Have you ever wondered why your chickens sometimes lay eggs with a very soft shell? It seems crazy. But it is not as unusual as you may think. In fact, if you raise chickens, you will likely find a shelled egg in one of their nest boxes at some point.
There are a variety of factors that affect the type of eggs our chickens produce. In this article, we’ll help you understand the reason behind these unusual eggs and provide you with some tips so that you don’t see them again.
So how can an egg come out intact, if the shell is almost missing?
Eggs usually come double-wrapped, first in a thin, protective membrane and then in a hard outer shell. If the outer shell is missing, the membrane is usually strong enough to hold the egg together. So when you find an egg that looks like it has a soft, rubbery shell, what you really feel is that inner, shell-less membrane.
What causes chickens to lay eggs with soft shells?
There are a variety of factors that can cause a hen to lay a shelled egg, and it can be difficult to determine the cause. Here are some possibilities:
- Something is stressing your hen. She may have been chased by a child, scared off by some predator, scared by a natural phenomenon, had a fight with another chicken, or was simply upset about a recent change in her living arrangements. This can cause the eggs to lay before they are done.
- She is not getting enough calcium in her diet. It takes a lot of calcium to produce eggshells, so chickens need this mineral a lot in their daily diet. If you are feeding your hens special laying hen feed, they should get all the calcium they need. However, make sure you don’t go overboard with the leftovers and treats. If you provide a lot of extras, your hen may not be getting enough of the nutrients he needs. Also, be sure to give them plenty of free time. Like us, chickens need vitamin D and other nutrients to process calcium.
- Too much salt intake. Be careful not to feed your chickens leftovers and treats that have already been added to salt.
- Your hen is young. If the hen is just starting to lay, she may have some unshelled eggs at first. Don’t worry your shell gland will catch up soon.
- Your hen is entering or leaving her egg-laying season. Many breeds stop laying in winter and resume laying in spring. You can get a couple of strange eggs, while they are relaxing.
- Your hen is old – as we get older, our bodies slow down. The same goes for chickens. With age, the reproductive systems are less reliable, the decrease in eggs, and sometimes the malfunction of the laying process.
- Your hen is old / has a defective shell gland. If your hen constantly lays shelled eggs, it could be because she has a faulty shell gland. There is no solution in this case.
- Your hen is overweight. Hens that are overweight may stop producing eggs entirely or produce lower-quality eggs, sometimes without shells. Take a look at the breast of your birds, when the feathers are separated, you should see that the skin is thin (almost like tracing paper) where the sternum protrudes forward. If there is thick skin, or you can’t see the sternum clearly, your birds are probably accumulating too much fat.
- She may be sick. Infectious bronchitis and egg drop syndrome can also cause shelled eggs. If you have reason to believe that your hen may be sick, take her to a vet.
When should I start to worry?
Most of the time it probably doesn’t matter. If this is just a one-time event, there is probably no reason to investigate it further. If you start to see shelled eggs on a regular basis, definitely try to figure out who is laying them, so you can determine if it is a cause for concern.
A few months ago one of our new Brahma chickens laid one of these unusual rubber eggs and in that case, we believe it was the work of a stressed hen that had just arrived in our henhouse. We haven’t found another since.
Why is it important that eggs have shells?
The shell is formed as a form of protection for the eggs. This tough layer prevents dangerous bacteria and pathogens from invading the inside (yolk) of the egg. If the hens lay eggs without the shell, there is a good chance that the eggs carry germs from the outside environment.
Can the shelled eggs be eaten?
Yes, you sure can. Shelled eggs are perfectly safe to eat, but it’s best to use them right away. Without a shell, the yolk and whites will evaporate pretty quickly.
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