What should you feed to birds, and which things are best to avoid? Understanding what you should and should not provide to the birds in your garden is key to ensuring that you are helping them in any way you can.
Eggs provide food for embryonic chicks, and birds often eat the eggs of other birds in the wild. But should we feed chicken eggs to birds in our gardens?
Do Birds Eat Eggs?
Birds do indeed eat eggs. First of all, remember what eggs are. Eggs, if fertilized, are where baby birds come from. They consist of the shell, membranes, albumen, or white, and the yolk.
The yolk is the primary source of nutrition for the developing embryo, high in fat and protein. Surrounding the yolk are membranes within which, once the egg has been fertilized, a system of blood vessels develops. These encompass the yolk and carry nutrition to the embryonic bird.
The albumen also feeds a developing bird with water and protein. And some calcium is absorbed by baby birds from the egg’s shell. So, in a sense, all birds have ‘eaten’ their own egg while within it. But many birds will also go on to eat eggs as adult birds.
For example, those who have kept chickens may have witnessed egg-eating behavior. Hens often eat old eggs to get them out of the way and prevent disease and pests. But this can also be a sign of calcium deficiency in laying hens, environmental issues, boredom, or even simply because they get a taste for them. Other wild birds or garden birds can sometimes also do the same.
In the wild, many birds consume the eggs of other birds, including other species. Birds are opportunistic scavengers and will often seek out sources of nutrition wherever they can find them. And eggs, filled with what an embryonic bird needs to grow, are packed with nutrition.
What Types of Birds Eat Eggs?
When birds or other animals eat eggs, this is called oophagy, or egg predation.
Numerous birds do this, including the red-headed woodpecker, the red-bellied woodpecker, blue jays, gray jays, American crows, common ravens, common grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, black-capped chickadees, American robins, northern mockingbirds, and Carolina wrens.
Numerous birds will also eat chickens’ eggs when they are provided at feeding stations in a garden or another birdwatching site, even when eggs would not necessarily be a natural part of their regular diet in the wild.
Which Parts of Eggs Do Birds Eat?
Birds will eat all parts of an egg – the yolk, white or albumen, and the shells; they all contain beneficial nutrients.
Can Birds Eat Egg Shells?
Yes, many birds can eat the egg shells and the softer insides. Some birds will sup on the insides of a raw egg when one is broken, while others will break through the shells, crunch these up, and even eat the eggs whole, depending on their size and physiology.
Egg shells can be especially attractive to female birds during the laying season since they need plenty of calcium that egg shells can provide during this time.
Some birds that will come to feed on eggshells as a source of calcium when these are left out in a garden include bluebirds, gnatcatchers, orioles, tanagers, kingbirds, and swallows, for example.
Are Eggs Good For Birds?
As mentioned above, eggs are a good source of protein and a wide range of other nutrients essential for good bird health. However, if you feed birds in your garden, you should never forget that you can have too much of a good thing.
Though eggs are healthy in moderation, they also contain relatively high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats and should not be fed to wild or pet birds too often.
Feeding birds in your garden can be a wonderful way to attract them to your space and give them a boost. But remember, feeding should only ever be supplemental to their wild diet.
If you want to do the right thing for the birds in your garden, the most important thing is to provide natural food sources and habitat through your planting schemes. You should think about giving them leftovers or additional treats only once these things are in place.
Can Baby Birds Eat Eggs?
If you find a baby bird in your garden that has fallen from its nest or lost its parents, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands and feed the nestling or fledgling by hand. However, this should only ever be a last resort.
It is best to wait and see whether the bird does need your help. And even if you are sure it does, it is best to call in the experts wherever possible. Feeding a baby bird is very complex, depending on the specific species and its precise stage of growth.
Experts will sometimes feed nestlings with a soft mix of egg and water, but the proportions and combination vary depending on the species and specific situation. So wherever possible, we would not advise taking this into your own hands.
How To Feed Eggs to Birds
In the wild, of course, birds will eat eggs raw. Leaving out an occasional raw egg for the birds in your garden can provide them with a protein-boosting treat. But this can make a mess, and you might be worried about pathogens. So many birdwatchers who feed birds in their gardens will choose to provide cooked chickens eggs.
Cooked chicken eggs are not, of course, a natural addition to an avian diet, but they will often eat them, nonetheless. Birds can derive many benefits from eating cooked eggs, too. The boiling process sometimes makes the egg protein more easily digestible.
Can Birds Eat Hardboiled Eggs?
Hardboiled eggs can certainly be left out for the birds in your garden or fed to pet birds in moderation as part of their diet.
If you have leftovers, there is no harm in leaving them outside for birds to consume; they will certainly appreciate the treat.
Can Birds Eat Scrambled Eggs?
Leftover scrambled eggs can also be left out as an occasional healthy treat for birds. However, it is important not to offer eggs that have been salted, seasoned, or have other ingredients.
Sodium can be dangerous for birds, and other things may be added to an eggs dish that are not good for the wild birds in your garden.
Can Birds Eat Fried Eggs?
While cooked eggs on their own are fine to leave out for birds, fried eggs can be excessively oily or fatty, and these are not the ideal food for your feathered friends.
So, fried eggs are not the best option if you are looking for protein-rich food to leave out on your bird table or at another feeding station.
How To Prepare Egg Shells for Wild Birds
As well as feeding the inner parts of eggs, raw or cooked, to wild birds, you can also consider feeding wild birds the broken shells by leaving them out on their own or adding them with other bird food for backyard birds.
Birds can eat eggshells as they are, but many bird feeders will choose to rinse and bake them until they are dry to sterilize them and make them crumble up more easily.
After rinsing, lightly bake them in your oven or stove at 250 degrees until they are dry but not brown. You can crumble them up and spread them at a feeder or elsewhere in your garden for the birds to enjoy.
Arguably, leaving egg shells out for garden birds is even more helpful to them than leaving out the eggs themselves – especially during the breeding and nesting season.
Moreover, the egg shells can also help add calcium to enrich the soil in your garden. So any not eaten by the birds might help to enhance the fertility in your garden and help you grow a healthy bird-friendly habitat for all your avian visitors.