Soft shell eggs

Discussion in 'Nutrition - Sponsored by Purina Poultry' started by Duckie48, Nov 7, 2014.

  1. Duckie48

    Duckie48 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 18, 2014
    Lockyer Valley SE Qld
    Hi all, Although I do not use Purina food for my poultry, too expensive here, I give a good quality (Darling Downs Layer) grain which has molasses in it, my chooks are giving a soft shell egg.
    I also put shell grit in the seed, not too much just a sprinkle. Don't want to over do it.
    They also get greens every day. e.g. wombok, cabbage, etc. also some fruit now and again.

    I also have some hens and ducks that never ever lay. Is that normal? The ducks eat the same as the chooks.
    Should I give the ducks the duck mash? because out of 14 ducks only 3 or 4 lay now and then. I only get 1, 2 or 3 a day.
     
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Are you only getting soft shelled eggs, or do some have normal shells? I would offer oyster shell in a dish, free choice, kept out all of the time, not just sprinkled on their feed. As long as the feed offers about 16% protein and is a layer feed, it shouldn't matter what brand it is.

    This is the time of year when egg production falls sharply for many people. Egg production is based partly on the amount of daylight that's available, and short days means less eggs. If they've molted recently, that takes weeks to recover from too.

    I don't know ducks well, but I do know that some breeds lay rarely, and many don't lay well at all until spring/warm weather rolls around.
     
  3. Duckie48

    Duckie48 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 18, 2014
    Lockyer Valley SE Qld
    End of spring here in Queensland summer starts in December. We have about 14 hrs of daylight. Almost daylight about 4am and dark about 6.30pm.
    I think the moult has finished. I get normal eggs and the soft shells 2 or 3 a week. One of the soft shell was laid while up on the roost and of course broke open on impact.
    Some eggs have a delicate shell and some totally soft. The crude protein is 15%. I may have to look for a different product.
    My birds free range. Although it has been very hot the weather has cooled down a little. We had days of about 40 Celsius for a week or so which is early for this time of year. It is now only about 30 Celsius, with very cool nights.

    If there is someone here in Qld with some advice I would appreciate it.
     
  4. Spiritsmeadow

    Spiritsmeadow Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 11, 2014
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    Hi Queensland! I live in Colorado, USA, but I do have some thoughts on your soft-shell problem. I have horses, feed a good grass/alfalfa mix hay, and after each feeding I scoop out any alfalfa fines that are left in the bottom of the feeder. I collect them all year long and I always give my hens loose alfalfa w/fines in the winter. They need the calcium if you are not feeding Purina's great Layena. Also, check on the www.peacefulvalley.com web site. They sell a forage mix I buy regularly and I'm sure you can dulpicate the seed mix. I start by lining a plastic seedling mesh tray with landscape fabric, then potting mix and then sowing the forage mix heavily. It sprouts within a week, and another week after that I give it to my hens all the cold winter long, and they are happy, great layers, hard shells and perfect eggs. I also have to keep them under heat lamps in the cold weather, and I have a heater for under the waterer. I think the it was Iowa State U that did a study on warm water and colic in sheep and horses...warm water given at all times in the winter almost completely stopped colic in both species...so it also makes sense to me that if your chickens have warm water in winter months they'll drink more, be healthier, make better eggs. Maybe I'm nuts but I don't think so! All the best, enjoy your summer as we trudge into the arctic blast next week ~ Lisa
     
  5. Duckie48

    Duckie48 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 18, 2014
    Lockyer Valley SE Qld
    Hi Lisa,
    I had a look t the link for peaceful valley and there was where showing sale of forage mix. It was only a ranch.
     
  6. Spiritsmeadow

    Spiritsmeadow Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 11, 2014
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    Hi There ~ here is their web site:
    www.groworganic.com/seeds.html

    I'm sorry I mid-directed you, their catalogs have Peaceful Valley Seeds and Farm Supplies on the cover. I don't think your hens' soft shells are from a lack of protien, but rather a lack of calcium. Oyster shell can help, but alfalfa is really easier on their stomachs and lots cheaper, at least here it is. All the Best!
     
