Soft-shelled mis-formed eggs

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Malpower, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. Malpower

    Malpower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Kentfield, California
    I asked this question or similar recently and got no response, so wanted to try again.

    I have one hen who has been dropping soft-shelled, mis-formed eggs from her roost at night -- I find them in a puddle under the roost in the morning when I open the coop. Another of the hens has done the same just one time in last month.

    The main hen Lucy has done this from time to time in last year and has been doing it very frequently in the past month, every other day this past week, with a normal egg on other days -- though her eggs were looking very light colored and pimply a month ago. I know the need for calcium in their diet and they get lay crumbles with extra oyster shell as their main feed, a few other things like game bird crumbles with higher protein which I give when they get sort of molty, laying pellets, rooster mix, sunflower chips, veggies (tomatoes, blueberries, lots of greens) and I tend to give them a little non-fat cottage cheese, yogurt or other low fat/low sodium cheese most evenings, along with meal worms (both live and dried).

    My cleaning women from Guatemala today mentioned she thought they needed iron. I talked to my feed store and they said they'd never heard of their chicken people using iron and just thought I needed to add even more oyster shell to their food. Should I stop feeding them anything but their layiing crumbles with oyster shell and just throw in extra oyster shell? Or keep feeding some stuff and leave out other? Am I giving them too much calcium with the little bit of cheese-yogurt at night?

    Any advice or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Marie1234

    Marie1234 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 29, 2010
    Don't give them iron.

    There are two potential reasons for this. First is nutrition. Basic laying mash/crumbles/pellets with oyster shell should take care of their nutritional needs. The extra stuff is great for variety but not needed for good eggs. The second is the metabolism of the individual bird. Age and genetics are your basic factors. If you can isolate the bird and put her on just the laying mash for a few weeks and see if that produces better results than feeding with the rest of the flock you can find out if it is nutrition. If on the other hand it is age and metabolism I don't think there will be much you can do about that. You'll just have to decide if you want to cull her out of the flock or keep her as a pet.
     
  3. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    Hold off on the other treats, and feed the layer feed with crushed oyster shell, in a dish on the side, always available, free choice. Don't toss it on the ground or in their feeder. Fill a container and secure it someplace they always have access to (at the height of their backs). And make sure the oyster shell is always topped off and very full -- I found my one layer with the same problem as yours got much better when I kept the oyster shell topped off, instead of letting it get down to the dusty bottom.

    If they free-range, don't worry about what she forages to eat. Just hold off on other treats for now. She may not be getting enough calcium, if she fills up too much on stuff besides her feed. Magnesium, is another factor in egg shell strength. So is Vitamin D, and phosphorus. Most of the shell, 85% or so, is calcium carbonate, so that form of calcium is best. Oyster shells are calcium carbonate. Also, make sure they have constant access to fresh clean water. I put raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) into their non-metal waterer, at a ratio of 1 tablespoon ACV to 1 gal. water. I find it helps my birds stay healthy.

    Also, sudden heat spells can cause a hen to inadequately calcify her shells, as she tries to lower her body temp and stay alive. Usually, though, when the temperature returns to normal, the egg shells improve. I don't know what the weather has been like, in your neck of the woods.

    Occasionally, a hen will have a more serious problem such as a defective shell gland or tumor. However, you should try to rule out a nutritional problem first. Good luck!
     
  4. Malpower

    Malpower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Kentfield, California
    Thanks so much for the response! I won't go look for iron supplements, then -- I just read somewhere else that Iron is a no-no!

    Gosh, the hen isn't quite 2 years old -- she's "alpha" hen in my small flock of 4 -- if there's anything to eat, she gets it first. I can't easily isolate her from the rest of the flock. Since another of the girls also dropped one funny egg lately, perhaps they should all be on the same diet. It seems that what I'm feeding them is just what it should be -- lots of oyster shell in the laying crumbles, but I'll go get a bag of just oyster shell and put out a container with just that and also put it in with other food given. Just wonder if the hen could simply be choosing not to eat the oyster shell. They free-range a big part of the day. Maybe cutting out all other feed except the laying crumbles with extra oyster shell for all, and one container of just oyster shell and no other choices, might be an idea.....???

