Thin shelled or Shell-less eggs...Cause for concern??


14 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Central NC
One of our hens has been laying either a very thin shelled or a shell-less egg about once a week since she started laying about 3 weeks ago. She's laid 2 shell-less eggs (like the one in the picture I'm including) and one egg that had such a thin shell that I found it cracked in the coop when I went to collect the eggs. I'm not entirely sure which hen it is, but it has to be one of the "Rocks" (Barred or Partridge) because the thin shelled egg was light brown and the shell-less eggs are very light My guess is that the thin shells or shell-less eggs are because she's laying two eggs a day. Some days I'll find 4 of the light brown eggs in the nest and we only have 3 hens that lay eggs that color. I've been checking the nest before I close the coop up at night (after dark) and the eggs aren't there at night. Even if she's laying one egg after dark and another egg by Noon or so the next day, that would still be two eggs a day right? Two eggs in a 24-hr period, or closer to 18-hr period actually.

I have a dish of crushed oyster shell in the coop for the girls to pick at, and also mix oyster shell and finely ground egg shell in with their feed and scratch so I have a really hard time believing the thin shelled/shell-less eggs are caused by a lack of calcium in their diet. If these icky eggs are in fact caused by someone laying two eggs a day, should I be concerned? I understand there's nothing I can do if one of the girls ovulates more often than "normal", it's just how her body works right? But should I be concerned that one of these nasty shell-less eggs could cause problems for her? The ones that I've found so far look like she tried to lay it in the nest and the egg skin broke...I find yoke in the nest and the torn egg skin on the other side of the coop. It looks like the egg doesn't come all the way out and just drops off later. Should I offer more calcium? Sometimes I get concerned that the other girls might be getting too much calcium though because our Leghorn has laid a couple eggs with extra calcium deposits on the shell.

Any suggestions?? Or is this just another one of those "this is how she is, learn to live with it" things that goes along with raising chickens?

It sounds like you are doing every thing right. In young layers it is common for that to happen. Also I have noticed it after a hen has molted or been broody. It seems to happen in an adjustment period. Just be patient, everything will be perfect in no time
You might want to read through the Egg Quality Handbook to see if something in there adequately describes what you are talking about.

Egg Quality Handbook

If your other hens are laying eggs that have good shells, they should be getting enough calcium, especially since you are already offering oyster shell. Don't worry too much about the hen that is laying eggs with excess calcium deposits. I expect that to be a case of her taking her time laying the egg, not too much calcium.

As you are probably aware, it is not unusual to get strange eggs the first couple of weeks that a pullet is learning to lay. For some, it takes a while for them to get their internal egg laying factory working correctly. I'd certainly advise patience since she has just started.

It takes a while for the egg laying factory to prepare the calcium to coat the egg at the very end of the egg laying process. If she is ovulating too rapidly, that factory does not have sufficient time to prepare the calcium for deposit. Force feeding her more calcium won't make that part of the egg laying factory work any faster.

If she does not straighten out you will have to decide if you want to live with this. The risks and problems I see are that her eggs will break and mess up the nest and other eggs that are laid in the nest, that the broken eggs could lead to egg eating by her or other hens, and you are obviously not getting any benefit of the eggs she does lay. I personally cannot see any benefit to keeping her if she does not straighten out and I certainly would not allow any of her eggs to hatch. I do not want those traits in my flock genetics. What you do, of course, is entirely up to you. If she straightens out and you are not breeding chickens, it may be great for you to keep her.
We don't plan to breed any of our chickens, don't own a rooster and hope that we never accidentally get one (my mom accidentally got three last fall). On the days that she lays one of these abnormal eggs, she also lays a regular egg, so we're still getting six eggs a day - one from each of our hens. Even when the shell-less eggs spill yoke on the other eggs it's not all that hard to wash off. So far none of the girls seem interested in eating the mess that has come along with the abnormal eggs. They have a great big pen to run around in during the day and don't usually go back into the coop for anything other than to lay their eggs. We're also not really trying to make a living off selling the eggs or anything like that, we've given them away to friends or traded them for veggies with others, but these girls are more pets than anything else. Apparently spoiled pets too.

