Ask the Expert August/September 2022

Ask the Expert August/September 2022

Odd Egg 


Howdy! One of my chickens laid this egg today, and it appears to have no shell. I was just wondering if there was a reason for the cause of the egg with no shell. Thanks! 



Hi Alivia, 

It can be tough to tell from the picture, but is that outside membrane soft/flexible? Or does it dent in and stay that way? Here’s why I’m asking: 

  • Shell-less eggs are a glitch. They often happen when a chicken comes back into her laying cycle or is at the start of a lay cycle. The egg forms, moves down the oviduct, but skips the part where the external shell is applied. It just happens; that’s the best way to describe it. And it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your chicken. Shell-less eggs are also called “rubber” eggs and the outside is very flexible, though they will burst if you drop them. 
  • If the shell is thin, dents when you push on it, and the dent stays there, then something is going on that keeps her from applying a solid shell. Perhaps she needs more calcium in her diet; perhaps she came down with infectious bronchitis or another disease that affects shell production, and this is the only symptom that you’ve seen. If you can feel any type of a shell at all, offer more calcium, such as free-choice oyster shell. (Offer it on the side, not mixed into the feed, so they eat just what they need.) Extra calcium won’t do a thing for those diseases; most of them are viral, and the chicken overcomes them within six months. But it will make those shells stronger if calcium deficiency is the problem. 

I hope this helps! 

Marissa Ames 


Chicken Health Handbook 

Dear poultry experts, 
What is the best chicken health handbook to purchase? I have a 1994 version of The Chicken Health Handbook. Looking for what would be best to spend money on for as advanced up to date information as possible. Not looking for just beginner basics. 

Annette Gill


Hi Annette, 

Classics remain classics for a good reason, and The Chicken Health Handbook is still my favorite resource for flock health. But Gail Damerow has written a revised, updated second edition, which was published in 2015. With all the chicken books I’ve owned and read, the only ones I’ve found that go further into detail about potential diseases and symptoms are college textbooks which come with that high textbook price. And this one is only $25. 

 Good luck! 

 Marissa Ames 



 Dear Chicken Experts,  
I have a 12-day-old chick with a swollen puffy breast area down to her abdomen. She eats and drinks fine and is up and about well. I have a 1994 The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow which talks about air sac disease. The symptoms listed are all respiratory in nature. This little chick does not have any symptoms like that at this time. She looks like she has a bubble under her skin all across the front of her chest. It is soft to palpate. There’s been no rough handling, there’s no sore spot. Her bottom is fine, no stool on her bottom feathers and clean vent opening. Antibiotics are suggested, however no veterinarians treat chickens anymore here. If I was to try oregano/thyme tincture, how much of a tea concentrate would I add to 12-day-old chick water. I have a quart jar that gets fresh every day. The chicks are eating 18% non-medicated Kalmbaugh chick starter. I do not have baby chick grit. My sister and brother-in-law have nearly 100 new baby chicks each year and do not use baby grit so I did not get that. I’m wondering about using some kind of baby scratch grains too. Looking for suggestions.  

Annette Gill


Hi Annette,  

For invasive procedures, I do have to recommend seeing a vet.   

Regarding grit: I highly recommend it for brooder chicks eating commercial chick starter. They won’t consume it if they don’t need it, but it helps grind up the food and keeps their digestive systems running smoothly. Also, you can feed scratch grains to baby chicks but 1) make sure you have grit available to help them grind up the grains 2) keep in mind that scratch grains are mostly empty calories, and right now your babies need the high protein that’s in their chick starter. Feeding them too many treats will upset that balance and could slow their growth and development.  

 Marissa Ames 


Wyandotte Pullets Follow-up 

Hi Marissa,  

A few weeks ago, you were trying to help me figure out a problem I was having with one of my Wyandotte pullets. We were in question as to whether one of them was a rooster and plucking the other ones feathers out of the other ones saddle area. Well I now know they are both girls, I am getting 5 eggs a day on most days out of 5 pullets. However, the two Wyandottes are having problems with their eggs. They frequently lay shell less eggs and one of them laid what looks like a lash egg. I decided to take the one that laid the lash egg to the vet and suggested a stool sample ahead of time so that the vet and I could discuss it when I brought the chicken in. She said the stool sample was negative but to be honest I don’t think the vet knew anymore than I do. I am not even sure what test she ran on the stool sample. She did put her on Metronidazole for possible peritonitis and suggested we use it on all 5 pullets. Someone in one of the chicken chat rooms that I frequent mentioned to treat for coccidiosis ….. do you have any thoughts on this? I don’t want to keep pushing drugs on my girls if they don’t need them. This is my first time raising chickens and I really don’t want to miss anything they need.  

