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Chicken Egg Quality Issues

A star-performer backyard hen can lay more than 250 eggs a year, but even superstars have occasional bad days, and not all of her eggs will be perfect. Some of the eggs from healthy hens are really weird: soft, rubbery, sandpapery, or lumpy, for example. Hens that consistently lay abnormal eggs, however, are likely to have a problem somewhere in the plumbing of the reproductive tract.

Find the cause of poor egg quality

A multitude of factors can cause abnormal eggshell shape and texture. The amount of time the egg spends in the shell gland of the oviduct determines the thickness and shape of the shell. Anything — such as age, stress, nutrition, or viral infections — that speeds up or slows down the normal transit time through the shell gland will result in shell abnormalities.

Egg Quality Problems and Causes
Egg Defect Possible Causes Possible Remedies
Thin shell Egg laid later in the day
Hot weather
Older hen
Hen in lay for a year or more
Poor diet, often a diet low in calcium
Get younger hens
Allow older hens to molt by decreasing daily hours of light
Provide complete layer diet and offer oyster shell
Soft or no shell A scare or a stressful event
Infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, or other infection of the oviduct
Poor diet, often a diet low in calcium
Eliminate stress
Handle hens gently
Provide complete layer diet
Vaccinate new pullets
Blood-stained shell Young hen
Underweight hen
Vent picking
Provide complete layer diet
Use feather-pecking prevention methods
Sandpaper texture, lumps, or chalky coating on shell Stress
Young hen
Hen delayed in laying an egg
Eliminate stress
Provide more nest boxes
Body checks (ridges on shell) or a bulge around the “equator” of the egg Egg cracked inside the oviduct Provide more space for hens
Handle hens gently
Brown egg layers suddenly lay white or blotchy eggs
Shell crinkles
Watery whites
Infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, or other infection of the oviduct No treatment for affected hens
Vaccinate new pullets

An abnormal egg every once in a while is — well — normal. Some egg oddities, like double-yolkers or no-yolkers, are just accidents (or maybe a hen’s sense of humor?). Don’t worry about it. On the other hand, if you suddenly get many strange eggs, or if several members of the flock lay them consistently, that calls for an investigation.

Handle odd-shaped eggs with care

If you identify odd-shaped eggs, don’t be overly concerned unless it reoccurs with the same chicken for a long time or happens to several members of the flock at one time. Poultry scientists at agricultural colleges can provide a lot of information about egg quality problems. Veterinary diagnostic laboratories can run tests for viral infections in the flock.

Eggs with ugly shells are unappealing to you and your customers, but they’re okay for people to eat after cooking. Eggs with defective shells are more prone to breaking and invisible cracks, which reduce the egg’s shelf life. Incubate only perfect-looking eggs for the best success in hatching.

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