If you keep chickens at some point you will experience egg issues. As it happens we have had very few problems so far. That will either be reassuring or unhelpful depending upon why you are reading this article. However I will continue, so in this section I will cover off some of the problems we have had and explain how we have dealt with them. This includes;
- The many shades of soft shells
- Egg content issues
- Blood on the shells
- Shells with holes in
- Cracked shells
At all times remember that your hen is giving you a gift and when there are problems with her gift she will need plenty of love and encouragement until the issue has been resolve. Of course at this point she will just need love and encouragement!
The many shades of soft shells
Of all the eggy issues this is the one that crops up most of all. Just to make things even more interesting there are “many shades of soft”. What most people refer to as “Soft Shells” is actually the absence of the outer shell altogether. However we have had soft shelled eggs that range from no shell through pale slightly rough textured and crumbly shells to a brown shell that is easy to put your finger through.
The receipt of soft shells is natural and a disappointment however the biggest issue of all is that your hens will probably eat the contents. So if the problem persists for any length of time you will end up with a chicken that has a taste for eating eggs, and this will have to be dealt with as a separate issue. See shells with holes in
- No Shells
We normally get this type of egg when our hens are just starting to lay for the first time. We are now on our 3rd batch of hens so we know from experience that this type of egg will be laid for a week or so and then the eggs will start coming with proper shells on. What is going on, well it’s just the new birds internal shell manufacturing getting going. It is nothing to worry about.
We do not eat eggs that have no shell mainly because they break so easily, look pretty unsightly and are difficult to handle. If you find any, and quite often you will only find the rubbery membrane in the nest box, I suggest you dispose of it or what is left of it and take no further action other than to give your hens a little extra love and encouragement.
- Crumbly shells
Now this type of egg can occur at any time and is a sign that things are not working quite right. The shell manufacturing part of your chicken is not in full production. It may be that she is just starting to produce again having had:
- a break for the winter,
- A session of moulting
- Or is starting to lay again having recovered from some unidentifiable chicken illness you weren’t aware of.
Don’t panic, all will improve.
We do not eat this type of egg as they break so easily, look pretty unsightly and are difficult to handle. If you find one I suggest you dispose of it, or what is left of it as it is highly likely to have broken in the nest box. Your hen will probably benefit from some additional grit in her diet. You can get this from your feed supplier and it normally comes in the form of Oyster shell pieces. Alternatively you can feed any shells back to your hens once you have eaten the contents – it’s far cheaper and perfect for their needs. Make sure you give your hens a little extra love and encouragement and monitor the situation. If there is no improvement it is likely to be a sign of bigger problems, however normally shell production returns to normal within a few days.
- Fragile thin shells
Fragile shells usually turn up when your hen is a little off colour or is not getting enough grit. You’ll know you have one when it either breaks when you pick it up from the nest box or you crack it open and your egg splats everywhere. These ones will catch you out as quite often the shell is the usual colour but a sure sign is a slightly rough feel. So be alert otherwise it’ll be egg everywhere.
We are quite happy to use these eggs assuming they make it as far as the pan.
Your hen will probably benefit from some additional grit in her diet. You can get this from your feed supplier and it normally comes in the form of Oyster shell pieces. Alternatively you can feed any shells back to your hens once you have eaten the contents – it’s far cheaper and perfect for their needs. Make sure you give your hens a little extra love and encouragement and monitor the situation. If there is no improvement it is likely to be a sign of bigger problems, however normally shell production returns to normal within a few days.
Egg content problems
We have never experienced this one however I have heard that sometimes eggs come along with no yolks and this is normally when egg production is in its infancy. It appears the rule of thumb is not to worry, give your hens extra love and encouragement and the problem will probably pass.
Blood on the shells
If you notice spots of blood on the shells it is a sure sign of red mite invasion. The eggs themselves are fine and can be eaten as normal; your chickens however will be at risk. You need to implement treatment for red mites immediately. Give your chickens plenty of love and encouragement, and a little extra love as they, as a flock, might be feeling under the weather.
Holes in the shells
You’ll spot a hole when you see one. There is only one reason for a hole and that is because one or more of the hens is pecking the eggs. Remember eggs are a great source of protein and chickens like protein too. Hens normally peck their eggs if their diet is a little out of balance or if they have been eating the contents of soft shelled eggs and have gotten a taste for it. If possible you need to get your hen to stop because;
- Eggs are for you to eat not for chickens
- She will make your eggs unusable even if she doesn’t get right inside to eat the contents
- The rest of the flock will copy her and you will end up with no eggs
If her diet is out of balance your hen will benefit from additional grit, as above, and a few worms. Mealworms are our chicken’s favourite thing, next to anything that is human food. We buy dried mealworms from the food supplier by the bucket load and encourage the girls to scratch for worms when we are digging in the garden. It is not unheard of for a chicken to eat small rodents such as mice as well so don’t be squiffy if you follow a vegetarian diet.
As for getting the little darlings to stop pecking this is a job for English mustard. Rescue one of your spare egg shells, preferably one that can be pushed together to look whole. Put a good dollop of full flavoured English mustard inside and plant the egg in the nest box to be found by the unsuspecting hen. If you are lucky she won’t have a taste for full flavoured English mustard! After several applications she will give up and life will return to normal. If she continues try chilli and mustard combined!
Remember, at all times your hen need extra love and encouragement especially if she is on a chilli mustard diet
Cracked shells are a different issue to holes altogether. You normally get cracked shells when they have been laid from the perch and bounced only once instead of twice. There is not much you can do to stop the shells cracking however you should check out why your hen has abandoned the nest box. There might be red mites in there.
If there are no red mites she might just be being difficult or going through a bad patch with the rest of the flock. Hen pecking happens, you have to accept it and let them get on with it, oh and put up with the resulting sulking that goes with it. Give your hen plenty of love and encouragement as she will need it whatever the cause. Nesting in the box will resume before long and perfect eggs along with it.
If there is anything else you have experienced and are happy to share with us, we want to know so don’t be shy. Tell us about the issue and how you dealt with it so that we can pass your experiences on. If you have some photo's to share, we would love to hear from you or you can post them on our Facebook page.