Ask the Expert: Eggs/Odd Eggs

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Layers Not Producing

We have 45 layers: Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, and some of the Black and White Rock. We are getting two to five eggs a day. What is wrong? Is this normal? I write down on the calendar every day the amount of eggs, last year was not like this. What could be wrong?

Mary and Fran Lightenfield, New York

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My first thought is that the hens are on natural light, and this is normal winter production. In nature, when most birds sense the days getting shorter, their bodies stop producing the hormones necessary for egg production. They will often molt, their oviducts regress, and they go into a “resting” phase until the day length starts to increase again.

Some breeds that have been selected for high egg production will continue to lay during the short days, but many dual-purpose breeds such as those you listed will produce very few eggs.

This can be a bit deceiving since many first-year pullets will lay pretty well the first winter, in spite of short day lengths. In the second year of production, lights are much more important.

If you want good winter egg production, you’ll probably need to provide artificial light. Most people keep their lights on a time clock, so the lights will stay on for about 14 to 15 hours each day.

If you’re providing light for them, then I’m not sure. Then I would suggest you look at their overall health to see if something is wrong. Temperature can also have an effect on production, so when it gets extremely cold, they won’t lay many eggs, even with long days. Nutrition would be another thing to check.

I think short days are the most likely, however.

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They Stopped Laying

We have the remnants of a half-dozen birds we started about two years ago. They were purchased as a group from our local farmer’s co-op. There were three Amercaunas and three Buff Orpingtons. We’re down to the three Amercaunas and one Orpie due to a dog incident and illness.

However, back in mid to late August, all the birds stopped laying. It was gradual at first. The Orpie hasn’t given an egg since late spring. The Amercaunas were laying on and off until we were getting only one egg every two or three days.

They still seem quite healthy and are eating well. Very well, in fact, as my wife gives them fresh greens most every day, along with yogurt from time to time, and bean sprouts as treats. She has been using a fairly high protein pellet and crumble feed as well. Grit and shells are in the coop at all times.

There are no signs that any of the birds are egg-bound. There has been a fox around the coop and run from time to time, but they were still laying eggs even when the fox was pestering them. (We haven’t seen it lately).

Do birds typically suddenly stop like this?

Scott Raszka, Connecticut

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Probably the easiest answer I can think of is that they are out of production because of short days. Are they on natural light, without artificial lights? If so, it is fairly normal for them to go  out of production in late summer, and they likely won’t start again until spring. The first year, pullets will continue to lay pretty well, even in short days. The second year you may still get some production, but by the third year of production, I’m not surprised if they stop completely.  

If you’re using artificial lights (with 14 hours or light per day or more), then I’m not sure.  Also, egg production generally decreases about 20 percent or more with each successive year of production. So age is working against you in this situation, too.  

Other than those things, I guess I’d suggest you make sure that they aren’t laying, and then something is happening to the eggs. Might they be hiding them somewhere other than in the nests? Are they eating them? Is something else eating them?

Hopefully, one of those will fit your situation.

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A Random Egg

Every once in a while I find an egg in the run or on the coop floor. I have ISA Brown chickens and they lay brown eggs. If I don’t get the eggs early in the morning and let them lay there until noon, the egg that is not in the nest will not have a sheen to it. And it also feels not as smooth as the others. Why does this happen to the egg? I have wood shavings in the coop floor. And the run is dirt and dried chicken poop.

John DeBoer, Illinois

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Hi, John. Thanks for your question about an occasional egg in the run or on the coop floor.

I don’t think this is anything to worry about. Floor eggs do happen once in a while, although most often with young layers. These eggs are not safe to eat since they often get dirty or cracked. They can also be quite tempting to other flock members and can encourage a bit of egg eating — not something you want to get started.

If floor eggs happen often, there are a few reasons you may want to check. One, you could have too few nest boxes. The rule of thumb is one nest for every four layers. Your nests also may be getting too much light, which makes the hens want to find darker places to lay. You may want to try putting a fake egg in each nest to encourage them to lay in the boxes; I suggest using plastic Easter eggs.

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Runny Egg Issues

Hi! My husband and I have a mixed flock of about 70 chickens of Dark/Light Brahmas and range from one to three years old. Some of our hens have been laying eggs that are runny from the first day they are laid. The egg appears to be what we would have considered “old” but it is fresh from the chicken house. The yolk and white are mixed together and there is no definitive shape. What could be causing this? Thanks for your help.

Mike and Jenny Illies, Minnesota

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There are some possible things that might cause this. Probably the most common cause is aging of the egg, especially in warm temperatures. As an egg ages, water moves from the albumen (whites) to the yolk and the yolk membrane becomes weaker. This happens much more quickly in warm temperatures, and much more slowly in cool temperatures (when refrigerated). It’s said that in a day of hot temperatures, an egg ages the equivalent of a week or more if it was refrigerated. If an egg gets buried in the nesting material for a couple of days, this could definitely be a cause.

If a hen is broody and is sitting on the egg, it would also speed this along. Frequent gathering, especially in hot weather, should help with this. Some things that the hens might eat can affect the membrane, too.

There is an coccidiostat, nicarbazin, that can be used in growing chickens. If fed to layers, it can interfere with egg formation, including weak yolk membranes. Gossypol, a substance often found in cottonseeds (or cottonseed meal) can also cause this, though it often causes thickening of the yolk itself.

I suspect there may be some other weed seeds that might have a similar effect. Deworming with piperazine can cause this, too. I suspect that a heavy worm load might also cause this, but I don’t have any research data to back that up. I did see one report that calcium deficiency can cause this. Apparently, the lack of calcium interferes with membrane formation. The age of the hen can have an effect, too, as older hens may have weaker yolks.

I will say that I’ve had this question in the past, and none of these things seemed to fit the situation. So there may be something else. If it is one hen that is laying these eggs, she may have some internal issue or metabolic problem that affects yolk membrane development.

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Safe To Eat?

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An odd yolk. Photo courtesy of Sue from Colorado.

I have a chicken that lays these eggs. I don’t know for sure what it is or why. My guess is a double white as there is a normal white part around the encased yolk. Is it safe to eat or should I trash them? I don’t know which of my 40-plus chickens lays this egg.

Sue, Colorado

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This really was a perplexing question and I had to send it out to a few chicken experts to get an answer. In the end, our own expert blogger, Alexandra Douglas, was able to diagnose your issue and shed some light on egg quality:

“The eggs produced by this hen do not need to be tossed. Most likely one hen is laying it and it is a genetic incident. When commercial egg producers raise layers, they selectively breed for: 1) a hen that is producing at a steady rate (a.k.a. every day); 2) eggs that are of good size (different commercial farmers will select by egg weight); and 3) by its egg protein quality.

This egg is the perfect example of what a producer would be looking for,and it is edible, but not to the consumer’s eye. Most of us look for perfect eggs when we would go to the grocery store (speaking from a commercial standpoint).

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Colorful Eggs

Colorful Eggs

We raise Rhode Island Reds and Ameraucana chickens. We got a strange colored egg (above) and wanted to share it with you. This is the first time for them to lay. What would cause this egg to look like this?

Patricia Snyder

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Hi Patricia,

Wow! Those eggs are beautiful! Chickens lay lots of eggs throughout their lives and sometimes you get a fluke. It’s really not something to worry about especially since this is a new layer. With “newbies” they have to go through a few stages before they get everything right. According to our poultry expert Alexandra Douglas, this chicken “missed her paint factory.” But we think the results are gorgeous! Just be sure to keep your hens on a proper diet with calcium and grit available free choice.

Good luck with your flock!

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Strange Thing In A Nest

Strange Egg
Photo courtesy of Nancy Way

I found this in the nest. Can you tell me what it is? It felt rubbery and there was no liquid in it when I cut it open. Any help you can give me will be appreciated. I enjoy your column.

Nancy Way

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Hi Nancy,

What you found in the nest is called a lash egg. It really isn’t an egg at all. Lash eggs are produced when the hen sheds part of the lining of her oviduct. This is a hereditary condition that causes a hormone imbalance and it is not treatable. Stress can trigger this condition if a hen already has the genetic predisposition.

Lash eggs used to not be so common, but with inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity, it is becoming more common. Some chickens will never lay eggs again after passing a lash egg. Others may take a break and then resume normal laying again.

I hope this is helpful!

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Small Egg?

I have two leghorns that are fully grown. One lays large eggs consistently. The other is questionable. I don’t know which hen lays what eggs, as both look alike. Yesterday, I found this bird-sized egg in the box. It is compared to a normal egg in this photo. What happened?

Allie Pisacrita

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Hi Allie,

First, it’s unusual if you’re getting a lot of small, yolkless eggs. It’s not unusual to get one or two occasionally. These often occur when a hen is just starting to lay or is about to stop laying. We’re not sure why, but it’s not unusual to see this. We’ve heard these called such things as rooster eggs, witch eggs, wind eggs, etc.!

So, the hen that is starting to molt could have laid these, or another hen that is about to start molting could have. They can also occur if some foreign object gets into the oviduct. Occasionally, you’ll see an egg formed around a small piece of tissue that sloughs off the oviduct or ovary.

As you are seeing, hens can molt at various times of the year. If the hens go without water for a while, this can cause them to molt. Certainly, it can be difficult to keep unfrozen water for them this time of year, so that could be a possibility. Otherwise, it may just be that she “didn’t read the book!” She’ll likely be just fine if she has a good shelter to get in out of the cold.

Good luck with your flock!

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Cold, Then No Eggs

This one has really buffaloed. Last spring we replaced our old hens with new ones. About August, they started laying and like we do every year, we increased their light as winter set in. They have heat lamps, water, and food. However, about Thanksgiving, we had a bitter cold snap and they quit laying, and despite some nice temperatures, they have yet to lay one egg as of today. They are reds that are not even a year old. Just recently we put a trail cam in the house for a week and saw nothing weird. I am at a loss. We have always had eggs all winter. Help!

