Why Are My Chickens Laying Soft Eggs?

Why Are My Chickens Laying Soft Eggs?

Imagine you walk out to your chicken coop and find a soft-shelled egg, or even an egg with no shell at all. It would be a pretty disturbing sight, especially if you’ve never seen one before. Besides the fact that these eggs are pretty messy to handle, they could also be an alarm that something is wrong with your chicken’s health.

To understand what happens when eggs deviate from the norm, you must first understand how a normal egg is formed:

  • Pullets are hatched with two ovaries. The right ovary remains dormant, while the left ovary produces all the ova. Ova are undeveloped yolks that are eventually laid as eggs. Approximately every 25 hours the left ovary releases one ovum. Once a single ovum or “yolk” is released it travels into the oviduct. An oviduct is long and tube-shaped and is the road by which the ovum travels from the ovary to the opening where the egg comes out. During that traveling process, the ovum is developing into a fully formed egg.
  • The oviduct is performing various duties throughout the process. It’s similar to an assembly line with different sections performing different tasks. The first section of the oviduct assembly line is called the magnum. In this section the egg whites are formed to cover the yolk.
  • The next stop on the line is the isthmus. This is where the inner and outer membranes of the shell are formed around both the yolk and whites. This part of the process protects the egg yolk and “whites” from bacteria.
  • The egg remains in the uterus for up to 26 hours, sometimes less. Just before the egg is laid, a natural antibacterial coating is added to the outer shell. This antibacterial substance is called the “bloom”. If the egg has any porous holes in it at this stage of the game, the bloom protects it from any harmful bacteria.


Soft-shelled Eggs

A soft-shelled egg has a thin layer of shell around the yolk and egg whites. The feel of the egg is often leathery and pliable. You may be able to handle a soft-shelled egg without breaking it, as they can still be very durable.

Shell-less Eggs

There is no layer at all deposited over the yolk and egg white. It is laid with just the inner and outer protective membranes over the yolk and the white. This obviously means that something has aborted the next step in the process. A totally shell-less egg is normally not what we think of as egg-shaped, and is very delicate, while a soft-shelled egg has already taken on its characteristic oval shape.

What Causes Soft-shelled and Shell-less Eggs?

  • There are three main causes for the production of soft-shelled or shell-less eggs. The first is that there may be a lack of calcium in your hen’s diet. Hens require a lot of calcium to form each egg shell. You can add more calcium to your flock’s diet by adding crushed oyster shells to their feed.
  • Any dietary imbalance can cause the production of soft-shelled and shell-less eggs. Making sure that your flock is eating a balanced diet is of utmost importance. Too many treats or kitchen scraps can interrupt a good nutrition plan.
  • Stress, bullying, and henpecking are other common cause of oddly shaped, shell-less, or soft-shell eggs. If there is a great deal of bullying directed towards a certain hen, the stress can interfere with the egg formation process or even cause the hen to stop laying eggs altogether. If you have overly aggressive chickens in your flock, consider using a beak bit. These fit onto a bird’s beak to keep them from feather pecking.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Cackle Coop!

Written by Cackle Hatchery®

15 Responses to Why Are My Chickens Laying Soft Eggs?

  1. We have a hen is at the top of the pecking order that is laying eggs with either thin shells or no shells at all. This has been going on for about two months. She has three sisters, she is free range, has clean water and layer feed, and shade and sunlight provided. We are not sure what is wrong with her, but we once read something that said it could be because she is too fat. What is wrong with her? What can we do about it?

  2. Hi, My Chickens all lay soft shell eggs and I have been putting oyster grit in with their pellets for a long time now, still with no improvement. They free range everyday, is there something else I can give them to improve the hardness of their shells, Cherie

  3. My chickens have plenty of oyster shell available and I got a soft shelled egg today. There is no bullying either, just normal pecking order.

  4. we have 17 chickens in all 16 of them are hens our rooster has been an issue in the past,but we have not noticed any Signs of aggression since then. If the rooster was the problem would affect it the 15 other hens that we own ? We make sure to keep oyster shells in the diet consistently. So if the oyster shell is not the problem and neither is the rooster what would it be ?

  5. make sure a branded egg layer feed is always available… oyster shells should only be a small amount in a seperate feeder.

  6. I don’t bother with oyster shell: I just crush egg shells and feed it to them. For chickens, it is not necessary to mix it with the feed: put it in a separate bowl and they will eat it as they need. Many places, like restaurants, can be asked to keep their egg shells for you, but you must pick them up regularly, so they don’t think they are wasting their time. Put them out in a shady place to dry them off and then pound them in a bucket, using a wooden batten.

  7. I have one chicken that’s been laying soft shelled eggs for a couple of months. There is plenty of shell grit and crushed egg shells available. Just before this I had the chickens in with some ducks and a drake. I separated them as the drake was mounting the chickens. Is it possible the drake could be the cause of the soft eggs I’m getting still?

    • I’m sorry for the delayed response but yes, that is more than likely the problem. Your hens are probably pushing the egg out before the shell has fully formed around it. Since separating them, has the situation resolved itself?

  8. I have had 4 chickens die the same way over several months….the first two weren’t laying yet but the most recent 2 were laying, then started laying soft shells, then no eggs at all, then poor looking comb/waddle, then death. I don’t know what to do and what is wrong. I am assuming it is coccoidisis and treating their water now. But I have one who laid an egg with no shell yesterday and is lethargic so she is probably about to die too. It’s very sad. They are free range, they seem happy until they get lethargic. It’s several months of this decline and then death. I give oyster shells as well and layer pellets with sunflower seeds and scratch grains mixed in. Help!

    • Soft or shell-less eggs can be a problem with the shell gland part of the oviduct, and that sometimes may be damaged by a respiratory illness in the past called infectious bronchitis. They may not have been taking enough of the calcium, or had trouble processing it, but if there shell gland was not working, it wouldn’t have mattered how much calcium they were taking. Vitamin D3 and phosphorus are important as well in egg shell production, so a balanced diet of layer feed is good to provide.

      Certain high production breeds are prone to reproductive problems, but it doesn’t usually happen to a whole flock this young unless there are other factors.

      Mycoplasma or E.coli bacteria can enter the oviduct, and those could also be causes of some reproductive infections. A necropsy by your state vet would be a good way to get a diagnosis.

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