­fi­cient nu­tri­tion. Also make sure that not too many treats are fed as this merely di­lutes the bal­anced ra­tion of com­mer­cial feed. You can scat­ter golf balls or ping pong balls around the floor of the hut to dis­tract the cul­prit(s). They do copy one an­other as I’m sure you prob­a­bly know. I am glad that you are us­ing roll­away nest boxes, as this is a great help.

If there are any rats around, these love eggs and can leave a bit of shell be­hind or even roll an egg away be­fore eat­ing it. Keep feed off the floor ei­ther by hang­ing the feeder above the height a rat can reach or use rat-proof trea­dle feed­ers. It is the smell of the feed that first at­tracts rats which can bring dis­ease. You will also be faced with a lot of ex­tra feed be­ing con­sumed. Trap­ping is more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly than poi­son (see page 66- 67), but you may need the help of an ex­pe­ri­enced trap­per.

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