LeRoy Uglow

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Hi LeRoy,

We’re sorry to hear your chickens aren’t laying well this winter. We ran your situation by our blogger, Jeremy Chartier. He suggests that a cold snap may be the cause of your problem. A cold snap likely froze the water and probably resulted in water deprivation, which is a sure-fire way to stop a laying flock in their tracks.

Jeremy does suggest that worming the flock may also be a wise choice, but be sure to clean the litter after doing so if you’re using piprazine/wazine. Remember there is a withholding time on these treatments, so don’t consume eggs or meat for two weeks or more after treatments.

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Thin Shells

I feed my hens 16% laying crumbles at the rate of 100 pounds crumbles to 50 pounds cracked corn. My concern is my eggs have thin shells. I have tried to give them oyster shells for voluntary consumption but they were not consuming them. I now mix it in with their feed but the shells are still thin. Is there anything I can do?

Mary Jenkins

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Hi Mary,

Rhonda Crank had a wonderful post about the basics of feeding your chickens on our website, in which she advocates  feeding chickens back their own eggshells. This is something that we do with our chickens and we would highly recommend it for your flock. It’s an easy and inexpensive solution to thin eggshells.

Just collect your shells as you use them. Wash them in some water and then either microwave or bake them until they turn brittle. Then crack them into small pieces and feed them to your flock. In a few weeks, you’ll notice a significant improvement in egg quality.

By the way, my chickens love this treat and won’t even touch oyster shells!

We hope this is helpful and wish you luck with your flock.

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Odd Egg Questions

I have 10 red sex-links and 20 Bantams. My Bantams’ eggs seem normal. But my red sex-links are now starting to lay weird eggs. I have a feeling it’s the same chicken every time.

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I have sent pictures of three eggs. They have a weird ring around two of them, and last night, I went to lock them up and found another egg and it was very, very soft. I use Nutrena Nature Wise feed. I’ve been getting up early to try to find the chicken that is laying the misshaped egg but have yet to stumble across her in the nesting box. I love my chickens. They’re all so friendly. I really would like to help her if she’s sick. In the photo from left to right is the order I collected them. The other egg is there for comparison to what my chickens are laying normally.

Brandi McIlveen

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Hi Brandi,

We don’t think your chicken is sick, but it’s always a good idea to check your chickens for any signs of illness. Odd eggs are a fact of life with chicken keeping. If you think about the quantity of eggs chickens lay over a lifetime, there are bound to be some oddballs.

With that said, we think your soft egg issue is probably related to the heat. When it is hot, chickens pant, which ultimately reduces the amount of calcium going into egg production. So it’s not uncommon to get soft or shell-less eggs during the warmer months.

Good luck with your flock!

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Egg Shells Soft

I have a hen who is laying eggs with just a membrane and no hard shell. I have given her oyster shell and more protein. She is one that gets excited easily. Everyone is mowing every three to four days, but the others are not bothered. They both lay hard shell eggs. She is also molting.

Please help me if you have any suggestions, I will try anything.

Hoping something simple will take care of the problem.

Deb

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Hi Deb,

Good news! Eggs without a membrane, or with soft shells, can often be cured. Panting because of warm weather and a lack of calcium are common causes.

But in your case, we think this is caused because your hen is rushed in laying. When hens are rushed because of a predator or some type of stress, such as loud noises, this can happen. We would suggest trying to remove your hen’s stress as much as possible, or isolate the hen during mowing times. Then we think you’ll see this problem resolve quickly. Good luck with your flock!

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Egg Eaters

My chickens have started to eat the eggs around the coop. What should I do?

Betty

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Hi Betty,

Egg eating is a frustrating problem. It’s actually a form of cannibalism that often starts when eggs are accidentally broken in the nests, either because there aren’t enough nest boxes or because the hens are laying eggs with thin shells. From your description, it sounds like thin shells may be the case. What happens is that somebody accidentally cracks a shell and discovers the insides are quite tasty. And, it snowballs from there.

Once it starts, it can be really hard to stop. To make sure the shells are hardy and not cracking, we actually feed the chickens back their own eggshells. We dry out the eggshells and then grind them into large and small pieces. Our hens love them and their eggs usually improve quickly.

If your hens free range, you may also want to give them some interactive treats so they have somewhere else to focus. We like hanging a cabbage from the ceiling at the height of the bird’s heads. They have a good time busily pecking it. We also like to use a Flock Block by Purina for a little variation. We put in on a big planter tray that catches all the stray pieces. Our chickens love it!

You also want to collect the eggs frequently throughout the day, so the hens don’t have much time to eat them. If you don’t actually see the chickens eating the eggs, then you may also want to consider the problem may not be a chicken at all. It could be an egg-loving predator. With a predator, you’ll either find the nest empty of eggs or find broken eggshells in or around the nests.

Unfortunately, the only sure-fire method to stop egg eating is to remove the culprit early. But we would try to get the problem under control before taking drastic measures.

Good luck!

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Laying Hen Problems

I am having problems with my laying hens. I have a flock consisting of 80 hens of various varieties and ages. The flock consists of four-year-old Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks; three-year-old Black Australorps, Production Reds, and Buff Orpingtons; two-year-old Austral Whites, Red Sex Links and Brown Leghorns.

My problem is this: They are not laying. Of the 80 hens, I manage to get two dozen per day. About eight months ago, I was getting 4½ to 5 dozen per day and some of that time was in the winter. For some reason this summer I have had more of them becoming broody. I have some now molting. I have tried everything I know to do. The weather here in central Missouri has been very pleasant this summer with highs only in the 80s, so it is not a hot weather problem.

I feed 16% laying crumbles mixed with some cracked corn. Since the decline I have added to the feed mixture: 22% game bird crumbles, a protein flock block, Feather Fixer and 26% protein dog food. They have access to the  pasture during the day. Nothing seems to help. Someone told me to create a mash by mixing water with the feed and allowing it to ferment and adding apple cider vinegar to the water and nothing has helped. All of this is creating some really expensive eggs.

Can you please help me?

Mary Jenkins

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Hi Mary,

That’s a tough one! It can be hard to identify the cause of a hen egg strike. Although some of the issues you mentioned are common causes: molting and broodiness. Combined, they could be making up most of your problem. Other causes could also include loud noises like new construction, the presence of predators, and changes in air or light. So going through each one of those and eliminating them is the only way we know to get the egg engine restarted.

That said, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can to make sure your chickens are happy and healthy. And it’s great you added the Feather Fixer to their feed. We use that with our flocks around molting time and it really helps.

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Egg Inside An Egg

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Good morning! Yesterday, I discovered a huge egg in a nesting box. When cleaning, the thin shell broke. Inside was another egg! How does this happen?

Amy Wilson (Photo by Amy Wilson)

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Hi Amy,

Wow! What a cool find! An egg inside an egg is a rather rare phenomenon and very interesting.

Jen Pitino wrote about this exact issue in January 2014, explaining: “The cause of this phenomenon is called a counterperistalsis contraction and occurs while the hen is in the process of forming an egg in her oviduct. A hen typically releases an oocyte (the ovum that becomes the yolk of an egg) from her left ovary into the oviduct every 18 to 26 hours. The oocyte travels slowly through the oviduct organ adding layers of the egg along the path to the chicken’s vent from which it will lay the egg.”

The second eggshell gets built, she explains, “after a counter-peristalsis contraction, when a second oocyte is released by the ovary before the first egg has completely traveled through the oviduct and been laid. The second oocyte then travels down the oviduct and has albumen and a shell deposited over it and first egg together. This creates a very large egg for your poor hen to lay.”

Ouch. Luckily this is usually a rare occurrence, and we hope everything returns to normal.

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Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs

My wife and I are novice backyard chicken farmers. We have ISA Brown hens in upstate New York. We are having great success with the help of your magazine.

Can you tell me the secret to easy peeling hard-boiled eggs? I love them but lost half the egg in the peeling process. Is there something we can add to the feed or to water upon boiling?

Love your magazine an all you guys do for us beginners out.

Keep up the good work!

Joe and Bridget Gaitan

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Hi Joe and Bridget,

I feel your pain! My dog Tater sits nearby when I peel eggs because I used to get frustrated and toss the mangled, half-peeled mess to her. Now, after I learned a few tricks, she is usually disappointed. (I do still toss one to her anyway.)

The reason store-bought eggs peel easier than fresh eggs is that air has seeped into the shell. My favorite methods utilize air, either by pressure, steam, or through just letting the eggs get a little older.

Trick #1: Label and date a “boil-only” dozen from your coop. After the eggs age for two or so weeks in your refrigerator, air will create that pocket between white and shell. Some people are horrified about “older” eggs, but those purchased at supermarkets are often over four weeks before they hit the grocery cart!

Trick #2: Instead of boiling them, steam in the basket of a rice cooker. I set the “steam” function to 20 minutes, then I lift out the entire steamer basket and set it in a bowl of ice water to “shock” the eggs.

Trick #3: I never thought I would advocate those trendy pressure cooker machines, but they work! Four minutes on high pressure, four-minute natural release, then quick release and “shock” the eggs in ice water. The one thing I do NOT like about this technique is there isn’t as much room for error. The eggs cook so quickly that an extra minute spent in the cooker could mean that ugly green ring around the yolk.

I would love to hear from readers regarding tricks they use for peeling eggs!

Good luck!