    As to metabolism -- I know nothing about it, but can say that this hen is very hyper active compared to the other three who are quite mellow. Lucy is in charge, runs the show, and is always alert and dashing here and there to see what's going on -- always the one that runs up to greet me when I appear. She also never stopped laying throughout the winter and never molted -- so the others had a few months of a rest from laying eggs, Lucy never did. She's pretty much been laying non-stop for 15-16 months now. Could these soft-shelled eggs just be a kind of "time out" for her? Weather has been weird, no real spring, lots of rain, still a lot of gray and overcast days, like today, and maybe more rain even though summer is supposed to be started. I'm in northern California for heaven's sake and this is not our usual weather. So wonder if the weather might not have some effect too. Other 3 girls look slightly like they're molting, or just a bit moth-eaten, but not Lucy -- only problems with her are those bad eggs!

    I don't care if Lucy lays eggs or not, I just really want to be sure nothing is wrong with her -- she continues to be her usual perky and bossy self!
     
  5. Malpower

    Malpower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Kentfield, California
    Quote:Thanks a lot, Feathersnuggles! You've answered some of the questions I just this second posted -- I WILL go get that crushed oyster shell and anchor a dish somewhere for them. Fortunately Lucy's the most curious and she's bound to check it out immediately. I'll keep it filled to the top too! [​IMG]

    I was going to ask about the ACV -- thanks for answering me before I asked -- I always put that in their water and will continue, but maybe change the water a bit more frequently.....there are waterers all over the place!

    As mentioned in post right before this -- weather has been odd for my area -- not so cold anymore, but overcast and rainy with some warm sunny days thrown in and a few fairly hot afternoons. The girls' laying has been sporadic some recent weeks and have wondered if its been related to this -- too many gray days when there should be lots of sun!

    I really appreciate the feedback -- I get so worried and other than BYC have no other source of support and advice! Thanks, again! I'm off to buy crushed oyster shell right this minute!! [​IMG]
     
  6. Malpower

    Malpower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Kentfield, California
    Quote:Feathersnuggles -- you mention your hen with the same problem -- did it take a while for her to start eating the crushed oyster shell? My girl and the other 3 too are just ignoring it and not sure how to get it into her little body. Tried hand feeding, tried putting a few dried worms on top of it -- just to direct her attention to the bowl. Now, the pieces of shell look kind of large and sharp to me altho I was assured it was crushed oyster shell -- the shell I see in the laying crumbles is much smaller.

    Early this morning she went down from the roost and laid today's softshell in the nesting box, it was nearly shell-less, mostly a yolk barely contained. Sigh! Yesterday afternoon she spent an hour or so sitting in a nesting box trying to lay an egg, after dropping the softshelled one early that morning. [​IMG]

    Thanks!
     
  7. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    Quote:Feathersnuggles -- you mention your hen with the same problem -- did it take a while for her to start eating the crushed oyster shell? My girl and the other 3 too are just ignoring it and not sure how to get it into her little body. Tried hand feeding, tried putting a few dried worms on top of it -- just to direct her attention to the bowl. Now, the pieces of shell look kind of large and sharp to me altho I was assured it was crushed oyster shell -- the shell I see in the laying crumbles is much smaller.

    Early this morning she went down from the roost and laid today's softshell in the nesting box, it was nearly shell-less, mostly a yolk barely contained. Sigh! Yesterday afternoon she spent an hour or so sitting in a nesting box trying to lay an egg, after dropping the softshelled one early that morning. [​IMG]

    Thanks!

