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Egg Whispering – Using Eggs to Assess Hen Health

Today I collected a duck egg that was almost perfectly round! I have never come across this before but upon investigation I diagnosed that it was likely because my duck is very young and has only just started laying. An occasional egg which is defective is nothing to worry about, however, if your hens are consistently laying unusual eggs then your girls might not be happy and further research is needed. Read on for some common problems in eggs and what they mean.

Blood stained eggs:

Smears of blood can be common on eggs of pullets just beginning to lay but in older hens it could be a sign of poor hygiene.

Shell-less eggs:

Eggs laid without a shell and only having the membrane layer could be due to an immature shell gland in a young pullet, disease, or inadequate nutrition (particularly calcium, phosphorus, manganese, or vitamin D3). It is best not to eat these eggs as they no longer have the shell to protect them and stop bacteria from entering the egg.

Soft shelled eggs:

Soft shelled eggs may be caused by excess phosphorus consumption, heat stress, aged hens, saline water or Mycotoxins (possibly from mouldy food).

Cracked eggs:

If your eggs are cracked it could be due to heat stress, saline water, aged hens, calcium or vitamin D3 deficiency, or mycotoxins (possibly from mouldy food). It is best not to eat these eggs as bacteria may have entered the egg through the cracked shell.

Wrinkled eggs:

Wrinkly eggs may be the result of stress, disease (possibly bronchitis), a defective shell gland, or overcrowding.

Pimply lumps on eggs:

When foreign material is present during the calcification process small lumps may appear on the egg. This may be due to an aged hen, stressed birds, or poor nutrition.

Calcium deposits on eggs:

Eggs will look like they have a white dusty coating on them or white spots or speckles over the surface of the shell. This may be due to a defective shell gland, disturbances during calcification, or excess calcium in the diet. The calcium speckles of these eggs can sometimes also be pigmented brown instead of white.

Cracked and mended eggs:

In this case the egg is cracked during formation and mended again before lay. This may be due to stress during the calcification process.

Body-checked eggs:

These eggs will look like they have a ridge around the circumference and is caused by stress, aged hens, or overcrowding.

Slab-sided eggs and eggs with a white band:

These are caused by two eggs coming into contact in the shell gland pouch. The less mature of the eggs will appear flattened on one side when it is laid and the more mature egg will have a band of white calcium deposit where the second egg has been beside it. This egg issue may be caused by stress or disease.

Misshapen eggs:

Eggs that are a weird shape (elongated, excessively small or large, round, etc) could be due to an immature shell gland, disease, stress or overcrowding.

One of the permaculture principles is “Observe and interact”. Taking notice of what your eggs are telling you about the health of your chickens is an opportunity to do just that.

Now run outside and create your oasis…