Marissa

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Washing Fresh Eggs 

I enjoyed your article on wash/not wash fresh eggs. We maintain a dozen chickens or so purely for the purpose of having fresh eggs. The chickens occupy about 1/3 of our 30’ x30’ barn in a well-fenced coop. We have nests which are mounted to the wall away from the roosts. We do not wash our eggs but leave them in a rack on the kitchen counter. The eggs we collect are mostly fairly clean but some come with what looks like chicken poop on them. To avoid contamination, we wash our eggs with soap and water immediately before use to remove any contaminates. We are concerned about having a piece of contaminated shell falling into our meal.   

My question: Is that the proper procedure and are we putting ourselves at risk for contamination? In six years of having chickens we have had no problems, but just want to be sure we are doing the right thing. 

Thanks, enjoy your e-mail publication. 

Mike 

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Hi Mike, 

You’re on the right track! The only suggestion I would make is to rub the dirty eggs with dirt or fine-grade sandpaper to remove the poop before placing eggs on your counter, to avoid anything flaking off. When you wash, be sure it’s warm water so contaminants don’t get pulled into the shell. And regarding worries about whether a piece of contaminated shell falls into the meal: if you cook your food past 160 degrees F after picking out that piece of shell, any bacteria or viruses will be killed anyway. 

I hope this helps! 

—Marissa 

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Tylosin In Eggs

If I give my laying hens Tylon 50 how long before you can eat their eggs? 

Jerry Corcoran 

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Hi Jerry, 

Tylosin soluble doesn’t stay long in eggs. This scientific study found residue in the yolk for only three days, and most veterinarian advice I’ve read said wait seven days, just to be safe.  
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24853528/ 

Marissa

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Small Chicken Eggs

This spring when most of my Banties started laying again, I found an extremely small egg in the nesting box with three other eggs. It was the size of a quail egg or maybe a robin egg. I believe it’s from my smallest hen, a Mille Fleur d’Uccle.   

I did crack it to see if the egg inside was normal. The shell was so hard I had to cut it with a small serrated knife. As you can see by the picture, the egg was fine. The fried egg was about the size of a silver dollar. This hen had been laying since she was six months old. Her following eggs are her normal size. Have you seen one this small? 

Sue Meyer, Iowa 

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Hi Sue, 

I see these once in a while with my flock, particularly in the spring. They can be nicknamed “fairy eggs” or “fart eggs,” and often do not contain a yolk. I find it interesting that yours does! It happens when a hen gets back into the egg-laying rhythm after an upset such as stress or just wintertime. No need to worry about these tiny eggs; unlike wrinkled or malformed shells, these are just one of those “glitches.” 

Thanks for sharing! 

Marissa  

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Thank you for your response. At first, I thought someone was pulling a joke on me. But there wasn’t really any way I could see who or how! Then realized that I didn’t have an egg from Charlie, so figured it was hers. I’m calling it a Fairy Egg! Thanks again. Love your magazine!! 

Sue Meyer, Iowa 

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Something Odd 

What is this? What caused it? 

Verna Davidson 

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Hi Verna, 

I guess the first question is: is it a poop? Gently pierce it with a knife and see if the inside contains albumen. I suspect it’s essentially a “cloaca hiccup.” (Not a scientific term.) Often, when birds undergo an upset such as illness, or even just momentary stress in the coop, they lay smaller eggs or partial oddly shaped specimens like this with thin membranes. It’s nothing to worry about unless you see her doing it often. 
 

Good luck with your flock!  

Marissa 

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Boiled Eggs

Is there a way to tell why an egg although boils for the same length of time as the others did not boil properly? It was still soft and runny. 

Deisha Bailey-Browne 

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Hi Deisha, 

This is certainly odd! 

Did the odd egg boil in the same pan, at the same time, as those that ended up cooked all the way through? Was that egg larger than the others? Did you use a traditional boil-in-pan method or did you try an electric pressure cooker or rice steamer? And is it possible that you cooked the others then someone sneaked a raw egg in the batch, as a prank? 

By all rules of physics I’ve learned, if the egg was the same size and cooked simultaneously with the others, there’s no good reason why it should still be raw. 

Thanks, 

Marissa

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Nestbox Troubles 

How do I stop too many hens from laying in one box at the same time, three to four hens? They are breaking eggs because of it. Thanks. 

Colin 

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Hi Colin, 

I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations. I find it hilarious when hens ignore the other boxes and lay on top of each other … until eggs start breaking. For chickens, the best way to break a habit is to eliminate the habit. If you close off that nesting box for a while, they will get used to using others. Of course, then you run the risk of all three choosing another nesting box and you’re back where you started. Another option is to be sure the hens always have free-choice calcium such as oyster shell, and to use plenty of bedding and nesting pads, to reduce the chance of breakage. 

Good luck! 

Marissa 

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Egg Reduction

I have been getting 80-85 eggs a week and now I’m getting 40. This has been going on for a month. They are not eating as much but are not sick. I have been selling eggs to the farmers market and this is hurting my sales. This started when we were having lots of rainy wet weather. Do you have any idea why this is happening? I’ve been searching all my Backyard Poultry magazines trying to find some clues. I would appreciate any help. 

Troy Steele, Arkansas 

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Hi Troy, 

When I have such a dramatic decline and it’s not caused by winter, molt, or disease, it’s usually because of egg eaters. This can often start when chickens are “cooped” up and bored and is usually not because of any kind of nutritional deficiency. If an egg breaks in a nest, any chicken will eat it. Unfortunately, the smarter ones realize eggs are tasty and they will even bully other hens off their nests to access the eggs. The only sure way to stop an egg eater is to remove her from your flock. You can look for bits of shell in the nest (though offenders usually eat all the shell), chickens with egg or shell on their beaks, or install a trail cam pointed at the nesting boxes. For me, when I don’t have money or time for that kind of vigilance, my best (though often temporary) solution is to install curtains on the nesting boxes. Chickens enter and lay eggs just fine, but it’s too dark to see the eggs and dine in.  

Whatever your tactic, act soon! Your profits are already down by half, and egg eaters soon teach their nasty habits to the other girls. Once, it got so bad in my flock that I had to replace all my birds. The good news is that, once they were thrown in with a new flock, they stopped their sneaky ways. 

Good luck! 

Marissa

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Rock-Hard Pieces in Eggs

While blending my silkies’ hard boiled eggs to feed them back to them, these rock-hard pieces were inside. It has happened on two separate occasions. Do you have any idea what they are and what causes it? 

Marcia L.

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Hi Marcia,

While those hard pieces may be alarming to find, they are simply crystals of excess calcium or protein. Maybe you wouldn’t have seen them in a fresh egg but the cooking process could have hardened them. You can choose to throw them out, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your hens. Humans and other animals also find healthy ways to expel excess calcium, protein, or salts. You may even find crystals in a piece of hard, aged cheese, which can make the food quite tasty!

Marissa Ames

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Weird Egg

Here are the pictures of my abnormal egg. I don’t think it is a lash egg and that’s all people are suggesting on my facebook groups. 

Egg was otherwise normal aside from slightly misshapen. 

Thank you!

Catherine Drahota

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Hi Catherine,

In the past six months, have you noticed any wheezing, runny noses, or lethargy in your flock? The fact that your egg was slightly misshapen indicates a possible history of infections bronchitis — which is highly contagious and not all birds show symptoms. I once had it sweep through my flock in a matter of two weeks, and it seemed only two-thirds of the birds got sick … but one Welsummer who never showed symptoms had fragile and misshapen eggs for about six months afterward.

A study done way back in the 1950s recorded the effects of IB on hens’ reproductive tracts. Scientists watched one flock with IB to pay attention to water intake, lack of appetite, egg quality, and health of the reproductive tract. Some of the infected birds were euthanized so the scientists could study effects on the tracts. The epithelial layers on the innermost surface appeared plumper and presented a darker color when dyed, signaling inflammation. (Avian Diseases, Vol. 1, No. 2 pp. 136-164 by M. Sevoian and P.P. Levine)

If your bird survived IB (and it is highly survivable), it’s possible that after she healed, her body sloughed off the damaged epithelial layer and carried it out in an egg, which explains the tubular structure.

But if your hen is still energetic, eating and drinking normally, and all you can see now are misshapen shells, I wouldn’t worry. She recovered just fine.

Good luck with your flock!

Marissa Ames

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Hi Catherine,

Thanks for sending the pictures.  I think this is probably similar to a “lash egg.”  It looks like a mass of sloughed tissue and/or bits of egg.  My guess is that this got in the oviduct along with a normal yolk, and then the egg formed around both.  Hopefully, it was a one-time occurrence.  If you see more of these, it might be good to try to determine which hen is laying them.  If you have a large flock, it might be worth it to contact your state veterinary diagnostic lab and submit her for testing.  You’d likely have to sacrifice the one hen, so if you have a small flock, you may not want to do that.

This might make people want to think about candling eggs, or breaking the eggs into a separate bowl, so you don’t find one of these in whatever it is you’re making!  It looks like you may have already been doing that!

Good luck with your flock!

Ron Kean

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I did just rescue them about two to three months ago and there was some sneezing for the first month. They are all energetic and eating fine, begging for snacks, etc. I will just keep an eye out but I am very relieved she is okay!

Thank you so much for your help!

Catherine Drahota

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Frozen Eggs

Northern Illinois had a powerful snow and ice storm on the first of February. About three-quarters of a mile away, three utility poles came down with the wires. We were without water, light, and heat. The rime was so thick on the windows that we had to use a flashlight in the house in the daytime. The poultry building door froze shut. My son who had power came to help start a generator. He could not get up the lane with his vehicle.

When we got the poultry door open we had some very hungry and thirsty birds. We also gathered the eggs. The water was frozen so I kept the eggs separate. None were cracked. I fried two and they appeared normal. I thought one that I hardboiled had a rubbery white. I used some in jam cake and all was well.

What do we know about frozen eggs? This was not a good example for I do not know if they really froze.

