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.

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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.

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Written by Cackle Hatchery®

39 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?

    • Lack of calcium add shells oyster shells crush to their diet this will fix the problem.also make sure there is no other hen or thing stressing the chicken out. She could stop laying if stressed.cheers good chicken owner

    • Hi Mark,
      Did the issue come right? We have the same problem. She’s the chief hen and has stopped laying altogether. A second hen is now laying soft. They have oyster shell, water and great free range. Just wandering if you tried anything else?

  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

      • Copied from a thread: It is very hard on them to pass a softy, as there is no resistance (the hard shell) for their insides to push against to get it out. I did Nutri Drench and liquid calcium and Vit D. Vit D is needed to absorb calcium. She grew out of it!

  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.

      • I wouldn’t recommend putting water in your pellets anymore. Oyster shell is great but it sounds like you may be missing some Vitamin K. You can add some to the water or feed.

  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.

  9. Hi,
    As I read all the potential reasons for a thin-shelled egg problem (which is one of my hens issues) I cannot see what problem I have. My birds are pullets still, about 7 months old. I have 3 RIR, 2 Barred Rock, 2 Columbian Rock. Oyster shells and their own toasted/crushed shells free fed in little feeder, layer feed given, clean fresh water constant supply, no rooster around, haven’t moved them, they’re in a safe and secure coop and run, there’s no bullying – everyone appears and acts healthy.

    I have 7 hens, and it’s just 1 egg every other day that is thin-shelled. I can’t figure out who’s it is.

    Any guesses as to what else to do?

    • hi, try to add some aqua D in the water and see if that helps. also run raw unfiltered apple cider with mother in the water for 1-2 weeks… this will help if it is bacterial related in the duct that might be causing the shell not to form properly.

  10. We had a similar problem with our hens, they would lose interest in food and begin to look less than their best, we noticed some beating difficulty they would isolate themselves and be lethargic then die.
    When it began again in a favourite hen e we were advised to worm them all and it worked a few days later all was back to normal. Soft shelled eggs are still an issue tho.
    Hope this helps save some chickens

  11. Our hens got stressed out from a predator and stopped laying. We gave them a few days of chick starter feed which had antibiotic mixed in it. They started laying again. Also, letting the feed culture in yogurt waste water, (whey), gives them a huge calcium boost.

  12. I just got my first soft shelled egg ever. Not sure what could be the cause and not sure which hen did it but I suspect it was my Speckled Sussex. She recently lost her best friend to a predator. Could it be stress? I think she feels out of place. She also has some sort of limp (her whole life, not sure of the cause) so she doesn’t keep up with the rest of the flock. I just introduced young hens to the flock and I wonder. I guess lots of stress then?

  13. I have one two year old Barred Rock hen who has been consistently been laying soft shell eggs for the past six weeks or so. She is pretty much at the top of the pecking order and always seems to be hungry and has lots of energy. She does seem to be on the skinny side compared to her coop mates but it doesn’t seem to slow her down. There doesn’t seem to be much stress in the coop or free range area so I’m thinking that is not a major issue. They have a tray of oyster shell and I have now added extra oyster shell to their diet but that is not helping up to this point. Any thoughts or ideas? I’m beginning to lose patience with her. Thanks!

    • It may just be the way she’s laying at this point. She seems to be missing something..possibly some Vitamin K. Is she the only one that is laying the soft shell egg now?

  14. We are new to raising chickens. We bought 3 about a month ago at an age that they would start producing eggs now. All three chickens started laying eggs last week. However one started laying soft eggs and her last one did not have a shell at all. It’s been two days since she has later that egg and has been acting strange. Not eating much at all, drinking infrequent, not coming out of the coop to roam the yard, breathing very heavy. I am worried about her. Any advice would help please.

    • Was there any improvement on this issue? We had a chicken with these symptoms. About a week in she collapsed, dead, with what looked like an imploded egg blocking her vent. I’m pretty sure that’s what killed her.

  15. My rooster, Kieth, died protecting his wives from a raccoon. I’ve been looking for another rooster, but so far no luck.
    6 months later, one of my hens has gone broody for the last four days. For the first time in years…since my first flock… I found a rubbery egg today.
    I’m thinking it’s probably hers, since she isn’t eating all day & only gets off the best in the afternoon when I chase her off to collect eggs.
    Anyone else had a broody hen lay rubbery eggs? Or do I need to keep a better eye on the rest of my 31 hens?
    BYW, they are in coops until 4 pm then they range till dusk.
    Thanks.

  16. I just started having soft shell eggs. One chicken started 2 weeks ago. I gave them vitamin water and bought an organic bag of layer feed. They have have access to oyster shell. I feed them 16% layer crumbles but they aren’t interested in their food. So, I upgraded to the organic pellets and I could tell that they were eating them. I thought the problem was fixed. That was 2 weeks ago and this last week I have had 3 soft eggs. I am thinking its is 3 separate hens now. I saw one was off so I gave her a warm bath and left her in a towel. She laid a soft egg. Yesterday,I got another and today the same one that this started with just laid another. I am at a loss as to what to do now. They are year old silkies and I usually get 3 eggs a day from the 5 of them. Right now, I am getting one or 2 and soft ones.They free range in the evenings and act normal. Really not interested in earing their food yet.

  17. Please help. I have 5 chickens and I have some who are not laying at all and I have someone laying soft or no shell eggs. They look like they have been pulling the feathers off of their chest and necks. What can I do to correct this problem. I free range from 10am to 6-7pm. They have layer pellets and oyster shells and egg shells. Clean water. There is also one who will not get off the nest.n Thanks for your help.

      • Thank you for your help. I will add vitamin D to their water. I am also trying to give them more protein – this all started when we had to switch food brands.

  18. Can anyone help we have 4 hens about 21 week that are laying eggs 🥚 we normally get 4 a day from them but that’s last couple of days we get the 4 eggs plus 2 soft shells as well

  19. Does it work to dissolve egg shells (mainly their calcium) in apple cider vinegar and add to their water as a source of aqueous calcium? Have gotten a few light and soft shells lately and had to extricate an (broken soft shelled egg) from an egg bound Australorp today.. have tried adding oyster shells to food and they flick it all out. I do get Layena with Oyster shells.

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