Soft shells and other egg problems - causes and cures

By AmberRex · Jun 2, 2013 · ·
  1. AmberRex
    Strange and wonderful EGGS!!!

    We've all had it. That weird day where you put your hand into the nesting box and you withdraw holding an egg that can only make you say " Wow. What on earth..."[​IMG]

    So as this article is on causes and cures I suppose I better throw in some suggestions here in order to fulfill my cause. Here goes!
    Firstly I would like to say that some if not all of these problems may also be caused by illness or defect in the hen which I shall leave up to you to research if my methods are not helping you with your eggy problems.

    1. The shell-less egg:
    This really is the weird one to put your hand into. It is caused by a lack of calcium and has various causes. Firstly I am going to tell you the drawbacks of having a shell-less egg....
    I know that some of you are sitting in front of the computer at this point saying... but they're so "COOL!!!" Well yes, yes they are BUT...
    They have their problems:
    -1) They have no protection against bacteria or infection so they are not really as safe to eat as a normal egg.
    -2) If it is a recurring problem then where other hens lay then it could get broken and with their heat then you end up with a sticky, smelly mess on all of your eggs and potentially egg eating hens.
    -3) If you are selling eggs then obviously you cannot sell shell-less eggs because of the above problems.
    -4) They cannot be incubated.

    The causes of your shell-less eggs:
    As I have said before, the shell-less egg is caused by a lack of calcium. This is often a problem in older hens who are not able to process calcium as well and sometimes younger hens or pullets who are just beginning to lay although it can happen to hens of any age.

    So what can you do?
    My advice is to buy some oyster shell. You can mix it into your chickens' feed and it brings then a definite source of calcium. If you don't wish to fork out for oyster shell then there is a simple and free solution which actually adds to your little bit of self sufficiency. Egg shells. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Crush them up until they are in small bits or even a powder if you like and add it to the feed. It's simple! Some hens will absorb the calcium better then others.

    The thin-shelled egg is the self same thing with the same cause, problems and remedies except it may also be caused be an excess of phosphorous.

    2. The Calcium deposits:
    This is caused by an excess of calcium so you have to be careful how much calcium you add to a hen's diet but it can also be caused by a disturbance during calcification.

    Well the main problem is the appearance of the eggs for selling but a huge excess of calcium can cause pain and problems for the hen whilst laying the egg.

    So what can you do?
    If you are feeding calcium, then well, stop feeding calcium! I personally have not found another way to reduce the calcium but as with any other point in this article I am open to addition and correction and please do add a comment below if I should have included or excluded something.

    Other symptoms of excess calcium in eggs are wrinkled or corrugated eggs, white speckled eggs and brown speckled eggs and pinky purply coloured eggs.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This egg is also photographed below and is a duck egg. It has very distinct calcium deposits on it.

    3. Misshapen eggs:
    These are the weird eggs that you get from time to time. To be perfectly honest I know very little about these. They are deformed and appear to occur following a trauma but not always. I felt that in this article they deserved a mention but I have never had the problem of a hen who lays consistently misshapen eggs so I have neither cause nor cure.

    They don't fit well into egg boxes and aren't as aesthetically pleasing as a uniform standard egg they also are less likely to hatch following incubation.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    These eggs are misshapen. The egg to the left hand side is also corrugated slightly.

    4. Eggs with a seam???
    These eggs look like they have been stitched back together again. Guess what? They kind of have! These eggs have cracked inside the hen and have been repaired before laying. They are caused by stress or old age generally but unfortunately once again I have no cure. I have not found them a hugely common problem and treat them much the same as misshapen eggs.

    Really all of these problems are the same... They look funny to buyers and they don't fit well into egg cartons. Also if these eggs are breaking inside your hens there is a risk that a perforation of the vent may occur. Hatching rate is reduced also.

    5.The eggs with the white band:
    This is caused by two eggs coming into contact with each other in the hen. It occurs during calcification and like most of the above can be caused by stress.
    I have found that this discolouration often just washes off and thus this is my solution: try some lukewarm water!

    6. Big and small eggs:
    These eggs in general occur at the beginning or end of a laying cycle and are sort of like your handy little indicator that tells you when your hen is about start/stop laying but it isn't always the last egg. Occasionally I have some in the middle of a cycle but as this is very rare then it falls into the misshapen egg category.

    They do not fit well into egg boxes and the smaller eggs do not always contain a yolk. The bigger ones may be multiple yolkers (not a problem for me (yum)!!!!) They are very difficult ni-on impossible to incubate successfully.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    An excessively large and small Duck egg. An Excessively large (1cm off world record) and small (broken but you
    can see the rough shape) Hen egg.

    7. What these are strange colours?
    As you possibly know, hens lay different coloured eggs but I happen to have a duck who starts her season with a BLACK egg which over a few days turns greyer until eventually they are a regular duck egg blue... It's a strange one but I think that it is her oviduct lining(?) I will say that there are no apparent side effects, the eggs are normal and fine to eat and it adds a bit more excitement to the laying season commencement!

