Egg-eating has been a issue that Shawn and I have known about since before we acquired our hens, and was always a problem that other people had with their chickens. We made sure to give our ladies good nesting boxes and plenty of time outdoors and supplemented their diet with oyster shell as we noticed their shells getting thinner. Well, the egg-eating problem became ours starting today. (Sigh.)
This is a common problem. Hens usually lay their eggs and walk away not realizing what the point was and why they did it. Then one day their egg breaks. They get a taste of it one way or another and they suddenly realize the gold that has been coming out of their butts over the years. Hey, we think they're delicious, why shouldn't the chickens?
We found out about their problem completely by accident when Shawn was watching Abby out in the backyard. He noticed she was fluffed up all funny and walking around-half squatting. Next thing you know, an egg pops out of her. Without hesitating, she turns around and starts chowing down. Frannie also came running over like a feast was to be had. Then it was Shawn's turn to go running out to take the egg away from them, but clearly it was too late. They know the deliciousness of their eggs and now we have to figure out a way to stop them, and quickly, because the longer it goes, the harder it is to break them of the habit.
Preliminary internet research has suggested we put fake eggs (like golf balls) into the nesting box to remind them of where they're supposed to lay and filling an eggshell with mustard so they get a bad taste in their beaks next time they go for it. We'll also probably keep them cooped up for a few days and not let them have too much freedom outside to do bad things. We already have oyster shell out for them so we can't do anything about that. I just hope the babies don't learn this bad habit and/or get broody because of the dummy eggs we'll be planting in their nesting boxes.
I'll let you know how it goes. (Stupid Abby.)
4/27/2012 Update: Abby, to our knowledge, has not done this since. I think it was a one-time occurrence, and they have all been laying in their nest since. (Except for the one time that Frannie got lazy and just dumped one while still up on the roost. That one didn't take the 4 foot fall so well and broke.)