Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Violet is our big barred rock hen, and she has a tendency to peck at things (especially sparkly, shiny things) as much for curiosity as for sustenance. She's a sleeker chicken than Gertie, without as many ruffles and tail feathers, and her grays and blacks blur together not in stripes but in "bars" that look airbrushed along their edges.

She's one of the noisier hens, constantly wandering about muttering, clucking at other hens or greeting me at a trot making chirpy, purred inquiries. Her interest in sparkly, shiny things means that she pecks at the rings on my finger, the hinges on the coop, the buckles on my shoes. When my sister-in-law, a fellow chicken enthusiast, picked her up, Violet had to check out her sparkly earrings repeatedly (and none too gently).

Miss Violet
Violet once sent me running for close-toed shoes. I've had a pedicure exactly one time, when my mom was visiting and we took the girls to get their nails done. I came home with strawberry-colored, sparkle-festooned toenails, and without thinking, wore sandals out to the backyard.

Violet approached me first to see if I had a treat, then she looked down, cocked her head in interest and eyed my toes. "Berries!" she seemed to say, and became determined to get them all before any other hens discovered what she was sure was a tasty treat. I had to head back into the house for more concealing footwear.

Normally, her peckish behavior doesn't bother me. But ever since she started laying, it's been a cause of consternation. At first I wasn't sure who was doing it, but I kept finding light brown/whitish eggs in the nesting box that had one pea-sized hole at the end. So the girls and I worked to keep the nesting box cleared as soon as an egg was laid, trying to figure out who was doing the pecking.

The evidence.
Violet, it appears, has turned her "curious pecking" on her own eggs in the most unhelpful manner, making the eggs unusable. And she's so quick. You don't want a hen to develop a taste for eggs, or you can end up with a growing problem of broken eggs. And while Violet hasn't been tasting her eggs (she doesn't break the inner membrane) she's heading in that direction.

Which has led to stalker behavior from me. If I notice Violet heading toward the coop and making pre-laying noises, I check the nesting box frequently, to the point where I often open the small door to find her in the box, and get a look of puzzled consternation, her privacy invaded.

Still, she manages to peck a hole in one before I get back out there.

So, I've been reading up on how to prevent this behavior. One source says to place hard "dummy" eggs in the nesting box so that if she pecks it, it will be uncomfortable and will discourage her from doing so again. Another said to cover an egg with petroleum jelly to make pecking the egg unpleasant. And still another suggested putting hot sauce within a hollow shell.

Another said to increase the hens' calcium by offering oyster shells, so we've added a pan of the white, crushed shells to their coop rations, since that was pretty simple (though I'd read elsewhere NOT to give oyster shells, which is why we weren't offering it... so I may have to research that a bit more).

And a suggestion to hang a shiny bauble in the coop to distract her might just work, given her interest in bling. If the number of people online asking how to keep chickens from pecking their eggs is any indicator, it seems to be a fairly common problem, anyhow.

Now, I'm off to see if we have any petroleum jelly. We'll see what Violet thinks of that.


  1. enjoying your blog - I've got 8 BR ladies myself. (so sorry about your loss - I saw your posts in Backyard Chickens and looked up your blog - so much more fun to read!) Anyway - I know you posted this long ago, but I have had the same issues with those little holes and I don't think they are from pecking - it comes from when the hen stands up to lay her egg and they must hit the floor just so ...

  2. Jenifer --
    Sometimes our girls will kick all the straw out of the nesting box, and I'll actually hear a "ping" when someone lays an egg, if I'm near the coop! I haven't had holes in eggs for a couple of months but I did find one on the floor of the coop just a couple of days ago, next to the nesting box, and it looked like it had hit the floor to break. I wonder if that's what had happened before... Thanks for your kind note :-)