Thank you,

Barbara Keriglo

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Hi Barbara,

My first indication that my eggs have frozen is that telltale crack. I don’t even give those to the dogs, because I have no idea just what bacteria have entered.

The USDA says this about frozen eggs in the Food Safety Portion of their site fsis.usda.gov: “Shell eggs should not be frozen. If an egg accidentally freezes and the shell cracked during freezing, discard the egg. Keep any uncracked eggs frozen until needed; then thaw in the refrigerator. These can be hard cooked successfully but other uses may be limited. That’s because freezing causes the yolk to become thick and syrupy so it will not flow like an unfrozen yolk or blend very well with the egg white or other ingredients.”

As far as intentionally freezing eggs, many people beat the egg then mix in a stabilizer such as sugar, so the egg doesn’t thaw out so rubbery. They freeze in ice cube containers then store in freezer bags, using one cube in place of one egg in a baked recipe.

This is what I would recommend: Collect eggs early, while it is still cold. Then “spin” the egg; place it on your counter and spin it to see how it moves. Frozen or hard-boiled eggs spin fast while fresh, unfrozen eggs just kind of wobble. If the egg spins freely, keep it frozen as the USDA recommends then be sure to fully cook it.

Thankfully frozen eggs probably won’t be an issue for a few seasons!

Marissa Ames

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Old Egg Layers

Do chickens get too old to lay eggs? If so, how old?

William Bragg

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Hi William,

It probably can happen, but I don’t think there is any research on this that would define a specific age. As with humans, there is likely a wide variety of ages where this might occur. Typically, egg production continues to decrease with each increasing year of age, but many older hens, if they’re still healthy, will lay a few eggs each spring.

Hens are hatched with a limited number of egg cells — cells that will develop into yolks — in their ovary.  While hens could theoretically “run out” of yolk cells, this likely doesn’t happen. There have been estimates of approximately 12,000 of these cells in the newly hatched female chick, which is far more than the number of eggs a hen will produce.

Economically, most hens probably won’t produce enough eggs after their second year of production to cover feed costs. Because of this, there aren’t a lot of flocks that are kept longer than that, so there hasn’t been research following older hens and their production.

On a somewhat related note, it is not terribly unusual for an older hen to “turn into” a male, or at least develop male feathering and characteristics. Generally, this is because the left ovary has lost function, causing the right ovary tissue to develop. It often develops into what’s termed an ovotestis, and produces male hormones, so the male characteristics develop. This is usually due to cancer, or some other damage, in the left ovary.

It’ll be interesting to hear from readers about their experiences — I’ll bet we’ll get some reports of eggs from hens that are quite old!

Ron Kean

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Strange Egg?

I am new on having laying hens, and I found something very strange today, I was hoping you could help me … I found a finger-like piece of meat at the hens coop, on top of a nest. I didn’t take a picture of it and I first I thought it was a piece of banana, but then I cut it and was actually meat.

Odd Egg
Odd Egg
Odd Egg

The hens didn’t go out today and were fed only with their balanced food. I checked the “bottoms” from the fence and didn’t see any blood, but I am scared of what it could be … do you have ideas? The chickens are doing fine; they are 22 weeks old.

Lucia Gonzalez Anglada

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Hi Lucia,

First, I’ll assume this came from the hens. I’ve seen some similar things, though this is pretty extreme!

I suspect it is one of two things. Either the hen was depositing egg yolks, and possibly albumen and membranes, internally. This can happen if the yolks don’t get into the oviduct, or if something is wrong with the oviduct so the developing egg doesn’t pass correctly. These “egg parts” can be reabsorbed by the hen, but if it happens too often, they will accumulate, and can form a compressed mass that can look something like this. Then, at some point, this mass can get picked up by the oviduct, and passed like an egg.

Another possibility is that this actually is a mass of tissue from the hen. If she gets an infection, or a bit of a tumor, or something similar, this could form in the abdomen. Then, similarly, it could get picked up by the oviduct and passed like an egg.

Either way, it probably isn’t a major concern, unless you start to see more of these. We have gotten quite a few pictures of things like this over the years. It certainly isn’t normal, but it does happen from time to time.

Good luck with your flock!

Ron

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Wow! Thank you very much for taking the time to help me! I certainly am new at this, so having your help means a lot to me! The good thing is it hasn’t happened again.
 Thank you very much for your time and knowledge and I love your Facebook page! ~ Lucia

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Strange Egg

I found this strange-looking “egg” in a nest with other eggs. It was about two inches long and had a hard shell on it. I never cracked it to see the inside. I am just wondering if you have any ideas as to how it got its strange shape?

Strange Egg

I have a flock of around 35 hens and a rooster. We really enjoy your magazine and especially the Poultry Talk section and just the wonderful pictures. I would also like to ask if you know of any “tricks” to get the hens back to laying quicker after a molting period. Thank you.

Brad and Carolyn Sell, Nebraska

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Hi Brad and Carolyn,

Regarding that “weird” egg, you may find your answer in our February/March 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry, in which Jeremy Chartier talks about “Why Hens Lay Weird Eggs.” As Jeremy says, “Most times you see an abnormality in your eggs, you can likely attribute it to the hen’s environment. High heat, humidity, crowded coops, loud sounds, and other stressors can cause many of these weird eggs.” If this is the only odd egg you have found, and you haven’t noticed any signs of illness in your flock such as runny beaks and wheezing breath, it’s most likely because one of your hens had a stressful day.

As far as getting those molting birds lying again? You will see many “tricks” on the internet, but they don’t all work and some don’t even make sense. Two important things to consider are health and nutrition. That, along with age of the hen and season (shorter vs. long days) can also determine whether your hens will go right back to laying or will need to wait until spring. If they are young, it’s not midwinter, and they are not sick, consider how new feathers and eggs are both high in protein, so your hens could use a bit more of that in their diets. You can supplement protein needs with healthy foods such as black oil sunflower seeds, flaxseed, boiled and chopped eggs, and even unsalted and unseasoned meat scraps. Be sure water and free-choice calcium such as oyster shell are available at all times.

Good luck!

Marissa Ames

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Egg Color

What are my ladies lacking in their diet? My Marans and my Easter Eggers are laying very pale-colored eggs. The Marans eggs are just a shade orange-ier than my brown Australorp eggs. My Easter Egger started laying beautiful teal colored eggs, and now they are a very pale green. So pale that I had to hold it up to a white egg to make sure it was even green.

Egg Color
Egg Color
Egg Color
Egg Colors

My girls get layer feed with 18 percent protein, extra oatmeal, and mealworms as snacks. I also give them things like pumpkins, melons, and vegetable table scraps. I slide through oyster shells for them occasionally, and even flax. Why are my eggs so pale?

Lynn Noll

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Hi Lynn,

There are a few things that can affect eggshell color. Certainly, genetics plays a big part. Depending on the source of your Marans, they may not have the genetic ability to lay extremely dark eggs. From what I have seen, there is a lot of variety in the different strains, so that could be a factor.

If they started out laying very dark eggs, and now they have gotten lighter, then it’s less likely that it’s a genetic issue. You mentioned this with the Easter Eggers, so there is likely something else involved.

A variety of stresses can be factors. I think parasites (either internal [such as worms], or external [such as mites or lice]) are a likely possibility. These have been shown to cause pale eggshell color.  You could have a veterinarian check a fecal sample for worms. You can look for mites and lice yourself, by handling the chickens. Red mites spend a lot of time off the chicken, so you may need to check them at night while they are roosting. There are approved treatments for worms and for mites available, if this is the problem.

Heat stress can also affect shell quality, and thin shells will likely lack color. I don’t know where you live, but this isn’t likely at this time of year, in most of the U.S.

There is a coccidiostat called Nicarbazin that will cause loss of color in eggshells. I doubt this is the issue with your flock, but I should mention it.

There are some viral diseases that can cause poor eggshell quality. Generally, you’d see other problems, such as misshapen or wrinkled eggs, thin shells, and possibly respiratory problems, too.

There are claims that pigments in the feed can affect eggshell color. I haven’t seen research evidence of this, but you could try offering some leafy alfalfa hay. They’ll likely enjoy pecking through it, even if it doesn’t change the shell color.

Those are the things I would suspect. Hopefully, one of them will fit your situation, and help solve the problem!

Ron Kean

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Washing Eggs Before Boiling

How do you handle eggs if you want to hard boil them? I usually wash in 90-degree water and put them in the pan with warming water to boil … is this correct?

Denise Hurley

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Hi Denise,

An egg is laid with a protective cover called a bloom. This cover keeps bacteria out of the egg. Washing an egg removes this bloom and leaves it vulnerable.

Many backyard chicken keepers do not wash their eggs so the bloom stays intact as the egg is stored. This means they don’t wash them before hard-boiling either.

If an egg is lightly soiled, it’s best to gently remove the offensive material without washing. If an egg must be washed, it’s best the water temperature is 20 degrees warmer than the egg. And, you should eat those eggs sooner than your unwashed eggs since they no longer have a protective bloom.

Your question really comes down to personal preference. If you’re just quickly washing your eggs immediately before they’re placed in the pan for boiling, you’re probably fine with a wash.  But for long-term storage in the refrigerator, it’s best not to wash.

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Nails in Eggs

My wife purchased some eggs from a local farm and there was part of a nail in the scrambled eggs. The same thing happened last week. I thought last week that perhaps one of us had a nail on the counter and somehow it got mixed in but today there is no way. We were serving guests with a 16-month-old baby! Luckily the baby did not have that part of the eggs. The nail is quite narrow/thin. Is it possible for a chick to ingest metal and it ends up in their eggs? Obviously, we will no longer be purchasing our eggs from them. We are very concerned and would appreciate your input.

James Durller

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Hi James,

Assuming these were intact shell eggs, it is quite odd that this could happen once, and extremely surprising that it could happen more than once.