    Strange about the size of your OS. My feedstore carries their own brand of crushed OS that is well-flaked but not powdery. The pieces are thin slivers, about 1/4" to 1/2" in diameter. I've also purchased Manna Pro Oyster Shell, which also worked well for my hens. If you feel your OS is too rough and large, you could put some into a paper bag and use a hammer to break them further. Give them some time, though. Eating OS doesn't automatically create a strong shell the next day. I think you could see better egg shells starting about a week after she's eating the OS. You could give her an "emergency" dose of a crushed Tums mixed with some plain active-culture yogurt. I've mixed a tablespoon of dry oatmeal into that, just to give the beak something to pick up. Not calcium carbonate, but a quick way to get a quantity of calcium into a bird.

    Another source of calcium carbonate is in the egg shell itself. Bake some eggshells on low temp in the oven until they are very dry. Then crush them up into small-ish pieces. I've sprinkled these under my maple tree, where the ground is bare, and the birds tend to cluster there and pick up pieces of shell.

    Also, check at the bottom of your OS bag for some finer stuff you can use. Usually the small stuff slips to the bottom.
     
  8. Malpower

    Malpower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Kentfield, California
    Quote:You know, the crushed OS I got yesterday probably is the right stuff, just looked big and sharp, but I WILL hammer it a bit! Feed store I went to yesterday wasn't a very good one but nearby. This morning I trekked on up to my favorite feed store about 50 miles away. They steered me towards Osyter Shell Flour, said to mix it in with all the feed, better chance of the hens picking it up and not ignoring it cuz the feed is coated. So I've mixed that in with the feed, but will leave the other crushed shell out too (once I've hammered it a bit). The chicken people at the store also recommended this liquid calcium gluconate 23% solution which is for milk fever in Cattle, they say to put some drops of it into the hens drinking water each time I change the water and that should help too.

    I definitely will use your "emergency dose" idea with the Tums (I chew them myself) and some plain yogurt and dry oatmeal -- Lucy should like that. How often could something like this be used? I just noticed the poor girl is in the nesting box again trying to lay another egg.

    I had thought of their eggshells too, but have heard too often not to feed them their own eggshells so hesitate. Would baking them make the difference in their not noticing they're eating their own eggshells?

    Once again, thanks a lot!
     
  9. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    Here's a link about soft shells and shell-less eggs. It's a link often posted on BYC. Maybe you've seen it? Anyway, it tells about some of the causes for it, though (IMO) not all:
    http://www.thepoultrysite.com/publi...ndbook/16/thinshelled-eggs-and-shellless-eggs

    I really think you should leave off feeding all treats and extra foods -- just for the time being. None of the treats & feedstuffs you mention are in any way bad. They're great nutrition (pat yourself on the back for not feeding them a lot of bread or empty carbs). But moderation is key. Make sure the bulk of their intake is the balanced layer feed, which has the vitamins/mineral balance they need, in addition to necessary protein and calcium, etc. Leaving OS in a free-choice dish allows each hen to eat whatever extra calcium she may need, depending upon what else she's eating, including what she has foraged on her own.

    About your soft-shell agony! I've been there. I've worried myself sick, bathed her, held her on my lap over a warm heating pad, etc. I'm sheepish to say. She's even laid a shell-less egg, in my lap, after a heating pad event. I checked her vent a lot of times after she laid a shell-less egg, worried that she was going to get a prolapsed uterus or hurt herself from the strain of pushing out such a soft egg. But her vent always looked normal. And she remained her wacky, jump-off-the-cliff, high-spirited self. So, hang in there. I really hope you'll be singing the praises of your hen's eggshells, soon! [​IMG]
     
  10. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    I just saw your post above. LOL! I'd give a Tums/yogurt dose, then wait for a day or two. See what happens, along with your new feed regime. If after 2-3 days, she's still pumping out softies, then maybe dose her once more. Personally, I hesitate to force too much of one thing down their throats too often. Let her body assimilate it, and you may get a better picture of what's happening.

    Egg shells are not a problem, wrt to eating their own eggs. I think it's a myth. There are many many other causes for egg-eating. My girls have always eaten crushed egg shells, and I've never had an egg eater, except for the thin shelled, cracked, or shell-less eggs they find. Once an egg is crushed or leaking, the hens are all over it. Otherwise, they leave the eggs alone.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2010

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