 Thanks, Joni 


Hi Joni 

It’s great to hear from you again. I’m glad you ended up with two hens, as roosters present their own issues. And I understand what you mean regarding the veterinarian. Finding a dedicated poultry vet is difficult, and that knowledge base is so different from cats and dogs that a lot of veterinarians won’t even treat chickens because of it! I do agree with the Metronidazole, as that would have addressed a possible bacterial infection that could be causing the lash eggs. But I don’t agree with the suggestion to treat for coccidiosis, as a coccidia infection presents as bloody diarrhea and weight loss, but those symptoms usually occur before any kind of problems with egg production. And while decreased egg production is a symptom, because of poor health and decreased feed/water consumption, the lash eggs indicate a whole different problem. You can ask your vet if she tested for coccidia within that sample, and if she did, then you can rule it out as an issue. 

Overuse of medication creates medication-resistant organisms; this is true for coccidia protozoa, gastrointestinal worms, and bacteria. Amprolium, the most common coccidiosis medication, restricts the absorption of thiamine, which your hen needs as she heals.  

The two most common causes of poor/shell-less eggs, that I’ve seen in recent years, are infectious bronchitis and bacterial/fungal vent infections. Infectious bronchitis is a virus, so there’s not much you can do but let it run its course, and often it can work its way through a flock without any of the birds showing respiratory symptoms. Laying issues resolve within about six months. The vent infections can happen simply because the cloaca “puffs” out during the laying process, then moist tissues draw dirt back into the vent after the egg is deposited. This can create many issues, depending on what bacteria or fungi caught a ride with the dirt. The Metronidazole addresses that, but it doesn’t hurt to also bathe your hens’ vents in povidone iodine. That way, you address infections both orally, with the Metronidazole, and through the vent. 

It sounds like you’re going in the right direction with this and regarding the advice that you’re getting from different sources. I hope my advice can help get your girls back to their full laying potential. 



Turkey Poults 

Hello. I purchased 5 turkey poults, 3 weeks old, yesterday. They are awake and breathing but all 5 huddle together, no movement or chirping. I have had them here for 24 hours now in a brooder at a constant 85 degrees. I dropped it to 80 degrees with no change. Now its 85 degrees again.  

Straw bedding about 2 inches thick. 28% game fowl feed in one feeder and Henhouse Reserve in another feeder. Electrolyte fortified water in one waterer and plain filtered water in another. 

Their eyes are open but they will not break out of their huddle. I have held each one, one at a time. They seem more alert when I hold them.  

Is this normal for 3 week old poults coming to a new home? 

If it isn’t, do you have any tips on what to do? 

I talked to the previous owner last night and he said they were all eating and drinking and active before he sold them to me. 

I thank you for anything. 

Have a great day. 

Gueary Reed  


Dear Geuary, 
As I’m sure you know turkey poults start with a body temperature of 95-100 degrees F.  The rule of thumb is to start the brooder temperature at 100 degrees, and then lower it five degrees each week until they are fully feathered (6-8 weeks old).  But if your birds are still huddling together for warmth, bump the temperature back up until they look calm, making small noises, and not squashed together.  If they get too hot, they’ll start spreading out and avoiding the warmest area in the brooder. Best of luck! 
Carla Tilghman 


When Hens Die 


I just lost my 4-year-old Partridge Rock hen. I had separated her a week ago from the flock when I found her laying down, ruffled and not her normal self. There were no respiratory symptoms of any kind – just the behavioral signs.  

Feed- organic layer crumbles with probiotics, kelp, dried herbs, garlic, brewer’s yeast, rolled oats, flax seed, hulled sunflower seeds and DE added at about 2% of the ration. Treats -fruits, vegetables and grubs. She got ACV in her water. She was a large hen. I fed 1/2 cup of feed per hen. I’m not sure she would be considered overweight. She had occasional diarrhea, but mostly normal droppings. She was vaccinated for Marek’s.  

Up until I separated her, she had been eating and drinking, laying 4-6 eggs per week and being the top chicken to the 5 new 8-week-old chicks I had just integrated into the flock. The chicks were in a separate enclosure within the run for 2 weeks prior to being put in with the flock of 4 older hens. The run is 20’ x 40’ – so there is plenty of room. It is also completely covered and has multiple feeders and waterers.  