The most plausible explanation is that a nail might be eaten by the hen, and then penetrate through the digestive tract (possibly through the gizzard, due to muscular contractions) and into the abdomen. Sharp objects can penetrate the gizzard. Once it reaches the abdominal cavity, it could get picked up by the infundibulum (funnel) of the oviduct, and get incorporated into the egg.

For this to happen more than once seems exceedingly unlikely, but may be possible.

One would think a nail would show up during candling, too, though a small nail might be missed.

Just to cover all bases, did you add anything else to the scrambled eggs? Might the nails have been in cheese, or some other ingredient? Could it have come from a cooking utensil?

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Thanks for your input on our nails egg situation. None of the utensils used could have had a nail as they are all one piece … same with the pan and I think I would have heard a metal piece clink if it was in the milk. I am sure that this was a real fluke. I wish I had taken a photo. It does intrigue.

James Durller

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Odd Chicken Egg

Yes, it’s an egg! A normal egg is on the right. I believe it’s the same hen that lays a very small egg with no yolk. This egg had no yolk either. The hen, a one-year-old Leghorn, just started laying the small eggs this spring. It was a long, snowy winter, but all my hens laid very well. I’m guessing she has something wrong inside.

Odd Chicken Egg

I have 17 hens, one rooster, and 12 chicks. My chickens have acres of grass and trees for free-roaming. They get layer food plus treats. I’ve never seen an egg like this in the six years I’ve been raising chickens.

I enjoy Backyard Poultry, especially the Poultry Talk section. I have learned something from each issue.

Elaine Witt, Montana

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Hi Elaine,

What an interesting egg! It’s always amazing to see the strange eggs people find.

The hen may have something wrong inside, but it’s hard to guess what it might be. Chickens lay thousands of eggs over a lifetime. Every once in a while, one doesn’t look exactly as it should, and that’s ok. Odd eggs are definitely conversation pieces, but not something to worry about if they happen occasionally.

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An Egg Divided

I found this strange egg in my laying box one afternoon. I have had eggs with just a membrane around the white and yolk, but never this! It looks like the egg white is in a soft, squishy membrane by itself, and is connected to what appears to be the yolk, which is also in its own membrane. Do you know what this is and why it may have been laid? I have a flock of eight hens and one rooster. The chickens eat 16% laying pellets and scratch grains in the afternoons as well as the occasional serving of greens. I also have a broody hen, but she was not setting on this bizarre egg. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Brandon Kaske, Louisiana

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Hi Brandon,

It’s always amazing to see the many different eggs people find. Thanks for sending the picture! It’s also amazing that a hen could lay something like this without it breaking.
As you mentioned, it’s not unusual to see a shell-less egg in just the membrane. And, the larger section of your egg looks somewhat like this, although it does look like it might be mostly yolk. However, the added “balloon” of clear liquid is not common.

This is a situation where a guess is all we can make about how why and how this egg formed. The best guess is that the first segment formed and started to pass into the uterus (shell gland). For some reason — maybe a bit of tissue or something else stimulating the oviduct — it continued to produce albumen and the membrane around it. Then, for some reason, the entire thing was expelled before a shell could be formed.

That’s a bit of a guess, but it could be what happened!

As with many of these, if you just see this once, it’s probably just a random anomaly. If you see it multiple times, it could be a sign of an infection or some other problem with the hen’s oviduct.

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Wrinkled Eggs

Ask the Expert — April/May 2018

I’ve attached a picture of two eggs that I gathered, two days in a row with very large ridges in them. What makes them do this? They were very rough and I imagine painful coming out. Three or four days before I got these I got one each day that was a little like them, it got worse each day until these two came. Is there a lack of something? Too much of something? Please advise.

Bonnie Hutchins, Oklahoma 

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Hi Bonnie,

Eggs like this are most likely because of a viral disease – infectious bronchitis. Bronchitis usually causes some respiratory symptoms, but it also affects the oviduct. Albumen quality is also often affected, causing watery whites in the eggs. Hens will likely recover from the respiratory problems fairly quickly. Egg quality may take up to two months to fully recover.

This virus generally only affects chickens, though it is thought that other birds might carry it. It is spread by respiratory secretions and feces and can be carried on clothing and equipment, or contaminated feed or water. Infected birds can shed virus for up to 20 weeks, though the first week or so after infection is the worst.

If this is the cause, there isn’t really anything you can do for the hens, other than to keep them warm and well-fed to prevent other secondary infections. There are vaccines available for commercial use, but they generally aren’t available for small flocks. These are usually given to day-old chicks. They would not be useful for the hens that were already exposed.

Of course, this is not a firm diagnosis. You would need to contact an avian veterinarian or your state veterinary diagnostic lab for a diagnosis.

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Extra Shell Membrane

I found this while gathering eggs. My chickens have just started laying again after molting and the eggs are so large I cannot close the egg carton! This find is the size of half of one of these eggs.

I enjoy Backyard Poultry very much, especially Poultry Talk. I have been reading Backyard Poultry since before I had chickens!

Alice Claxton, Georgia

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Hi Alice,

This appears to be an extra shell membrane over a previously formed egg. It was probably an egg that was nearly complete in the shell gland, and then reversed direction and was pushed back up into the isthmus of the oviduct. The membranes are formed in the isthmus, so when this egg arrived there, a new membrane formed over it. It must have passed back through the shell gland fairly quickly, or another shell would have been added.

Of course, the bigger question is why this might have happened, and that isn’t explained so easily! There are muscular contractions that force the egg through the oviduct, and these contractions must have reversed direction for some reason. There could have been some temporary blockage, or possibly a physical trauma to the hen. It’s really difficult to know what might have happened.

As long as this doesn’t continue to happen, you shouldn’t worry too much. If it continues, you might want to think about having the hen checked (if you can tell which hen is laying them!).

About the very large eggs you mentioned…

Very large eggs can be due to the hen’s age. Older hens tend to lay larger eggs. Genetics certainly plays a part, too. Diet can also affect egg size. High levels of energy (calories), and/or high levels of the amino acid methionine, can both increase egg size a bit. Very large eggs can be difficult for the hen, and also often have thinner shells. Fitting them in a carton can also be difficult, so breakage can be greatly increased. They probably aren’t very feed-efficient either.

If these are concerns, you might check their diet and consider whether they may be getting too much feed. Most laying hens will eat about four ounces of feed each day, though heavier breeds will need slightly more. Once the hens are in production, protein levels around 15 to 17 percent are usually good.

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Strange Egg

Over the years, my hens have left some odd-shaped or strange-looking eggs in their boxes. This egg, apparently from one of the Ameraucanas, has got to be the strangest! It is heavy as a rock and has a chalky appearance. Perhaps the experts know the cause?

Strange Egg

This group of hens is three years old. They are on 18 percent layer pellet, scratch feed, oyster shell, and they free range. I also have peafowl, so the chickens clean up what the peafowl drop (they have high feeders near roosts). Anything they pick up would be higher protein as well as a premium grain mix.

Debby Ullrich

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Hi Debby,

Very interesting!   

It’s possible that this is a mass of egg yolks and shell material from eggs that weren’t passed out of the oviduct, for some reason. If these built up in the abdomen, or in the shell gland itself, it might turn out like this. It would be interesting to cut through it and see what the inside looks like. There may be layers of dried yolk, membrane, and shell. 

It’s hard to explain why this might have happened if indeed this is what happened. There might have been an infection or damage to the oviduct that interfered with proper muscular movement, or there might have been some blockage. Whatever it was, it may have cleared up, or the lump got big enough that it passed anyway.

Hope this helps!

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Double Yolk Eggs

I have 10 Asian Blue chickens who started laying last week. When my other chickens started laying, the eggs started out small and got bigger as the chickens got more mature. These eggs are huge! I was really surprised. Also, every egg I have broken open are double yolks. My question is, will the chickens have a shorter laying life because they lay double? I was reading in my book that a chicken has in them every yolk they will ever lay. I cherish every time I get my Backyard Poultry magazine and look forward to your advice. Thank you!

Linda Caldwell

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Hi Linda,

Double yolk eggs are fun to get, and in some places, are considered quite a treat. It’s not at all unusual that you are getting double yolks from your new layers. As hens mature and enter their laying cycle, they often don’t have their cycle in sync. They may accidentally release two, or even three developed yolks at once. These go through the egg formation process at the same time and are encased in one shell. As your chickens get older, their cycles will even out, and you’ll probably not notice as many double yolk eggs.

You are correct, your hens are formed with all the undeveloped yolks they will ever have. These represent the maximum number of eggs your hen can lay throughout her lifetime. However, chickens are formed with thousands of undeveloped yolks. Simple math would say that if a hen is born with 4,000 undeveloped eggs and she lays 250 eggs a year, it would take her 16 years to use up all her eggs. Hens usually don’t run out of undeveloped yolks as they don’t keep up such robust production throughout their lives.

So, no worries about eventually running out of eggs. Even with some double yolk eggs and other oddities mixed in the bunch, your hens should be producing well into the future.

For now, enjoy your tasty double yolk treats. Yum!

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White Yolk Equals Albino Chick?

I have had chickens for years, but I have never seen this. I cracked open an egg I was sure was a double yolker and found one yellow yolk and one white yolk. My question is, if this had been a fertilized egg, and had hatched, and lived, would I have one albino chick?

Connie Salsbury, Idaho

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Hi Connie,

Thanks for the interesting picture!

This would probably not have produced an albino chick if it would have hatched. Pigments in the yolk come from the hen’s system, so there is probably no connection to the chick. Coloration in the chick is produced by the chick as it develops. Albinism is caused by a defect in the genes that cause pigment formation.

