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What Causes Hens to Lay Odd-Shaped Eggs? What Are the Risk?

Written by Marisa Wilson
Published: September 15, 2022
Image Credit ANEK SANGKAMANEE/Shutterstock.com
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Have you ever seen an odd-shaped chicken egg before? You might have been shocked or laughed at how silly it looked. If you’re a chicken owner raising laying hens, you may be worried about your hen’s health or the quality of your eggs. Several things can cause a chicken to lay abnormally shaped eggs. More often than not, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. 

There are several types of misshaped eggs, and each can usually be corrected. This can include huge eggs, rough eggs, and more. In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of odd-shaped eggs and what you can do to correct the problem. It will help ease your mind once you understand the steps to help your chickens and know you need to worry about the situation. Take a breath, and let’s solve this together!

Thin Shells

Chickens typically lay eggs with solid, thick shells. However, sometimes chickens will lay eggs with thin shells. There are several possible causes of this. One is that the chicken is older and prone to declining quality. Another possibility is that the chicken is not getting enough vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for absorbing calcium, so that a deficiency can lead to thin eggshells. In some cases, chickens may also lay thin-shelled eggs if they are under stress or if their diet lacks certain nutrients. Here are some other reasons eggs are thin:

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  • Phosphorus deficiency: The use of calcium, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as the development of chicken bones, eggshells, and somatic cells, all, depend on phosphorus. Laying hens require more phosphorus because the egg yolk has a higher phosphorus content.
  • Early production: This is because the chicken’s body has not yet had time to build up enough calcium. The problem fixes itself as the young hen’s body matures.
  • Infectious bronchitis: This is a common respiratory disease in chickens that can lead to laying problems. Chickens with this disease often have decreased appetites and stop laying eggs altogether. 

Rough Egg Shells

The most common cause of roughness on an eggshell is an imbalance in calcium or calcium to phosphorus. A hen can’t digest and absorb the calcium available to her without phosphorus. Allowing the hens to roam freely will help them find their sources of phosphorus since they consume insects with exoskeletons like beetles

Rough patches that a hen or two occasionally leaves are usually nothing to be concerned about. If several birds exhibit the symptoms at once, keep an eye on the flock. The flock may be getting too much or not enough calcium, especially if it’s been an especially hot or humid day. 

These circumstances may speed up a hen’s metabolism and lower the calcium supply for healthy shells. However, the disease Newcastle or infectious bronchitis may cause persistent spots or textured shells. If so, most of the flock would exhibit the symptoms, which would also be frequent. Consult a veterinarian immediately if any other signs of those diseases appear in your flock. 

Other Egg Shapes

While most chicken eggs are relatively uniform in size and shape, there is a lot of variation regarding odd-shaped eggs. Some of the other types of eggs you may come across are: 

  • Ridiculously large or oblong: If it only happens occasionally, there is probably nothing to worry about, but anything that occurs more than three days in a row should be checked out. Stress and overcrowding in hens are common causes of misshapen eggs. These eggs can also be brought on by egg drop syndrome, infectious bronchitis, or Newcastle disease. If your hens are startled by a severe thunderstorm at night, for instance, you might see a few of these.
  • Egg inside an egg: This is incredibly rare, but it does happen. An egg will form inside of another egg. Before the egg that is currently developing is laid, a second mature yolk may occasionally release. The second yolk’s release can cause the developing egg to contract, which may cause it to turn around. The reversed egg fuses with the developing egg, and the two are encased in a second shell together. A second fully formed egg, shell, and all, as well as a typical yolk and albumen, are found inside the outer shell.
  • Lash eggs: They aren’t eggs; instead, they result from salpingitis, an oviduct infection, and inflammation. Since lash eggs still pass through the oviduct, they typically have an egg-like shape.
Abnormally shaped chicken egg on a flat surface with blurred grass background
This chicken egg is an abnormal shape and size.

Ihor Hvozdetskyi/Shutterstock.com

Can You Eat Odd-Shaped Eggs?

Deformed eggs are typically safe to eat, so there’s no need to discard them. The deformity to the shell is frequently only superficial. This implies that most mottled or uneven eggs are as nutrient-dense as “normal” eggs. Small eggs are often called fairy eggs and frequently lack a yolk. Typically, pullets who are just beginning their laying careers will lay these. Fairy eggs are okay to eat, even though they aren’t very substantial.

Eggs occasionally have a wrinkled or uneven texture. The shell won’t correctly form around the egg white if it is too watery. As a result, the egg may appear wrinkled or bumpy. With older hybrid hens, this frequently occurs. Even though they have a strange appearance, eggs with wrinkles and textures are still edible. The presence of white or hard, crusty spots on an egg indicates an excess of calcium or vitamin D3. 

Eating eggs with white spots or a crust on the shell is safe. The process of laying eggs can occasionally encounter problems. A yolk might spend a day stuck in the oviduct or the magnum. When this occurs, two eggs are produced from one. And if the egg has two yolks or two shells, you can tell this has happened. These kinds of eggs are frequently laid by young hens that are still perfecting their laying techniques. 