After isolating her, she refused food for 2 days. Then she would only eat strawberries, green grapes, cucumber, zucchini and yogurt – no regular feed. She also began drinking, including ACV.  I did administer 1T Epson Salt/1 ounce of water. She had droppings that were mostly water with a small amount of solids. After cleaning up her bottom, I put providone iodine in her cloaca just in case she had gleet. She was talkative and could stand and move around, but she preferred not to. She passed overnight. 

She had been laying eggs like the one in the photo for about a month prior and her final egg was the day before I separated her. The albumin had the area around the yolk that was more opaque than the rest. I t was almost it’s own sac. I think she passed from a liver problem – Fatty Liver Syndrome seemed to best match her symptoms. Could this type of egg have been an indication that she was ill and might this have been a reproduction issue instead? 
Thank you.  

Gail Frank, California 


Hi Gail, 

First off, I’m sorry about the loss of your hen. She was beautiful. Based on your description and the season – FLHS (fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome) is most common in spring and summer – I agree that it was most likely the cause. Of course, a necropsy would be required to confirm. I understand why the cloudiness of the albumen caused concern. However, reproductive issues in hens usually result in watery albumen, not thick and cloudy albumen. That cloudiness is almost always due to carbon dioxide within the egg, which is natural, and which seeps out of the shell. This is why store-bought eggs have clearer, looser albumen. Other symptoms of reproductive issues – not all of which may be present at the same time – include cessation of laying, misshapen shells, vent gleet, redness around the vent, ascites (water belly), and a pale comb and wattles. Her great rate of lay before isolation indicates that reproductive issues were most likely not the cause. Her watery droppings were probably because Epsom salts loosen the stools and are often used for constipation relief in humans. So to sum it up: no, I do not believe the eggs were indicative of her condition. FLHS sneaks up fast. 

I hope this helps! 

Marissa Ames 



I have a flock of about 60 chickens that includes 4 roosters. They free range during the day and interact freely. At night, they sort themselves out into two coops plus the rafters of a pole barn. Everything was as normal when we put them to bed last night – in particular, Sid-Bob Junior, the youngest rooster, was alone in the smaller coop with about 8 hens.  

When we got them up today, his comb (pea pod style) was completely black and he had blood streaked through his neck feathers. Now this morning he seems to have moved down in the pecking order and the other roosters are chasing him away.  

Would you guess that SB Junior is suddenly ill, or was injured somehow? There are a few very small gaps or holes that a small predator could have snuck through. 

Any help or insight is greatly appreciated. 

Hello Karen, 
Oh roos… how we love them.  
Was he cooped that night with a dominant hen?  Sometimes the ladies will put a boy in his place.  And once bloodied, the flock can be merciless in continuing to draw blood.  
Can you separate him until he heals? Even scabbed over wounds will attract pecking until completely healed.  If so, you can reintroduce him to the flock slowly to see if they will push him around a bit, and then accept him back in.  
Let us know how things are going. 
Carla Tilghman 



 I have a young silver laced Wyandotte about 6 months of age. He started out with a good, solid crow. However,for the past few weeks,he sounds very hoarse. He doesn’t seem to be in any distress. No nasal discharge,his color is good. He’s quite active, eating and drinking well. His plumage is nice and smooth. Just has this hoarse crow. Any thoughts? Thanks 

Bailey Lynn 

How do his droppings look?  
A hoarse crow is often (but not always) a sign of a respiratory infection, even without nasal discharge.  What’s difficult to tell is if it’s viral or bacterial.   
You might isolate him from the rest of the flock for several weeks.  Bump his protein a bit in cast he’s fighting off an infection.  Consult with a vet about giving him a broad spectrum antibiotic in case there’s something bacterial going one.  
Let us know how he gets on. 
Carla Tilghman 


Water-glassing Eggs 

Thank you for the info on glassing eggs, I would love your help with two questions please. 
The hydrated lime (CaOH) appears to sink to the bottom of the bucket after stirring, is that ok? 
How gentle do I have to be with the egg bloom, is it ok to handle and put in the bucket? 
Dear Julian, 
Yes, the lime will sink to the bottom, and if they see photos from people experienced in this method, they will see a white layer at the bottom. And it’s fine to handle the eggs, but they do not want to wash/scrub the eggs. This means the eggs must be clean, from a clean nest. Eggs that have some mud or feces on them can be set aside for scrambled eggs in the morning. 

Here’s an article that may help: 
Carla Tilghman 

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