Soft shelled eggs - how normal? And why not in nesting boxes?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LPOHHomestead, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. LPOHHomestead

    LPOHHomestead Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 19, 2011
    Our 3 RIRs are just now coming into lay. They are 23 weeks old and we've had 3 good eggs out of them in the past 2 weeks. We keep finding soft shelled eggs in the coop. I think we've seen 5 now.

    How long can we expect to see soft shelled eggs? Are they happening because they're new layers and their bodies take a little time to get it all worked out right or is there another reason?

    Why aren't they laying in the nesting boxes? The 3 good eggs that have been laid were in the boxes so we don't understand why the soft shelled are happening elsewhere. Is there a reason for that?

  2. bobbieschicks

    bobbieschicks Chicken Tender

    Jun 24, 2011
    King George, VA
    My Coop
    It's normal to get some softshell at the start. And finding them in the manure box or poop box is normal too.

    To encourage nest box laying put golf balls, ping pong balls or some other round egg looking thing in there - they should get the hint. Also I use straw in my nest box - which she loves. When I tried to put in pine shavings she didn't like it much and chose the one box that had straw in it to lay her egg.

    My White Leghorn started laying at Thanksgiving. She laid five eggs of increasing size and hardshells. Then she went wacky for about a week, laying softshelled eggs in the manure box alternated with no egg and one good egg. I thought we had a softshell layer and would have to cull. But it's completely normal for them to have issues at first. For the past 5 days we've had 5 eggs and only gotten one softshell.

    I did change a few things - I put her on supplemental lighting (am and pm), changed her to layer feed (Purina Layena w/Omega 3) and gave her oyster shell & grit in a separate bowl to munch on. I started feeding scratch as a treat when they came into the run when I called them. I put down alfalfa hay for them to nibble on and kick around. And every time she laid a softshelled egg I scrambled it up and gave it back to them along with her egg shells crumbled up.

    I've started to see normal eggs and I'm very happy about that!
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  3. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    I agree with the golf balls. I have a golf ball in each one of my nest boxes. Also are you giving your girls oyster shells? I have also have dishes in each of my coops. The calcium from the oyster shells help to strengthen their egg shells. They will take what they want.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I agree. The hen's internal laying factory is fairly complicated. Sometimes it takes a while for them to work out the kinks. It's surprising how many actually get it right to start with. I'd wait about two weeks before I took any steps. They are living animals and no two react exactly the same, but most can straighten the process out by two weeks.

    There are many different things that can cause soft shelled eggs, many of them related to a hen just starting to lay. Sometimes the shell gland does not work as it should. Sometimes the hen will release extra yolks, which mean she can lay more than one egg a day. The shell gland does not normally make enough shell material for more than one egg a day, so the second one can be soft shelled. Some hens' bodies never learn how to properly process calcium inot an egg shell, so it can be genetic, but often it is just a matter of time. A soft shelled egg does not necessarily mean you need to up the calcium they are eating, but they do need calcium and lots of it to make egg shells. Usually Layer has all the calcium they need if all they eat is Layer, but I think it is a real good idea to offer oyster shell on the side. Again, it can take a few days for them to work it out, but it is remarkable how practically all of them quickly figure out what the oyster shell is for. If they are laying, they do need extra calcium.

    When they first start laying, some of them can figure it out real quickly and use regular nests. Usually that is a nest box, especially if you have a golf ball or some type of fake egg in there, but sometimes it is somewhere else. If the egg consistently shows up inthe same exact place, she may be laying there instead of a nest box. But often, especially with the first few eggs, the pullet does not know what is going on. It's like she is surprised by the egg coming out and has no control over the process. Most quickly work this out, but I had one that laid from the roost for a couple of months. They are living animals remember. Once I figured out which was doing that, I ate her. I figured two months was six weeks too long.

    Something else that can cause eggs to be laid from the roosts. It takes about 25 hours for an egg to make its way through the hen's internal egg laying factory. Hormones trigger that start. I'm not exactly sure what triggers the hormones, but I think daylight is involved. That's why most hens lay egg in the morning. Daylight triggers those hormones so the egg is laid 25 hours later, reasonably soon after sunrise. They are living animals and not all react exactly the same, but if a pullet does not have those hormones reacting right, she can start an egg after dark. Thus, 25 hours later, you get an egg form the roost.

    So make sure there is adequate calcium available (oyster shell offered on the side, not mixed with their feed), put a fake egg in the nesting box, and give it a little more time. They'll probably work it out, but if you are still having problems in a couple of weeks, start another thread. On rare occasions they don't work it out.

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