Are your chickens laying soft and shell-less eggs? You’re not alone. Seeing soft-shelled eggs in my chicken coop for the very first time was very distressing.
I didn’t know what caused it, and handling the eggs was a total mess. So, I completely understand why it’s depressing for poultry owners to find soft or shell-less eggs in their chicken coop.
If you have a chicken laying soft eggs, and you aren’t sure how to solve the problem, I wrote this article just for you.
What Are Soft Eggs?
Soft-shelled Eggs: A soft-shelled egg, or simply soft egg, is characterized by a thin layer of shell covering the egg white and yolk. The egg is typically slippery and malleable and easily breaks when not handled properly. However, you can still carry a soft-shelled egg because it remains firm, despite its abnormally thin shell.
Shell-less Eggs: Just as the name implies, shell-less eggs lack any form of the layer around the yolk and egg white. Only protective membranes line the egg interior, making it extremely fragile to handle. Although there’s a noticeable difference between soft-shelled eggs and shell-less eggs, many people still refer to both as soft eggs.
What Causes Soft Eggs?
To properly understand the causes of soft eggs, let’s take a look at how a normal egg develops in a chicken.
How a Normal Chicken Egg is Formed
In a hen, the ovary and the oviduct form the reproductive system that produces an egg. The egg yolk develops in the ovary, and the other parts of the egg grow around the yolk as it passes through the oviduct. Unlike most animals, a hen has only one ovary, and the oviduct begins at this ovary, exiting the hen’s body via the vent.
The nutrients from the hen’s food form the building blocks of egg yolk. These building blocks move via the bloodstream to the ovary, where they fill tissue bags called follicles and start to grow. When the follicle matures, the yolk is released from the follicle and moves down the oviduct. In the magnum section of the oviduct, a dense layer of albumin or egg white covers the yolk.
At the isthmus section of the oviduct, shell membranes deposit on the yolk and egg white. These membranes are protein wrapped loosely around the albumin covering the yolk. After that, the egg enters the shell gland, where the shell eventually forms from the deposition of thin albumin, calcium carbonate, and protein solution secreted by the gland.
Reasons and Treatment for Laying Soft Eggs
Now that we know how a normal egg forms, let’s delve into the causes of soft eggs.
1. She’s a Young Chicken
For many chickens, laying quality eggs takes some getting used to. So, if your chickens are pouring out soft eggs, you might want to take a look at their age. It could be that they are yet to start feeding on a calcium-rich diet, or their bodies aren’t used to laying eggs.
You can also decide to switch their grower feed to a more calcium-rich layer feed, to supply their bodies with enough calcium. If you’ve already done that, then you’ve just got to give the young chickens some time to get their bodies used to the whole egg production process.
2. Lack of Calcium in Diet
We’ve already seen how the lack of calcium in a young chicken’s diet can affect the quality of eggs, but it’s common to find the same problem in older chickens.
A sufficient supply of calcium is a necessity for the production of eggshells. When a chicken’s diet is lacking in calcium, it usually translates to the production of soft eggs.
Calcium deficiency affects more than just egg production, and that’s a cause for concern. When your chickens don’t have enough calcium supply, they’re going to draw it from their bones, leading to several health complications.
I recommend supplementing your chickens’ calcium intake even though they aren’t showing signs of calcium deficiency. For my poultry, I use crushed oyster shells because it’s unarguably the best calcium supplement out there. You can easily buy one at the nearest feed store.
You can also use your old eggshells to provide calcium supplements for your chickens. It’s quite a tedious process that involves crushing the eggshells and baking them. You have to ensure you break the shells into tiny bits, and that the final product looks nothing like an eggshell. That way, your chickens won’t see their eggs as food to peck on.
Most layer feeds provide extra calcium for the chickens, but I don’t depend on that, and you shouldn’t too.
3. Dietary Imbalance
Besides the insufficient supply of calcium from the chicken’s diet, any nutritional imbalance, such as a shortfall in any essential nutrients, can lead to the laying of soft-shelled eggs. This incident underscores the importance of not feeding your chickens with too many scraps and unhealthy feed.
Laying chickens need a balanced diet to supply their bodies with the required nutrients while they work hard to produce eggs.
Provide the chickens with a balanced diet that contains protein, vitamins, and minerals to provide nourishment.
Overwhelming stress levels in your chicken can tamper with the egg production process, leading to soft-shelled or shell-less eggs. A chicken can suffer from environmental, predator, and heat stress.
Environmental Stress: Chickens are likely to suffer from environmental stress when the coop or runs lack enough space, and the chickens are all crowded. It could also result from frequent mating of roosters. When the chicken is stressed, her calcium supply for eggshell production is redirected by her body to help maintain functioning.
Extreme Heat: Chickens cannot sweat – one of the factors contributing to their limited cooling ability. As a result, their heat stress level increases when the environment is warmer. Heat stress can interfere with the chicken’s ability to lay normal eggs.
Stress from Predators: If you raise your chickens in areas where there are lots of predators looking to prey on them, they’ll likely come down with stress running from the predators.
Some time ago, a dog attacked our chickens, and I remember them laying soft eggs after that. I couldn’t draw the line then, but now I can easily associate that behavior with the predator stress they had.
- If your chicken is suffering from heat stress, you can offer it homemade electrolytes. This YouTube video shows you how you can easily make a homemade electrolyte. Additionally, offer the chicken mealworms and frozen fruit to supply her needed nutrition.
- You can solve environmental stress by building coops and chicken runs large enough to accommodate all the chickens, with enough space to run about (I recommend a coop size of 10 square feet per chicken).
- Consider ventilating the coop adequately to reduce humidity.
- Protect the chickens from predators, such as raccoons, hawks, owls, coyotes, opossums, bears, and of course, dogs.
When your chicken is laying soft eggs, and you’ve checked the boxes of possible causes we’ve seen so far, it could be a symptom of ill-health. If your chicken feels sick, her immune system will use the feed nutrients to fight the disease, neglecting egg production.
As such, seeing your chicken lay soft-shelled egg could serve as a tentative diagnosis of a bacterial or viral infection. Sick chickens usually display the following signs: diarrhea, lethargy, ruffled feathers, discharges, tiredness, head and wattle discoloration, and feather loss.
Common diseases that can lead to soft egg production in chickens include Newcastle disease, Botulism, Bumblefoot, Air-sac disease, Bronchitis, Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS), and Thrush.
Immediately you notice any symptom in your chicken; I advise you to take her to the veterinary doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. You shouldn’t do all of that yourself, except you’re a vet, of course.
Nothing May Be Wrong
Sometimes, chickens just lay a single soft egg for no reason at all – no calcium deficiency, stress, dietary imbalance, and illness. It could be that the entire egg production process went faster than usual, or just about anything else. As long as your chicken looks healthy, there’s no need to worry.
We’ve seen the various reasons why your chickens are laying soft eggs, and what to do about them. Realizing what’s behind a particular episode will inform you of the necessary steps to take in solving it.
For our poultry, we take necessary precautionary measures to prevent our chickens from laying soft eggs, and the measures have been very effective. You should implement the following preventive measures to ensure your chickens don’t lay soft eggs:
- Supplement your flock’s feed with calcium to prevent calcium deficiency.
- Provide a balanced diet for your chickens at all times.
- Protect your hens from bullies and predators.
- Observe the chickens for any symptom and take her to a vet immediately.
- Ensure the coop and chicken runs are large enough, with enough ventilation and comfort.
Please, drop your questions in the comment box, I’m more than happy to attend to them.