Q&A With Seth Nagy

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Some interesting questions came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week. I’d like to share three of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: My chickens are eating their eggs. How can I stop them from doing this?

Answer: Egg eating is a bad habit for chickens. It may begin as a result of accidental egg breakage, it could start as a nutritional deficiency, or it could begin from environmental stress like crowding. Whatever the initial cause, the behavior should be corrected quickly so it does not become a permanent habit.

If egg eating is a problem, consider these strategies to reduce stress and provide proper nutrition. Be sure there are enough nest boxes. Provide one 12-inch-by-12-inch nest for every four or five hens, but never have fewer than six nesting boxes. Keep 2 inches of clean, dry nesting material in the nests at all times as protective egg padding to prevent breakage.

Remove all broody hens from the nesting area. Do not use bright lights in your coops, especially near the nesting area. Bright light increases nervousness and pecking.

Be sure the birds have adequate clean water. Water is the most essential nutrient. Provide at least 5 gallons of water for every 100 birds per day. Provide 1 inch of water space per bird. Clean the waterers and provide fresh water daily. Place the waterers so that the lip is level with the birds’ backs.

Feed a complete feed for layers. Supplement the complete feed with a free choice calcium source such as oyster shells (or egg shells if they have been washed and crushed). Chickens have a calcium appetite and will eat more calcium if needed.

Minimize feeding of scratch grains or cracked corn. This dilutes the nutrients provided by the complete feed. If you feed supplemental grain or other “treats”, give only a quantity that the hens can finish in 15 minutes.

If you do catch an egg eater, it is best to cull it from the flock. Otherwise, other hens will imitate the behavior.

Question: When seeding a new yard, how much straw should I use?

Answer: One bale of clean (weed-free) straw should cover about 1,000 square feet. It is possible to apply too much straw.


The City of Lenoir did a text book example of spreading straw on a newly seeded site at Wilson Park. One straw bale per 1,000 square feet gives about a 50% soil coverage.

Too much straw can shade seedlings and require removal when the new grass is mowed the first few times. Apply the straw mulch so you can still see approximately 20 – 50% of the soil through the straw layer.

Question: How can I control yellowjackets?

Answer: The first decision to make is whether control is actually necessary. First, in spite of their reputations, yellowjackets are actually beneficial because they prey on many insects that we consider pests. They also serve as food for bears, skunks, birds, and other insects.

Unlike honey bees, yellowjacket colonies die out each year. And this late in the year, it may be easiest to simply wait until the colony dies out for the winter.

If control is warranted, purchase a product labeled for yellow jacket control. The “hornet & wasp” sprays packaged in aerosol cans work well. Follow all label directions. Insecticides should be applied late evening or at night when all foragers are inside the nest. The nest entrance should be identified and marked during daytime. A quick knockdown insecticide is preferred because yellow jackets may fly out to defend the colony when disturbed. Yellow jackets are attracted to light, so do not hold a flashlight while applying an insecticide. Direct the insecticide dispenser nozzle toward the nest entrance for best control. Check the colony entrance the next day for activity and reapply again if necessary. If daytime control is necessary, the person should wear protective gear including a hat, veil, coveralls, and gloves because returning foragers will likely attempt to defend the colony.

For answers to your agriculture questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.