I think my only real concern is that one of these abnormal eggs could get stuck on the way out or something.
I just had one of my rir pullets lay a shelless egg. She is a good layer and always uses the nest boxes except for just now. She has been sluggish for the last hour or so and sitting on the ground getting up moving and then goes sits in another spot for a few minutes. She finally stood up and a shelless egg dropped out! No shell whats so ever! Now, my pullets are a little over six months old been laying since the first of the year, they are fed layer feed and get oyster shell too plus scaps and scratch. What caused it all of a sudden?
Well, this morning when I went out I found two shell-less eggs. At least I'd call them shell-less since it's really just a thick skin instead of a normal shell. The skins were two different shades of tan, so it appears that it's two girls laying these weird eggs. Here's the thing though, they're still laying normal eggs on days when they lay these skin shelled eggs. I read the information on the optimum egg quality website and can't really figure out what would be causing them to do this other than double ovulation.

They get a gallon sized waterer of fresh tap water every morning. We're on a well and I haven't noticed any change in the water quality over the past few weeks, I would guess if we were somehow getting salt in our well water that I'd be able to taste it right? They're getting the same feed - Layena Layer Crumbles....well actually, back in early February one of our hens got "sick" (we ended up deciding that it was probably a congenital thing and not actually an illness since her symptoms didn't match up with any disease and none of the other girls exhibited any similar symptoms) and we mixed a small bag of a higher protein feed in with the layer crumbles.

I don't think any of the girls are showing symptoms of "Egg Drop Syndrome" since we're getting 5-7 eggs per day from 6 hens. I read the symptoms of Infectious Bronchitis also, and it doesn't sound like they have this. None of them are acting "sick", I haven't heard any of them sneeze or cough, and egg production seems to be up not down. I'm not entirely sure what "loss of internal egg quality" means or how I would determine whether or not the internal quality was down.

Besides these shell-less/thin shelled eggs, the only other oddity is in our Leghorn's eggs. When we had a bad cold spell back in January, her egg production dropped to about 5 eggs a week instead of 7 for a couple weeks. When she started laying again her eggs were much larger, like surprisingly big. They're at least 1.5 times bigger than they had been previously. She first started laying in September '09 I think. The other girls, the Rock's, are relatively new layers. The Barred Rock laid her first egg in early January, then dropped off during that cold spell. The other two, the Partridge Rock girls, both started laying on February 8th. That's when I noticed that one (or more) of the Rock girls was occasionally laying 2 eggs a day because we were getting 4 brown eggs a day and only have 3 brown egg layers...unless one of our Seabright's occasionally lays a freakishly large egg.
Also, the extra egg isn't always soft shelled. Our Barred Rock hen is a McMurray's girl that we bought locally, and the two Partridge Rock hens were purchased from a breeder here in NC. I don't remember the name though. I would guess it's more likely that the Partridge Rock sisters would be more likely to be the ones double ovulating...maybe a genetic predisposition to double ovulation? I know it happens in people, I can't imagine why the same wouldn't be true in chickens.

Is there anything else that I can look for as far as disease is concerned? Should I change their diet? Or, if it turns out to be the Partridge Rock sisters, should I just leave them alone and see if they grow out of it? A month into laying kind of sounds like their system just needs more time to work out the quirks. I certainly don't want to kill them just because they mess up the coop with these icky eggs!

Thanks for the help!!
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when one of my hens started laying she did that also

So is a month of laying still considered to be just starting?

These are our first chickens, we've had them since June/July of 2009, so I don't really know all that much about them yet. Still learning!
Sure makes me wish it was as easy to find a vet for chickens as it is for cats/dogs.​
Yes, I would definitely consider the first month as just getting started. I had the same issue with one (or maybe multiple, never caught the chicken(s) in the act) repeatedly laying shell-less eggs. From 3 chickens I found sometimes up to 3-4 shell-less eggs a week, sometimes it would be a week or two with no problems, then a couple more all in a row, all very sporadic without any indication of why. I also posted the issue and many far more experienced chicken folk assured me that its just a newbie issue that will work itself out. My girls have now been laying for approx. 4 months and (knock on wood) its now been 3 wks without an issue, so hopefully the kinks are being worked out!

Of course, keep an eye on them for other issues, but if they are all acting normal, etc, I wouldn't be concerned.
Great, thank you! I generally try quite hard to be a responsible pet owner, and since it seems impossible to find a vet for chickens I probably worry more than I should. I definitely would not have guessed I would get so attached to some chickens, but they all have very different personalities (or chickenalities as I usually call them) and are fantastic pets! I'll continue to keep an eye on them.

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