  7. Duckie48

    Duckie48 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 18, 2014
    Lockyer Valley SE Qld
    Thank you for that. I will try the alfalfa. The Barostoc Darling Downs Layer is 15% protein. I will check on the Calcium but will take your suggestion and use it.
     
  8. Spiritsmeadow

    Spiritsmeadow Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 11, 2014
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    Hello ~ I hope it will help, it has always cured whatever was wrong with my hens' eggs from paper-thin shells to mal-formed shells and when they don't lay I feed raw hamburger and also black oil sunflower seeds...works every time. Sometimes they are in a draft, sometimes the folklore says they won't lay if their feet get wet but here my tribe wanders through snow up to their chins sometimes, they can stay under their heat lamps but they trudge through mud also. If the coop is clean and mouse free and they are warm, and there is no other obvious sign of stress its like us...we need calcium for our bones and teeth especially when we're carrying babies. Please let me know if they benefit from the alfalfaGood Luck![​IMG]
     
  9. Duckie48

    Duckie48 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 18, 2014
    Lockyer Valley SE Qld
    I am fighting mice. I have trapped about 50 in a few weeks. Doesn't sound like much, but they were everywhere. I dug a nest up a few weeks ago and found 16 babies of different ages. The chooks and ducks loved them. I have dug a couple of new nest areas up lately. We are on 5 acres so I think that some are coming from over the back. It is constant. I trap a mouse almost every night. I don't have any grass or long grass as it is a very dry time here. (Even the dam is dead dry). That is the reason I have to get greens every week to supplement their feed.

    Tell me something, I read in a blog that table scraps are no good for poultry. I give mine left over rice, pasta, salad, cooked food if the dog doesn't get it first and so on.
     
  10. Cipike Milo Buz

    Cipike Milo Buz Just Hatched

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    Apr 25, 2013
    Melbourne Australia
    Hi from Melbourne,
    I have looked at articles available re: what causes soft egg shell and hope that this may help you:
    - Certain pesticides for mosquito can cause soft egg shells as well as:
    Soft or missing egg shells (sometimes called shell-less eggs) are quite common in older birds, especially high production hybrids / good layers, especially as they come into or out of lay for the season. A 'soft shelled egg' is one that has a membrane but no shell.
    Some Causes of Soft Shelled Eggs

    Here are some of the reasons chickens lay shell-less or thin shelled eggs. I don't think this list covers every situation but should cover the majority of cases.
    1. In Good Layers

    Good layers are the usual candidates for soft / shell-less eggs. For example hybrid hens have been selectively bred to lay hundreds of eggs (it's not uncommon for the commercial 'brown hens' we see to lay 320 or more in a year) and I believe they are just producing eggs faster than they can shell them. The normal 'shelling process' usually takes around 24 hours and I have had hens produce a perfect egg followed by a shell-less egg in less than 12 hours.
    In pullets (female chickens under a year old), sometimes an egg stays in the shell gland for too long and is often covered in excess calcium (see calcium coated shells), then the egg that follows doesn't spend long enough in the shell gland. Again, the two eggs are laid closely together on the same day.
    Having kept hybrids alongside pure breeds for many years, I've seen far more instances of shell-less eggs with the hybrids. Maybe we've pushed mother nature to the limit in our quest for more eggs?