    I'm going to change the words around in this one to make it a little more egg-citing..... Some customers if you are selling eggs will possibly turn around to you and say " What was with the really weird coloured egg? That didn't look nice to eat at all so we threw it away." (how was that?:) )
    And if you are incubating then they are really difficult to candle because you simply cannot see through the shells.

    This is the start of my duck Waddle's laying season. The egg to the left being the first egg, the middle, the third or fourth egg and the right hand side, the normal egg at around day nine.

    8. The wind egg.
    This is an egg without a yolk and often occurs when pullets first begin to lay, but older hens may also lay these in times of stress.

    These eggs are impossible to incubate as the chick would have no food and if you really like the yolk of an egg then you've really missed out at breakfast time!

    So what can you do?
    Most often this only occurs once or twice in a hen and can be ignored unless it is a persistent problem.

    9. Pale and Orange eggs.
    You will find that if you have just started keeping chickens free range or on grass that your breakfast egg is now a rich, glazen orange as opposed to the pale, almost white in comparison hue, of an intensively reared, caged shop bought egg. You may notice this colour change if your hens have been kept inside for a few days or decides not to eat any grass/foliage as it is caused by ruffage and green food in a hen's diet.

    None! Unless you count personal preference in which case you may decide that you like one over the other.

    So what can you do?

    Well if you like the deep orange colour and a happy hen then the answer is simple. Add some green to your hens' diet!

    10. Blood streaks and spots (external):
    If you find blood streaks on the outside of an egg shell, ( which in general is a larger egg) it means that the hen has had difficulty laying or occasionally a pullet will lay a blood streaked egg at the start of their cycle if they have been subject to a lot of artificial light prior to egg commencement.
    Blood spots on the outside of the shell however, indicates red mites and hens should be treated accordingly.

    Red mites can cause further illness and death in infected birds.

    11. Internal blood:
    This is usually the result of blood escaping from the ovarian follicle and becoming embedded in the albumen. It can be the result of shock or stress and normally rights itself however, there is some evidence that this impurity has a hereditary tendency

    Eggs are unsaleable and hatch rate is reduced.

    So what can you do?
    To remove the hereditary link, I suggest not breeding from that hen if the problem is persistent.

    12. Unusual colour changes from dark to light
    If a hen's egg is getting lighter as the days go by, there could be a reason for it. This can be caused by an excess of sunlight, stress, a lack of nutrients in their diet or illness.

    It indicates underlying issues.

    So what can you do?
    Ensure that you birds have access to appropriate shade is an excess of sun is the most common cause.

    So yes, here you have it. My short guide to the weird and wonderful world of eggs! I hope that you enjoyed reading this and perhaps gleaned some sparks of information from it. I have rooted through the archive of all of the "funny" eggs that I have had over the years and tried to describe their trials and tribulations. I will add more pictures to this as I get them, but if you have pictures that you wouldn't mind me using that are relevant to sections 1,4,5,9,10 and 11 I would greatly appreciate it if you could add them in. (They never lay oddly when you want them to![​IMG])
    Thank you for reading and happy egg collecting!!!!

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  1. Mah1Mah1
    Wow... Now I am kinda paranoid when the chooks go into the nesting box O_O
  2. AmberRex
    Sorry, I haven't visited this site in a while so I am only just seeing all of your comments. CCCCCCCCHICKENS: thank you very much for your kind comment! theawesomechick: I did mean spots on the outside(as opposed to streaks) :) but thank you for your comment! buggymuffin: she was actually the first duck I ever bought and was sold to me as a Khaki Campbell but her shape tells me that she definitely is NOT!!! I did not know that there was a particular breed that did this so it is very possible. Thank you! Dizzydog, that is an amazingly good idea! I normally just blow mine and keep them on a shelf! BYC Project Manager: Thank you very much!!! Ramblin Rooster: Does this happen all the time or is it just periodically?
    Thanks everyone, sorry it has taken so long! AmberRex.
  3. Ramblin Rooster
    What if im not giving them extra calcium and still get eggs with excess calcium?
  4. BYC Project Manager
    Your article is featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to the BYC Article Contest. Congratulations!
  5. Dizzydog
    I like to take the first small eggs that my pullets lay and pickle them for fancy hors d'oeuvres.
  6. buggymuffin
    Is Waddle a Cayuga? My Cayugas always start the season laying dark gray eggs (they were black the first year), then they fade to a very light gray that is practically white. The more often they lay, the faster they fade.
  7. eggxelent
    I think they meant spots opposed to streaks.
  8. theawesomechick
    "Blood spots on the outside of the shell however, indicates red mites and hens should be treated accordingly."
    Did you mean "Blood spots on the inside of the shell"? If you didn't, just ignore my comment. I know nothing about red mites.
    Wow! I never realized that there could be that many problems with eggs. I have never had any problems with my eggs, but this information is good to know incase I do get an egg that is... well, different. I think it is neat that if an egg breaks while in a hen it can be sewed back up, but it sounds pretty tramumitizing for the hen. Anyways good detailed article!

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