It is very rare for chicks to hatch from double-yolked eggs. If two embryos start to develop, they usually die about half-way through incubation. If they do develop to the point of hatching, it is difficult for them to hatch. Generally, only one has its head at the correct end of the shell, where it can pip into the air cell. There also isn’t adequate room for them to rotate in the egg, so it is difficult for them to complete the hatching process.

There may be videos on the internet of two chicks hatching, but they have required assisted hatching and quite a bit of special care. While it probably can happen, it is very, very rare.

What isn’t easily explained is the (lack of) coloration of the yolk. Generally, the pigmentation in the yolk is related to the diet the hen is eating. Feeds with lots of carotenoid pigments (corn, greens, marigolds, etc.) produce deep yellow to orange yolks while feeds with fewer pigments (wheat, sorghum, etc.) produce paler yolks. Since this egg had one of each, this doesn’t make a good explanation.

The hen may have had something else interfering with normal pigment deposition. It could be a disease, parasites, etc. Some weed seeds can change the color of the yolk. Or, it may have just been some anomaly with this one yolk, and never happen again.

As another possibility, a colleague wondered if there was a membrane around the white yolk? He thought it might be a partially formed egg (small and without a shell), rather than a yolk. There’s also a chance that it could have been a cyst on the ovary, rather than being a true yolk.

If you see more of these, it would be wise to suspect a health problem. If not, it’s just one of those strange things you see when you have chickens!

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Unusual Eggs

I am having two problems with my eggs. First, I have an occasional egg with very thin shells. It is usually broken in the nest. Second, I have an occasional egg with no white. I feed Purina layer pellets, some cracked corn, crushed eggshells, and oyster shells are offered. I feed Happy Hen treats once in a while and also some kitchen scraps. My hens vary in age from three years old to pullets. Thanks for your help.

Jerry Bair, Irrigon, Oregon

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Hi Jerry,

It sounds like the thin-shelled eggs may be from one or a few hens. It could be that a hen has something wrong inside that interferes with proper shell formation. From the diet you described, there’s likely no nutritional problem. There is a viral disease (infectious bronchitis) that can damage the oviduct, so it is possible that a hen had it sometime in the past. This often causes wrinkled eggshells, but it can also cause thin shells. It’s also possible that a hen is laying her egg too early before the shell has been added. It generally takes about 20 hours to make the shell. If something isn’t right, she might lay it before this is done.

In any of these situations, there’s not much you can do about it. If most of the eggs are good, there is probably something about that hen (or possibly a couple of them). If you can figure out which hen it is, and depending on your situation, you might want to remove her. Having broken eggs in the nest can encourage egg eating, and that is not a good habit to get started.

An egg with no white is quite unusual. Is it just yolk and shell? It’s more common to have whites and a shell, but never the opposite. It’s puzzling how this could happen unless the hen was somehow missing part of her oviduct. This would be quite strange.

Good luck with your flock!

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Two Eggs in a Day!

One day I had a surprise. My 7-month-old Silkie pullet laid her first egg in the morning at about 7:00. She was sitting around looking uncomfortable. Soon she was back on her nest. I felt her abdomen and could feel another egg close to the vent. Around 10 a.m. she laid the second egg. Two eggs the first time she laid, and only three hours apart! Has this happened to anybody else?

Junior Wengerd, Ohio

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Hi Junior,

While it is unusual for a hen to lay two eggs this close together, it does happen occasionally. For some reason, the first egg remains in the oviduct too long, and the second egg then forms above it. In fact, occasionally, one of the eggs will have a flat side where it has formed while pushing up against the first egg. These are often called slab-sided eggs. If your hen continues to lay two eggs a day, that would be something to look into. Most likely, it’s just taking a bit of time to get her body working properly, and she’ll settle into a normal pattern soon.

Good luck with her!

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Eggs Without Yolks

Thank you for your quick response to my last letter about my weird Silkie hen. She has been laying eggs with hard shells since I put out the crumbled eggshells. She still does not lay an egg with yolk in it (white only) and she never has. Have you ever come across this and if so why does it happen? Where are the yolks?

Thank You,

Sue McKee

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Hi Sue,

That’s great news that the eggshells are better!

It’s unusual for a hen to consistently lay eggs like this. Usually, it happens occasionally, and often when a hen is either just starting to lay, or going out of production. It may be that something has happened to her ovary, so she is not producing ova (yolks). As you likely know, the yolk forms on the ovary, and is released (termed ovulation). The rest of the egg is produced in the oviduct.

It is possible that she is producing yolks, and they are not getting into the oviduct. Hens that do this are called internal layers, and it’s not a good thing for the hens. These yolks fall to the bottom of the abdomen and begin to pile up. Usually, this yolk mass will become infected, and the hen will get a disease called egg yolk peritonitis. You will likely see the hen start to change her stance as the mass grows, and she’ll start to stand like a penguin or a bowling pin.

That doesn’t explain the continued production of eggs, however. We know that any solid mass will stimulate the oviduct to form an egg. There are old stories of surgically planting a small vial, containing a message, in the oviduct so that the hen lays an egg with the message inside! Sometimes, a bit of tissue will slough off near the top of the oviduct, and this can stimulate egg formation without a yolk. Since your hen is doing this consistently, there may be some tissue that is attached, but that is stimulating this? It’s a guess, but it could be the case.

If the hen doesn’t seem to be accumulating a mass in her abdomen, it’s probably not a cause for worry. If she is, then you might try to put her on short day lengths to make her go out of production. Otherwise, there is probably not much you can do for her. As long as she is eating and drinking, and seems healthy, you can just keep doing what you’re doing, and monitor her for other signs of problems.

For a firm diagnosis, you’d need to contact an avian veterinarian.

Good luck with her!

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Runny Yolks

I am getting a lot of yolks that spread out in the skillet the same thickness as the whites. This makes it impossible to have an over-medium fried egg with a runny yolk. Plus a lot of the yolks break when I pour the egg in the skillet. The entire yolk cooks just as fast as the white. This has been going on for about the last month. I live in central Oklahoma and have six Rhode Island Reds that are about two-years-old. I feed Purina Omega 3 Plus, no scratch or table scraps. I have had the hens about one year, they were laying when we got them. It’s like the membrane that holds the yolk together is very weak or disappearing. Any help is appreciated.

Thank you!

Jerry Tune

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Hi Jerry,

There are some nutritional things that can affect yolk strength, including Nicarbazin (a coccidiostat for young chickens) and gossypol (which is often found in cotton seeds). Since you said the hens are only eating Purina feed, these shouldn’t be issues.

Aging of the egg can also make the yolk flatten and weaken the membrane. Warm temperatures increase the rate of this aging, so that might be a concern. Depending on how often you gather the eggs, and how you store them, this might be a cause. It is often said that one day at warm temperatures will age an egg as much as a week in the refrigerator. (This is not specific, but it is probably loosely accurate.)

So, if you can gather the eggs more frequently, and refrigerate them promptly, that might help.

If those things don’t seem to fit your situation, then it’s hard to tell what is the problem. There may be other things that would change the yolk structure, but they’re not common. Some weed seeds can cause changes in the yolk, but they cause the yolk to be rubbery, not flatter and weaker.

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Stopping Broken Eggs

I have three different breeds of hens, so it makes know for sure who is laying which egg, but luckily my Rhode Island Red is my brown layer. I believe my Light Brahma has been the one laying the largest brown eggs I’ve been getting for several months now, and my third chicken is a White Laced Cornish and I think she is the last of the three to lay eggs, and they are a very light brown, smaller egg. Back to my beautiful Light Brahma giving us our first eggs, the large brown ones, and they were perfect. For about two weeks now, these eggs have been cracked on the smaller end. Twice the eggs are totally smashed, and with nothing left but smashed eggshell? I had run out of the ground oyster shell, and I thought maybe that was the reason the small end, which I guess is the first part of the laid egg that hits the surface first. Today is the second day it was totally smashed. Can you please give me some advice on why this might be happening, and if there is anything I can do to change this behavior? These three beauties are my first chickens, and I have really fallen in love with each of them. Your Countryside Daily has already given me so much information! Thank you!

Melody Larson

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Hi Melody,

It can be hard to determine exactly what’s going on through an email, but some general advice may be helpful. First, make sure you are feeding your hens a high-quality layer feed. That will give them good calcium for laying strong eggs. If you run out of the oyster shell, you can always feed your eggshells back to your hens for extra calcium. Just wash the shells off, let them dry and then break them up into small pieces. Also, make sure your nest boxes are lined with lots of fresh chips or straw. That will cushion the eggs as they are laid.

Hope this helps!

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Odd Eggs

I found this. I don’t know what it is. A gross, black, bloody, spongy egg? A blood clot? I cut it open and it oozed out a yolk. The outer part was thick, black, spongy and looked burned. What is it?

Kris Gibbs

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Hi Kris,

Wow, that’s not normal!

It looks like a large clot of blood. The hen must have hemorrhaged in her oviduct (or possibly from her ovary), and it passed through like an egg. From the pictures, it looks like there was at least some normal shell inside? It’s hard to tell what might have caused something like that. It would be good to monitor your hen to make sure she doesn’t continue to bleed.

If this happens more than once, you’ll want to look for things that might be causing injury — something the hens are flying into or hitting that might cause trauma to the abdomen, etc. You might also make check the diet. A lack of Vitamin K might cause poor clotting so she’d bleed more than usual.  Some mycotoxins can interfere with proper clotting, too. It does look like the blood clotted, however, so that’s most likely not the problem.

Hopefully, you won’t see this again!