    2. Hot Days

    Thin egg shells or shell-less eggs can occur more frequently on hot days. This is associated with a lower food intake and shell thickness / shell will return to normal when the temperature drops again and your chicken's food intake returns to normal. There have been some mentions of this in commercial farming where they see lower intakes of food on hot days and lower shell quality.
    [​IMG]
    3. Insufficient Shell-forming Material

    This is the most obvious, but I have only listed it as number 3 because most of us these days are feeding our birds with a modern balanced feed and our hens have some access to free range and grit. Poor shells however can occur if hens aren't supplied with sufficient shell forming material (mainly calcium). Chickens get calcium from soluble grit often called Oyster shell grit (shown right) and this should be supplied either on its own or as 'mixed grit' which includes flint grit for digestion too.
    Another big source of calcium in a hens diet comes from their food. If you look at the ingredients on the back of layers pellets, you will see there is far more calcium than other feeds such as growers pellets. Fresh greens also provide hens with a source of calcium.

    4. Old Age

    Some birds can lay more soft egg shells as they age. Again, this is particularly true of hybrid breeds that have been optimised to give as many eggs as possible during their first year such as the Bovan Goldline often found on commercial farms. Once these birds reach 4 or 5 years old, you may find they start to lay eggs with soft shells. If you are keeping ex-batts then our section of Rehoming Ex-Battery Hens has a number of articles, specifically for ex-battery hens and their needs.
    5. Insufficient Protein in the Diet

    Chickens need the correct level of protein in their diet as well as minerals and various other vitamins. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) for example is used for the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus so that they are able to form egg shells as well as strong bones. Vitamin D is found in Cod Liver Oil but they shouldn't normally need this if they are fed the correct formulated layers feed, are free range and have sunshine on their backs.
    6. Overweight Hens

    Chickens that are over weight can stop producing eggs altogether or produce lower quality eggs, sometimes with missing shells. Take a look at the breast of your birds, when the feathers are parted, you should see the skin is thin (almost like tracing paper) where the breast bone protrudes forward. If there is a thick skin, or you can't see the breast bone clearly, the chances are your birds are carrying too much fat.
    Caution: Mixed Corn and kitchen scraps
    Mixed corn or 'scratch' as it's sometimes called in the U.S. is made up mainly of wheat with a little cracked maize (yellow in colour). Wheat typically contains 10% protein which isn't a sufficient amount for a laying hen. Maize is very fattening and hens carrying fat internally are more prone to laying problems such as prolapse and lay more shell-less eggs. Keep corn as a treat only. A handful per day per bird is sufficient.

    Check to see that you are feeding your chickens correctly on this page: Feeding Chickens.
    Feeding household scraps is technically no longer allowed by DEFRA but if you feed 'allotment scraps', they can be a bit of a mixed bag of what a hen needs in her diet. Whilst this is a way to save on feed costs, as a general rule, scraps shouldn't exceed 25% of a hen's diet. Allotment scraps should be mixed with layers mash and water to make a crumbly mixture.
    The best way to ensure a hen is getting the correct diet is to use a balanced layers feed and then supplement this with greens and some free range for a hen to top up with other things she needs during the peak months of egg production.
    If hens can be allowed to free range on grass or rough ground then this is much better than any vitamin drink or suppliment. They will be able to pick up a lot of the extra grit, vitamins and minerals they need and be a lot less prone to health problems as well as soft shelled eggs.

    Other Reasons for Soft Shelled Eggs

    If the above doesn't seem to be the cause in your case or soft shelled eggs are being laid regularly, then there could be a number of other reasons:
    • Inflamation of the oviduct (and there isn't anything that can be done about this as far as I know).
    • Calcium absorbtion problems (if the diet is correct and oystershell grit is provided ad-lib then there is sufficient calcium available but it cannot be absorbed correctly by the hen).
    • Stress. The problem usually goes away once the cause of stress is removed. Keep an eye out for bullying / feather picking, especially if it is occuring around the nest boxes and you are finding the soft shelled eggs outside of the nest boxes. Apple Cider Vinegar is good to help hens with stress.
    Soft shelled eggs laid once in a while are nothing to worry about. Hens that are at the start of their laying period, or have come to the end of it, often lay a soft shelled egg


    Hope this is of assitance
     

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