Chicken Egg Quality Issues
From time to time, a hen may lay a weird egg. Often the issue has to do with the quality of the shell and it may or may not be able to be corrected. On rare occasions, an entire flock may have issues with the quality of all eggs that are produced; such as an off smell to the egg contents or widespread shell quality issues.
Thin Shells, No Shells
Perhaps the most common issue with egg quality is thin-shelled eggs or eggs that have no shells, only a membrane surrounding the egg contents. There can be many causes of thin shells, and an occasional thin or missing shell isn’t really a cause for concern. A few common causes are:
- High production laying breed – Golden Buffs in particular, which are bred for high egg output, seem to “misfire” and lay an occasional thin-shelled egg.
- Lack of dietary calcium – Some hens need more calcium than even what a layer ration provides. Give your flock some free-choice oyster shell separate from their feed so those hens that may need more calcium have access to it.
- Old age – as hens get older, they tend to lay lower quality eggs. This seems especially true for the hybrid breeds. By 2 years of age, my Golden Buff and Rhode Island Reds have all nearly retired from laying.
- Overweight hens – usually not a problem if the flock is allowed to free range, but be aware of this cause if your flock stays confined to a coop and small run. Avoid too many high-fat treats like sunflower seeds.
Wrinkled, Porous or Misshapen Shells
Occasionally a hen may produce an egg that has a bumpy, ridged or wrinkly appearance to the shell. Some possible causes are:
- Stress – rough handling, being chased or frightened by predators or other threats can cause fractures in the shell as the egg is formed which will be “repaired” in the shell-forming stage of production.
- Calcium absorption issues – may or may not be correctable.
- Oviduct scarring due to disease – Newcastle, Infectious Bronchitis and Avian Influenza can cause damage to the reproductive tract. A hen with a scarred oviduct or shell gland may produce thin, wrinkled eggs with a watery white.
Eggs That Smell Or Taste Off
It’s no surprise to those of us who raise chickens that a hen’s diet can affect the quality of the egg contents. Most of us have seen how rich and golden yellow those yolks become when our flock free ranges on green grass or eats other colorful vegetables. But did you know that some feed supplements can cause a fishy odor or taste to manifest in the eggs? Omega-3 fatty acid sources in particular can cause eggs to taste or smell off. Check your feed tag for flax meal or fish meal ingredients. Either of these ingredients in excess can cause your egg flavor or odor to be off.
Eggs Are Too Small
New layers and certain breeds will lay small eggs. In new layers, give them about a month from their first egg for their reproductive tract to fully mature. After a month or so, her egg size will be about average for that hen. Bantam breeds will of course lay small eggs, as well as some standard breeds.
Eggs Are Too Big
As a hen ages, so does her reproductive tract. Older hens produce larger eggs. Also, certain breeds are known for laying large eggs, such as those ever-popular Golden Buffs.
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