Additionally, eggs with two shells or double yolks are safe to consume. Several things, including diet, can cause discoloration. Additionally, there are times when different colors appear due to the joining of two shells during production in the shell gland pouch. Discolored eggs are typically entirely safe to consume.

Which Eggs to Avoid Eating and When to Worry

A young chicken laying unusual eggs for the first few months is typical. Additionally, mature hens occasionally lay deformed eggs for a variety of reasons. And typically, there’s nothing to worry about unless it starts to happen frequently or causes problems. However, you should consult your veterinarian if an adult hen consistently lays an abnormal egg for three or more consecutive days, as this could be a sign of underlying health or environmental issues.

 And it’s best to avoid eating or even feeding those eggs to an animal; throw them away. Eggs without a shell at all or with a soft shell should not be consumed. The egg’s shell is a barrier between it and bacteria. The egg is therefore exposed to a variety of nasty organisms you shouldn’t eat because it lacks a shell. Because lash eggs have an unusual appearance, your instincts would tell you not to eat them. It does have a scary and ugly appearance. Listen to your instincts. Never eat a foul-smelling egg that is rotten. 

Two halfs of a hard-boiled egg, one with a double yolk, against a turquoise background
The hard-boiled egg half on the right has a double yolk, but it’s safe to eat.

Evtushkova Olga/Shutterstock.com

Diseases That Affect Chicken Eggs

The adenovirus-related illness called Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS ’76) affects laying hens and is characterized by a decline in egg production or failure to reach the peak of lay. The production of a large number of soft-shelled and shellless eggs, which can be consumed by hens or lost in manure, reduces the number of suitable eggs. 

No treatment is available, so prevention is essential. Inactivated vaccines are available; they are typically given after the rearing phase. Breeding stock is typically immunized to avoid production losses and prevent vertical transmission. The acute viral respiratory disease known as infectious bronchitis in chickens is characterized by tracheal rales, coughing, and sneezing. 

Additionally, it may impact the kidneys, and in flocks that lay eggs, it reduces egg production and degrades the eggs’ quality. This illness has no specific treatment. Antibiotic administration for three to five days may help ward off any bacterial infections that develop as a result.

What Are the Risks of Odd-Shaped Eggs?

When a chicken is egg-bound, she has trouble removing an egg from her body. The chicken cannot pass the egg as easily as it would usually because it is stuck in the last part of her reproductive tract. Some infections or deficiencies heavily affect the shape of eggs and can increase the risk of a hen becoming egg-bound. 

Between brief walks, your chicken may sit still for extended periods. She will appear tired, her eyes may be closed, and she will generally appear unhappy and depressed. Other odd behaviors include the chicken appearing uneasy and distressed as it walks somewhat like a penguin. She may also spread her legs out while crouching low to the ground and begin pumping her tail in an attempt to lay the egg. 

When this tactic works, she will occasionally pass the egg. Preventing odd-shaped eggs will help decrease the chances of the hen becoming egg-bound. It’s not common, but it does happen and can result in the hen’s death if the egg doesn’t pass in 24 to 48 hours. It’s considered an emergency, and they need to be seen by a vet.

Conclusion

Eggshells can be deformed for various reasons, ranging from genetic abnormalities to poor nutrition. However, in most cases, misshapen eggs result from underlying hen issues. If a hen is suffering from some health issue, it can also affect the shape of the egg. Fortunately, these underlying issues can be easily corrected in most cases with some basic management changes. 

As a result, misshapen eggs are not something to worry about too much. Most people enjoy eating eggs. They are a versatile food used in various dishes and are an excellent protein source. However, ensuring that the eggs you eat are safe is essential. Eggs with soft shells or smell bad may be contaminated, and it is best to avoid them. 

Likewise, lashing eggs are so repulsive that you won’t feel like you’re missing out when throwing this kind away. Keeping your hens health in mind is the best way to ensure the quality of eggs and the overall happiness of your chicken. Your hens will thank you for a long, happy life!

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About the Author

Creepy-crawly creatures enthrall Marisa. Aside from raising caterpillars, she has a collection of spiders as pets. The brown recluse is her favorite spider of all time. They're just misunderstood. You don't have to worry about squishing the creatures as her catching, and relocating abilities can safely move stray centipedes or snakes to a new location that's not your living room.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What causes eggs to be speckled?

As the egg moves through the hen early in the process, these dark splotches are formed. The egg spins as it moves through the oviduct, the organ responsible for processing the yolk and adding the shell. The egg may appear a little specked if it turns too slowly as it travels along the tube.

What causes weak egg shells?

Egg shells and insoluble granite grit are poor sources of calcium. Excess Phosphorous – A diet high in phosphorous produces a thinner shell. Carefully weigh the amount of mineral phosphorous if you’re making your own feed.

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