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Probably the most beneficial part of keeping hens is the eggs they produce. A healthy hen can lay an egg roughly every 26 hours, which can mean almost 30 eggs per hen per month. It can be frustrating when your chickens are laying shell-less eggs, where the shells are are too soft or missing altogether. This is common in older birds and these eggs are typically useless. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of soft eggs, how to prevent it and how to cure it.
Why are my chickens laying soft eggs?
There are a few potential reasons why your chicken’s eggs may have soft, thin or non-existent shells. These are the top 6 most common causes.
- Good Layers. This is the most common cause. Hybrid hens have been genetically modified to lay more eggs than regular hens. It is believed that sometimes they lay the eggs faster than they can produce an adequate shell. If you notice that your hybrid hen is laying a mixture of shell-less eggs and perfect eggs in a time span of less than 24 hours, this is most likely what’s going on.
- Young chicken. If your hen is under a year old, it’s possible that the egg will remain in the shell gland for a longer period of time than it should. This causes an excess in calcium. The egg that follows won’t spend long enough in the shell gland, leading to a thin or nonexistent shell.
- Excessive heat. Chickens tend to eat less when it’s warmer out. This directly affects the shell thickness they are able to produce. There have been numerous accounts of low shell quality occurring on days where the weather is hotter and the chickens eat less.
- Diet. If there is not enough calcium, protein or Vitamin D3 in your hen’s diet, it’s possible for thin shells to become more common as these nutrients play a large role in shell production.
- Old Age. Birds older than 5 years old are much more likely to lay soft shell eggs.
- Excessive weight. If your hen is carrying too much fat, it’s possible that they can stop laying eggs or lay lower quality eggs.
This problem can also be caused by inflammation, problems absorbing calcium or stress.
How can I cure a chicken that’s laying soft eggs?
If your chicken has started laying low quality eggs due to diet or being overweight, you have the ability to fix it. You can try providing oyster shell grit to their diet which will help with digestion. Additionally you could also add more calcium to their diets by feeding them growers pellets as opposed to layers pellets or add more fresh greens to feeding time.
You can tell if your chicken is overweight by checking the skin between the features on the breast. If the skin is thick, they are carrying too much fat. If this is the case, cut back on any corn or scraps you may be feeding the hen.
How can I prevent my chickens from laying soft eggs in the first place?
A soft shell egg every now and again is normal. But you can cut back on them by keeping naturally born hens as opposed to hybrid ones.
As your hens get older, feed them more calcium to make up for their age. Do the same for chickens under one year of age as they also tend to lay weaker eggs. Some will crush up shells of already laid eggs and mix them in with the hens feed to naturally provide more calcium.
During warmer months, provide more shade from the sun and more water so your chickens won’t be affected by the heat as much.