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Chicken Laying Soft Eggs

I have a hen in her third year now laying shell-less eggs. She is a Red Star, and up until January of this year, she laid an egg every single day since she started laying. On 1/13/17 she was struck by a hawk and her chicken buddy was killed. From that time, she has either laid soft-shelled eggs, eggs without a shell, or shell-less eggs. She is on a layer feed, and is supplemented with kelp, brewer’s yeast, oyster shell free choice, Vitamin D3. Her coop is immaculate and cleaned every morning. It always has fresh water and she free ranges all day. The only remaining hen I have is still laying without problems. She shows no signs of illness, eager to eat and otherwise seems to be normal. Will this ever resolve? Her egg laying seems to happen about once a week to 10 days in the nest box, but I suspect she is laying these eggs out somewhere else. I have found shriveled up shells at different places on the property.

Janice McAdams

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Hi Janice,

Sorry to hear about your experience with a hawk. It’s always hard to lose a bird to a predator.

There are a few possibilities that come to mind with your hen laying soft eggs. First, the predator attack could be coincidental and have nothing to do with the soft eggs. Hens can lay soft eggs in the summer because of the hot weather. Hens don’t sweat, but they will pant to help cool themselves. Panting helps water evaporate and cool the chicken but it causes a reduction in calcium being put into egg production. Second, stress, such as a predator attack, can cause a hen to rush laying resulting in soft eggs being laid. There may be some other perceived threat that’s also causing the stress, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on her. Last, you mentioned that your hen was struck by the hawk and her soft egg laying began after that. There could be a possibility that she has some internal injury that’s caused problems with the egg laying process itself.

Usually, a soft egg here or there is no cause for worry. But, if her soft egg laying continues, it may be best to seek out a veterinarian that can look for other causes.

In the meantime, below are some links that you may find helpful.

Good luck with your hen!

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Strange Eggs

Just wanted to ask you about the strange eggs I’ve gotten. About three months ago one of my six golden sex links (the girls are just turning two years old) started giving me wrinkled eggs. Then, one day last week, I got a soft egg (a different girl I’m sure). I’m not sure if it’s food-related or something else. I would like your opinion. I feed a layer pellet by Dumor and I also give the girls a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and lettuce every morning. What do you think is the cause? My brother Ken would also like to know why some of the eggs have a blood spot in them. Is my rooster, Johnny causing that? I gather eggs every day so they are not older eggs. Love reading Backyard Poultry! Keep up the good work!

Mary Ann Marconette, Yucca Valley, California

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Hi Mary Ann,

Odd eggs are really one of the neat things about raising backyard chickens. We’re all so used to perfect grocery store eggs, but in reality, eggs aren’t always perfect. A few odd eggs here and there are normal. It’s really the consistent laying of odd eggs over time that should be concerning.

Wrinkled eggs are typically caused when more than one egg is moving through a hen’s reproductive tract and the egg behind bumps the egg in front. This can cause damage in the form of wrinkles. It can also be caused by rough handling of the chicken while the egg is being formed. The hen’s body does try to repair the damage, but usually, the egg will be laid looking a little rough.

Soft eggs are common during warmer weather because chickens pant during that time to keep cool. This causes a reduction in calcium going to the egg which means the shell is soft. These eggs can also happen as young hens are adjusting to laying routines or if your hens do not have enough calcium. Make sure to feed a well-balanced layer feed and offer calcium free-choice.

Blood spots in eggs are caused when a blood vessel ruptures and a bit of blood is released into the yolk. They are fine to eat, but most will either pick out the spot or choose to pass on it.

Hope this is helpful!

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Smashed Eggs

I have three different breeds of hens, so it makes it hard to know for sure who is laying which egg, but luckily my Rhode Island Red is my white layer. I believe my Light Brahma has been the one laying the largest brown eggs I’ve been getting for several months now. My third chicken is a White Laced Cornish and I think she is the last of the three to lay eggs, and they are a very light brown, smaller egg. Back to my beautiful Light Brahma giving us our first eggs, the large brown ones — they were perfect. For about two weeks now, these eggs have been cracked on the smaller end. Twice the eggs were totally smashed, and with nothing left but smashed eggshell. I had run out of the ground oyster shell, and I thought maybe that was the reason for the small end, which I guess is the first part of the laid egg that hits the surface first. Today is the second day it was totally smashed. Can you please give me some advice on why this might be happening, and if there is anything I can do to change this behavior? These three beauties are my first chickens, and I have really fallen in love with each of them. Your Countryside Daily has already given me so much information! Thank you!

Melody Larson

****************

Hi Melody,

It can be hard to determine exactly what’s going on through an email, but there are some tips that might help. First, make sure you are feeding your hens a high-quality layer feed. That will give them good calcium for laying strong eggs. If you run out of oyster shell, you can always feed your eggshells back to your hens for extra calcium. Just wash the shells off, let them dry and then break them up into small pieces. Also, make sure your nest boxes are lined with lots of fresh chips or straw. That will cushion the eggs as they are laid.

Hope this helps!

_____________________________________________

The Best Way to Clean Eggs

What is the correct way to clean eggs? I have read various ways but I’m not sure which is the best way.

belenjeske

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Hi there,

Fresh eggs have a bloom which surrounds them and keeps bacteria from entering the egg. Washing your eggs removes this layer of protection and leaves them vulnerable.

The best advice is to help make sure your eggs aren’t dirty in the first place. Make sure you give your hens plenty of clean bedding to protect the eggs. Remove the eggs often throughout the day. And, don’t let your hens sleep in the nest boxes since they will defecate during the night and soil the bedding.

With that said, it’s inevitable that your eggs will get dirty at some point. This is especially a problem in wet weather when hens come in from outside and have dirty feet. If your eggs are soiled, it’s best to wash them in warm, running water. Don’t scrub too hard. Just lightly use your fingertip to remove soiled spots. Dry your eggs gently and then immediately store them in the refrigerator. It’s a good idea to eat the washed eggs first.

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How to Use an Antique Egg Scale

My husband and I have chickens and received an egg scale for Christmas. It’s a vintage “Unique” scale made by “Specialty Mfg. Co.” Unfortunately, it came without instructions. Does anyone on staff know how this scale works? Thanks so much!

Cheryl Burrier

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Hi Cheryl,

What a great Christmas present!

The models vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they’re really meant to weigh individual eggs to see how large they are. After looking up Specialty Mfg. Co. vintage egg scales online, it looks like it works by laying the egg on the metal oval disk on one side of the scale. The weight of the egg will push the lever so it lands at the egg’s appropriate weight. (That’s hard to describe, so hopefully this makes sense.) Depending on the condition of your scale, it may or may not work accurately. But regardless, vintage egg scales are a great piece of the history of egg production in our country.

Enjoy your scale!

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New Chickens But No Eggs?

We now have six chickens in our Millennium Chicken, our chicken coop named by our dad. We used to have seven, but they all got picked off one-by-one by coyotes. All except two, our rooster who survived the coyote attack (his bottom feathers are still growing back) and an Easter Egg layer named Gigi who laid green eggs. We got new chickens a few months ago, and ever since she hasn’t laid an egg. The five other chickens, the newcomers, are old enough to lay, but they haven’t. Is anything wrong? And do the new chickens affect Gigi’s laying?

Mia Patel, Texas

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Hi Mia,

Stress can affect laying. It sounds like Gigi has experienced a lot of stress recently both from predation and newcomers being added. Unless you see signs that she is sick, it’s best to make sure she has plenty of food, fresh water, and a clean coop. She’ll most likely start laying again when she’s comfortable.

As for the newcomers, they can lay as early as 16 weeks, but most birds take a little longer; especially if they are a heritage breed. It’s hard to wait, but try to be patient. They will lay when they’re ready.

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Do Small Eggs Equal Small Hens?

I have seven-month-old Wyandottes that have just started laying. I know it’s normal for the first eggs to be smaller than usual. My question is: If I hatch these smaller eggs, will the chicks from them grow up smaller than normal or will they eventually be full-size Wyandottes?

Mark Hoy, Salcha, Alaska

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Hi Mark,

They should eventually get to their expected full size. They may grow a bit more slowly. This has been studied in broilers, and chicks from small eggs take a few days longer to get to market size. Genetically, though, your chicks will have the same genetics as if they hatched from a larger egg, so they should grow just as large. Best of luck with your new flock.

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Egg-Eaters?

Why does a hen and rooster occasionally eat an egg?

Kathy Briggs

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Hi Kathy,

Eggs are not only a great source of nutrition for humans, they’re also a great source of nutrition for your chickens. You can actually scramble up your eggs and feed them directly to your birds. On a cold fall/winter/early spring day, they’ll love the warmth and the extra protein. If your hen or rooster occasionally eats an egg, they are simply looking for a good snack. Just make sure your chickens have some free-range and activity time every day so they don’t get bored and make egg-eating a habit. Then you’ll have no eggs for yourself! Good luck!

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Eggs Without Hard Shells?

One of my hens named, Mary, who is a three-year-old Ameraucana, has egg laying problems. When she lays an egg it has no hard shell and looks like a small water balloon. Please help me with this problem.

Andrew Karr

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Hi Andrew,

Eggs with soft shells are a pretty common problem with backyard chickens.

Here’s an interesting egg fact for you: Warm weather brings thin shells as chickens pant. That’s why you see more soft or shell-less eggs in the summer. Panting helps water evaporate, which cools the chicken and causes a reduction in calcium being put into egg production.

Stress can also cause chickens laying eggs to rush, which will leave the eggs unfinished. When you’re raising chickens for eggs, it’s best to keep them as stress-free as possible. A soft shell, or an egg with just a membrane, can happen when a hen rushes laying; maybe she’s startled by a predator or loud noises. Remember, when raising backyard chickens, it’s important to learn how to protect chickens from hawks, owls, raccoons, dogs and other predators.

It could also be health-related. Even if you have the best chickens for laying eggs, soft shells can be signs of a sick chicken. Symptoms like soft eggs can mean disease has infiltrated your flock. It’s good to perform a comb-to-toe checkup on your hens to make sure the flock is healthy.

