Updated November 20, 2019
What’s Wrong With Eggs?
While it may seem like producing hundreds of eggs is a natural phenomenon of a hen’s life, this development was almost entirely due to recent human intervention. Modern domestic chickens have been selectively bred for their egg-laying capabilities in order to produce a dramatic number of eggs in a year. The domestic chicken’s wild relative, the Red Junglefowl, lays approximately 10 to 15 eggs in an entire year, in one or two clutches. A modern “egg-laying” hen, such as a Leghorn or hybrid red layer, has been bred to lay between 200 and over 300 large eggs in a year.
It takes between 24 and 26 hours for an egg to be formed internally. This means that hens can easily be in the midst of producing an egg year round- a highly taxing, painful, and dangerous process; egg overproduction can lead to a number of fatal reproductive tract diseases such as tumors in the oviduct, egg binding (where an egg gets stuck in the chicken’s body), and malnutrition and osteoporosis. Although a domestic chicken can live on average between ten and fifteen years, hens bred for use in industrial egg laying facilities typically live closer to five years due to health complications.
As guardians of egg-laying hens, there are a few things you can do for them.
Feed The Eggs Back To The Hens
If your hen residents are still regularly producing clutches of eggs, let the hens eat them! Chickens typically enjoy eating their own eggs, either raw, cooked, mixed into food, or in other creative ways. If they hesitate to eat an egg, crack it for them so that they understand that it’s non-viable. Chickens also love to eat the shells, which are high in calcium that they greatly need to replenish in their bodies.
Ensure Your Laying Hens Are Getting Enough Nutrition
For egg-laying hens, a single egg laid has the nutritional taxation equivalent of a human giving birth to a baby every single day! It’s absolutely critical to ensure that they are receiving enough extra nutrients to make up for laying. This means feeding them enriched food that is appropriate for actively laying hens such as Layena. They might require additional protein and vitamin supplementation as well, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
However, you must not overdo it with nutrients in their food, as excessive rich or fatty food can lead to FLHS, which is sadly common and lethal.
Explore The Potential Benefits Of Implantation
Implanting a hen with Suprelorin can, anecdotally, provide benefits to a chicken’s quality of life. Although not a lifetime cure and not inexpensive, one implant can potentially prevent a hen from laying any eggs for up to six months or a full year (depending on the implant’s strength), giving the hen a long time to recover from the ill-effects of overproduction or complications from egg laying such as prolapse, soft eggs, and egg peritonitis. You may wish to explore this option if a hen needs some extra help.
Egg Laying Policies For Other Sanctuary Birds
Other birds at your sanctuary, like turkeys, ducks, or geese, also may lay eggs, though at a much lower volume than chickens. Just as large breed chickens should not be fed egg regularly, neither should large breed turkeys. Some breeds of ducks and geese also grow to be quite large and may not benefit from the additional calories found in eggs. It may be best to reserve these eggs for your female chicken residents, especially those who came from industrial egg laying facilities. Implantation is less effective for other birds than chickens.