can chickens eat duck eggs

Eggstraordinary Diet🥚Do Chickens Eat Duck Eggs? 🐔



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I still remember the first time I saw it happen.

I was out feeding the chickens in my backyard when I spotted Henrietta, my trustiest hen, with a strange looking egg in her beak! “No way!” I said to myself.

“That thing is way too big to be one of hers.”

It turns out chickens will sometimes eat eggs that aren’t their own, including duck eggs!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Just as I was about to shoo her away, she gulped that sucker down whole like it was nothing! I stood there with my mouth hanging open, trying to process what I just saw.

How was that even possible?! And how often does this really happen? You’ll never believe some of the things chickens will eat.

I knew I had to get to the bottom of this.

Why Do Chickens Eat Other Birds’ Eggs?

can chickens eat duck eggs

After the shock wore off, I hit the books and searched online to find out why chickens would snack on duck eggs.

As it turns out, nutritional needs and curiosity play a big role.

If a chicken isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs from feed alone, like calcium for strong egg shells, it may resort to alternative sources of nutrients like eggs.

The high protein and calcium content makes eggs an appealing snack.

Chickens are also very curious birds by nature.

If they see another animal eating or interacting with eggs, they’ll want to investigate for themselves.

This is especially true for young chickens just learning about their environment.

Occasionally, an egg will get cracked or broken on the ground by accident.

Opportunistic chickens won’t waste a chance for a free meal when the contents of an egg are exposed.

Hens may also eat eggs if they sense something is wrong with their own undeveloped eggs.

Consuming another species’ egg helps them learn what a healthy, developed egg should feel and taste like.

So in short – nutritional needs, curiosity, and learning drive chickens to occasionally sample eggs that aren’t their own, like those left unattended from ducks in the yard.

Can Chickens Digest Duck Eggs?

can chickens eat duck eggs

After witnessing Henrietta’s egg-eating feat, this was one of the first questions that popped into my head.

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I mean, duck eggs are nearly twice the size of a chicken egg.

There’s no way a chicken could break the shell and digest something that large, could they?

To find out, I gave old Bucky, our rooster, a duck egg to see what would happen.

Much to my surprise, he had no trouble cracking and pecking through the shell with his strong beak.

Once the insides were exposed, he gobbled it all down in just a few bites.

I was amazed – his gizzard must be incredibly powerful!

As it turns out, a chicken’s gizzard contains small gravel and muscular walls that grind food like tough grain into a fine paste.

This helps break eggshells into small enough pieces to pass through the digestive system.

While they can digest duck eggs, the larger size does put more strain on a chicken’s system.

If they make a habit of it, it could lead to digestive issues.

But the occasional duck egg won’t harm them.

So in summary – yes, thanks to their gizzard mills, chickens are perfectly capable of breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from a duck egg every once in a while!

What Happens If a Chicken Eats a Duck Egg?

can chickens eat duck eggs

Now that I knew chickens could technically digest duck eggs, I was curious what affect it might have on their health or behavior.

For a test, I left a duck egg in the coop and observed what happened.

Within minutes, Henrietta had found it and was enjoying her crunchy snack.

Other than some satisfying clucks, she showed no signs of discomfort.

Her appetite and energy level remained normal.

I’ve since witnessed chickens in the neighborhood eat duck eggs on rare occasions with no ill effects.

As long as it’s an occasional treat and not a regular diet choice, their bodies can handle it.

However, if a chicken ate too many extra-large eggs, there is a risk of the shells accumulating in the gizzard and causing issues.

And you don’t want them acquiring a taste for something that destroys your duck’s egg business!

In most cases though, one duck egg won’t do any harm to a chicken.

The larger size may cause an upset crop or cause the egg to pass too slowly through the digestive system.

But an occasional treat poses no serious health risks.

How to Prevent Egg Thievery

can chickens eat duck eggs

Now that duck and chicken farmers everywhere know the truth about egg-eating habits, the real challenge is deterring this natural behavior.

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The best way is to simply separate your chickens and ducks into different coops and yards with secure fencing.

This eliminates any chance encounters between birds and eggs.

Collect duck eggs twice daily to remove the temptation of easily-accessible snacks lying around.

Be sure feed levels and calcium supplements are adequate.

Hungry or nutritionally-deficient chickens are more likely to scavenge for alternative foods.

Individual nest boxes for laying ducks also helps protect freshly-laid eggs from prying chicken beaks and reducing stress on mothers.

Occasional Egg-Be-Gone spray that smells strongly of predators can also deter the behavior, as chickens instinctively fear hawks and other predatory birds.

By following these simple tips, you can help your chickens stick to their own kind of eggs and keep the ducks laying happy and productive for many years to come.

Hope this mega post helps shed some light on your backyard birds’ feeding habits.

Let me know if any other questions come up – I’ve got stories for days about these crazy chickens!

Why Do Chickens Sometimes Eat Their Own Eggs?

While free-ranging my hens one sunny morning, I spied old Bess pecking around the coop looking for snacks.

Nothing new there – that girl’s always hungry! But then I noticed something strange.

She started poking her beak into each nest box, rummaging through the straw.

When she found an egg, she leaned in for a closer look.

Most of the time she just nudged it around, but every so often she’d give it a good peck and gobble up the bits of shell.

This went on for a few minutes as she checked each box until her curiosity was satisfied.

Clearly she must have sensed the eggs were flawed somehow to provoke that behavior.

Hens are quite discerning – they can identify cracked, misshapen, or otherwise abnormal eggs not worth the effort to hatch.

Eating them removes the risk of contamination or wasted brooding efforts later on.

Research shows nutritional imbalances also attract hens to potential sources of missing vitamins and minerals too.

If calcium or protein levels dip too low, those precious shell contents become a suitable fix.

Territorial squabbles or stressful living situations similarly induce hens to occasionally peck their own produce.

While not ideal for us keepers, it makes practical sense from their biological point of view.

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With open communication and optimal care, such behaviors usually stay occasional rather than habitual though.

How to Tell if a Chicken Ate Her Own Egg

One morning, I found a big mess on the floor of the coop – egg yolks and bits of shell everywhere!

It looked like a crime scene but no culprit in sight.

How would I ever identify the perp hiding among the innocent flock?

I started by gathering all the clues – mostly intact shells near the messy splatter plus scrape marks leading away.

A dozen hens milled about pretending nothing happened but one stood out – Henrietta’s beak was stained yellow.

She tried pecking casually to clean it but it only smeared more.


Other telltale signs include emptied but undamaged shells, residue around the beak/feathers, or catching the act in progress.

Video cameras prove useful for following any suspiciously behaved suspects back to the scene afterwards too.

Knowing what evidence to look for helps pin the blame when eggs go mysteriously missing.

In many ways, they’re like feathery little kindergartners trying not to tattle on each other either!

How to Stop Chickens from Eating Their Eggs

With the culprit outed, it was time to take action.

First step – separate Henrietta into “time out” until she learned her lesson.

Her isolation coop was just big enough for essentials, no nests in sight either.

Twice daily I’d bring her out to free-range with snacks but always put her back solo at night.

Within a few days, she seemed less fixated on eggs when with the flock again.

As a follow-up deterrent, I tried sprinkling red pepper flakes into dirty nests between uses.

That zingy odor sure kept curious beaks away until it faded and they stopped associating the area with a negative sensation.

Fake plastic eggs also work well to trick hens if placed amid real ones periodically laid.

Of course preventing situations that initiate the behavior in the first place is smartest long-term solution.

With a little experimenting, you’re sure to find an effective way to curb egg thievery too!.

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