Finally, age could be a factor. Older hens need more calcium. A great supplement is to feed your chickens their own shells. Save the used shells, clean and microwave them for a few seconds. When they’re crispy, break them up and mix them with their feed. You can also add more calcium into your flock’s diet by purchasing a commercial feed with added calcium.

Overall, the occasional soft eggshell isn’t a cause for concern, just something to keep in mind. Best of luck with your flock!

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Runny Egg Whites?

I need information regarding why the whites of some of my fresh eggs run all over the frying pan when cracked, and the yolks are very easy to break as well. Also, the shell colors have gotten lighter and lighter, a cream color where they were once brown (I have Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and a few Sex Links).

I feed them layer crumbles, crushed oyster shell, cracked corn (treats), greens and kitchen scraps (no potato peels). I also give them dog food for extra protein. I would appreciate your input.

Patricia Dosher

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Hi Patricia,

It sounds like your chickens are getting a nice, healthy diet. Beyond that, we don’t know much about your specific hens. But I can tell you that runnier-than-normal eggs can be caused by high temperatures. Since we’ve had such a hot summer, that would be our best guess. Age can also play a factor in runny eggs, so if you have an older flock, you can also experience this problem. There are diseases that can present with this symptom, so if you feel like your hens are unhealthy then it is wise to take them to a veterinarian to be safe.

We hope this is helpful. Good luck with your flock!

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Floating Eggs?

I love your magazine. I have a friend who says his chickens lay two eggs a day, every day. I do not think that can happen, can it? Also, my very fresh eggs never float in water. I have read that they will float if they are fresh. Mine are fresh but do not float. What is the real story?

Thank you.

Connie Salsbury

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Hi Connie,

We had to giggle, as you’ve asked us two questions that we get all the time. In fact, we already published a letter on page 15 about floating eggs, but we’re not afraid to answer it again!

But to answer your first question, we would be highly skeptical that your friend has a chicken laying two eggs every day. In fact, we would be skeptical that your friend has a chicken laying one egg every day. A good chicken output for the year would be 200 eggs, and an amazing output would be close to 300, but what your friend is suggesting is that his hen is laying close to 700.

While technically we guess it could be possible, we’re not sure a hen would live very long if it was spending that much energy every day laying eggs. A consistent stream of nutrients and hormones are needed to create each egg, and those nutrients and hormones can be affected by a multitude of factors ranging from sunlight to temperature to illness. Simply put, it’s hard enough to keep a hen laying all year, we can’t imagine getting double the production.

Yet, if your friend owns pictures and proof to back up their claim, please pass their information onto us. We’d love to learn their secret.

Secondly, we’ll answer your floating eggs question. Unfortunately, if you read that fresh eggs will float, you read incorrect information. Fresh eggs should sink like a rock, as there has not been time for an air pocket to form between the egg liner and the shell. As an egg ages, the egg whites shrink, and a pocket of air starts to take its place. This air allows the egg to eventually float, and that air pocket also allows you to peel a hard-boiled egg a little easier.

So, we hope this helps you with your questions, and keep the urban myths coming!

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Handling Hens and Egg Laying

Do chickens lay fewer eggs when they are handled a lot and played with by the children?

Bonnie Sheen

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Hi Bonnie,

We are not sure about the particulars of your situation, but in general, chickens do not lay fewer eggs from being played with by children. The exception to this rule is too much playing. The laying cycle for a chicken can be interrupted when they are stressed. Too much time spent being played with and handled can cause stress.

When Pam’s children were younger, she was careful that most of her time with the flock was spent watching them. Her kids held their chickens, but it was supervised and they were careful to keep it limited. As a result, their chickens, to this day, are very friendly and seek out their attention. We are sure you’ll be able to find a happy medium where both chickens and children have fun.

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No Eggs!

My black and chocolate Orpingtons are 10 months old and have not produced any eggs. They appear to be on good health. Any ideas?

Jack Cunningham

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Hi Jack,

A lack of eggs is definitely frustrating. There can be many causes for this, ranging from environmental to feed to predators to noises to lighting to disease, not to mention broodiness and molting. We would start by looking through all the basics and seeing what you find might have changed recently in one of those categories, resetting it, and seeing if your hens don’t start to lay again.

Good luck!

******************

Note: Jack wrote us back to update us with good news: “I figured it out. They needed more sunlight so I folded back the tarp, which was over the run since they were living in sort of a cave with all the shade. I am now getting eggs every day. I thought I was protecting them from direct sun and rain. Why it took me so long to figure it out, I’ll never know. I hope this helps others with this problem. Thanks for getting back to me.”

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Stopping Egg Eaters

Is there a way to cure the egg eaters from eating eggs? I used to let my egg-eater group free roam until our neighbor dog got a hold of one of the hens. He didn’t cause any harm other than bruising the hen and plucking a lot of feathers from her. When they were allowed to free roam, I noticed they would stop eating their eggs, but when locked up, they eat the eggs. Do you have any suggestions for getting my egg eaters to stop eating eggs while penned up? I don’t trust having them free roam anymore.

Marsha Martin

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Hi Marsha,

Egg eating is a nasty habit. It sounds like your girls are doing it because they’re bored. That’s why they stop when they’re allowed to get out and free-range.

If you’re able to give them a fenced free-range situation, that would be the best solution. Maybe a compromise could be giving them a bigger secure coop and run area. At a minimum, we would suggest giving them lots of boredom busters like hanging a cabbage for them to peck, adding a flock block and even giving them a bale of straw to pick and distribute around the coop. We would also collect the eggs early and often so nothing’s left to eat.

The problem with egg-eating is that the others will catch on and start the habit too. At that point, it’s almost impossible to stop and you’re left with few options other than culling.

We hope this is helpful!

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How Can I Stop An Egg-Eater?

My chickens are eating eggs. How can I stop them?

Vanda

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Hi Vanda,

The good news is, it is preventable. By employing a few procedures and best practices, you can keep your chickens from digging in and stealing all your fresh eggs. We asked for advice from one of our writers, Colleen Anderson, who dealt with this issue — “I was really annoyed,” she wrote. (She writes a blog, Five Little Homesteaders, that we recommend.)

We will summarize her points. For one, make sure your chickens are getting enough protein and calcium. If deficient, both are reasons chickens will start turning to eggs for nutrition. Plus, this also ensures your birds are healthy, a bonus.

Second, collect the eggs frequently. Two to three times per day is recommended. Three, we recommend some tricks. One, you can fill an emptied egg with mustard, which will teach them quickly that other eggs might be nasty. (Trivia: Do chickens like mustard? Answer: Nope.) You can also put a round object into the nesting box that can’t be pecked open. This might distract them from the other ones, or teach them that eggs are unbreakable. Giving them things to peck at is always good advice, so they do not get bored.

Lastly, ensuring you only feed them crushed up eggshells (if you’re using them for calcium supplements) will help them not identify an egg as food.

Have fun with them.

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Nesting Boxes

Through the last couple of years, we have started to raise Rhode Island Red chickens in northwest Ohio. My husband started with two hens and built a coop with two nest boxes. We now have four hens that we raised from chicks since July 2015. These hens are starting to lay eggs, but not in the box.

We found the eggs in the pen by their food. I keep telling my husband they need a clean box with lots of nesting material for each hen. He says two hens can share the same box by sitting on top or next to each other since they do that at night when they go in the coop. I told him that’s why they laid the egg outside in the pen because they need a comfortable nesting area. Can you please give us advice about hen laying?

Sophia Reineck

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Hi Sophia,

Your question made us laugh because there are rules for a chicken-to-nest box ratio, but chickens don’t necessarily make those rules. And that’s the fun part about having a backyard flock!

The ratio we use is three to four birds per nest box. We’ve found, however, that no matter how many nest boxes you provide, all the chickens will have the same favorite and they’ll all want to use it at the same time. So, you’ll see them hopping around on the floor in front of the nest box until the current occupant leaves. You’ll even see them double or triple up in the box because they just can’t wait for a turn. It’s something they don’t talk about in books, but most chicken keepers will see it happen in their coop.

It sounds like you’ve got a good ratio of chickens to nest boxes. The most important thing is to keep the nest boxes clean, and from there, the chickens will sort things out on their own. We would, however, discourage them from using the nest boxes at night, because the nightly pooping can accumulate and create quite a mess.

Other than that, it sounds like you’re giving your chickens a good place to call home!

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Egg Inside An Egg

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Good morning! Yesterday, I discovered a huge egg in a nesting box. When cleaning, the thin shell broke. Inside was another egg! How does this happen?

Amy Wilson (Photo by Amy Wilson)

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Hi Amy,

Wow! What a cool find! An egg inside an egg is a rather rare phenomenon and very interesting.

Jen Pitino wrote about this exact issue in January 2014, explaining: “The cause of this phenomenon is called a counterperistalsis contraction and occurs while the hen is in the process of forming an egg in her oviduct. A hen typically releases an oocyte (the ovum that becomes the yolk of an egg) from her left ovary into the oviduct every 18 to 26 hours. The oocyte travels slowly through the oviduct organ adding layers of the egg along the path to the chicken’s vent from which it will lay the egg.”

The second eggshell gets built, she explains, “after a counter-peristalsis contraction, when a second oocyte is released by the ovary before the first egg has completely traveled through the oviduct and been laid. The second oocyte then travels down the oviduct and has albumen and a shell deposited over it and first egg together. This creates a very large egg for your poor hen to lay.”

Ouch. Luckily this is usually a rare occurrence, and we hope everything returns to normal.

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Ask our poultry experts about your flock’s health, feed, production, housing and more!

https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/ask-the-expert/connect/

Please note that although our team has dozens of years of experience, we are not licensed veterinarians. For serious life and death matters, we advise you to consult with your local veterinarian.

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