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Funny Shaped Chicken’s Eggs

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Left Egg – normal sized from Hybrid laid on same day, Middle ‘Fart’ or ‘wind’ egg, right tiniest ever egg, perfectly formed but the size of a 5p bit. © R Tott

Eggs can be different sizes, and different colours, but you would expect them mostly to be egg-shaped. However, that’s not always the case, and Terry Beebe explains why.

Laying eggs is a normal process for hens, and not laying is indicative of a problem, which should be investigated. Exceptions are during the moult and in deepest winter, as daylight is a principal trigger for the egg-laying cycle. Age affects regularity of laying, but older birds should still lay eggs – just fewer of them. Any other reason for not laying is possibly, although not definitely, indicative of health or nutrition problems, and should be investigated.

As a natural phenomenon in birds, eggs from individual flock members will often be different, even though their diets may be similar, and eggs vary from breed to breed, with notable colour and size differences being the most significant variations.

Then there are what we might call ‘abnormal’ eggs; if you keep chickens it will be only a matter of time before you experience this problem, but when it does happen you should try to find out which bird is responsible, and to investigate the reasons, which usually come down to a question of well-being or nutrition.

The first thing to suggest is not to panic; abnormal eggs will happen.

The cause could be stress: possibly a result of overcrowding, transport, bullying, or a scare such as an unfamiliar dog close by – or simply being under the weather and feeling sick. In most cases it is probably nothing to worry about. Good husbandry practice means not sweeping matters under the carpet. Keep an eye on your birds, find out which bird is laying ‘irregular’ eggs, and try to discover if the cause is trivial or serious. Just like humans, chickens cannot perform perfectly every time, and you should regard abnormal eggs as a potential symptom, and action taken promptly to deal with it in the early stages could save trouble later on. But remember that sometimes things can (and do) go wrong, with absolutely no explanation.

Eggs, one of which looks strange and probably is unhealthy

If a problem with abnormal eggs persists, and is regular rather than an occasional one-off, your investigation should be ramped up a notch to isolate the cause or causes. Under no circumstances should any egg that is anything less than perfect ever be used for incubation purposes.

COMMON ABNORMALITIES

Here are some suggestions as to what different abnormal eggs might mean:

  • EGGS WITH NO SHELLS / SOFT OR BRITTLE SHELLS

Discovering an egg without a shell can be quite a shock. The egg could be missing either part of the shell or the entire shell, although the membrane will still be intact. When a chicken produces an egg, production of the shell is one of the final steps involved, but for various reasons this step can be skipped.

Pullets sometimes lay soft-shelled eggs when they start laying, as it can take a bird’s system time to mature. Usually this rectifies itself, and shells will become normal as the bird matures. Another cause of soft shells is lack of calcium, possibly due to young birds being fed a growers’ ration, which is lower in calcium than a layers’ ration. Older birds also produce soft-shelled eggs, and there can be a number of reasons for this, including a lack of calcium or protein, oviduct inflammation, or stress. After hens stop laying for while (after the moult etc.) the first eggs can sometimes be soft-shelled, but usually the problem doesn’t persist.

  • LASH EGGS

Photo courtesy of Mindie Dittemore – ‘born again’ farm girl. Visit http://bornagainfarmgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/what-is-lash-egg.html

One of the more disturbing abnormal chicken eggs is a lash egg, which is not really an egg, but rather an infection and inflammation of the oviduct. Lash eggs are usually shaped like an egg due to them having travelled through the oviduct, but they are just an accumulation of pus, egg material, and tissue laid by a hen. They can be soft or hard, and can also contain any bedding material that the bird has picked up. Consult a vet and they will be able to offer advice as to whether the problem can be treated, but as regards eating lash eggs, I would definitely say a resounding, “No”.

  • EGG COLOUR PROBLEMS

Chickens don’t always produce eggs that are the exact colour you might expect, but shell colour has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the egg. It can even change on a daily basis, which can often be just a minor blip. In the vast majority of breeds, colour is applied to the shell at the final stages of the laying process, and variation can be caused by stress, poor nutrition, infections, and the simple fact that a hen, over her lifetime, may have laid a heck of a lot of eggs, and now has less energy to put into producing yet more.

Always remember that as a bird ages, dark-brown eggs will eventually lose their dark pigmentation – this is a natural process. If there is a pigmentation problem, you will still be able to eat the eggs, as the shell has no bearing on content.

  • ROUGH SHELLS / SHELLS WITH BUMPS

Two eggs one of which looks strange and probably is unhealthy

Calcium deposits are generally responsible for poor shell quality and bumps on eggs, which vary in size from small to large, and are usually white. An excess of calcium in the diet is a common cause, but you will need to find out the reason for this problem, as there are other causes, including defective shell glands or stress. Again, eating eggs with less-than-perfect shells is not a problem.

  • VERY SMALL EGGS

This type of egg is often called a fart egg, rooster egg, or fairy egg. They are very small, and almost always have no yolk. Although people find them fascinating, they are of absolutely no use whatsoever, and are far too small to be regarded as food. They can be produced by young pullets coming into lay, but once the reproductive system kicks in, the eggs usually become normal-sized.

Again, stress can create problems with a hen’s reproductive system, and this can affect her body, preventing production of normal-sized eggs. Sometimes such small eggs can also be laid together with foreign matter that a hen produces during the egg-laying process. Such eggs would be harmless if eaten, but there is really little point in cooking them.

  • DOUBLE-YOLKED EGGS

One abnormal egg we always seem to enjoy coming across is a double-yolker. These are normally large, and as the description implies, contain two yolks inside a single egg. The reason for double-yolkers is that the hen releases two eggs into the oviduct, but both go into a single shell. The problem is that, due to the large size, they sometimes become too large for the hen to lay them. When she does push, as she inevitably must once the process has begun, it can cause her to prolapse, or, if the egg cannot be laid, she may become egg-bound, and both of these problems can be serious.

Although double-yolked eggs can be a problem for hens, they are popular, and demand is increasing, although creating abnormalities to satisfy public demand might be akin to a freak show, and damaging to birds’ health. There is certainly nothing wrong with such eggs; they are fine to eat, although definitely ‘abnormal’, and should remain as such rather than becoming a ‘choice’.

  • EGGS WITH WHITE BANDS

These are caused by two eggs entering the oviduct and making contact with each other in the shell gland. While the shell is forming for the first egg, the normal process is interrupted, and it gets an extra layer of calcium, creating a white band around the egg. The cause can be stress, but can also indicate a more serious infection, so check the flock for other signs of abnormal behaviour. Again, eating such eggs is not a problem.

  • AN EGG INSIDE AN EGG

This is not common, but it does happen. A hen can release a second egg before the first egg has gone through the system, causing the egg to reverse in the oviduct, which then adds the second egg to the first. The two eggs will then have albumen surrounding the first egg, and a shell encasing both eggs. I can’t admit to having eaten such an egg, but I am assured they are OK, although I wouldn’t fancy trying one.

  • SPECKLED EGGS

Eggs with speckles and blotches are quite normal for some poultry breeds, but for most breeds such eggs not normal. Speckles are a result of extra calcium deposits, and are formed during the process of laying, although they could be the result of a defective shell gland or excess calcium. Although classed as abnormal eggs, studies have found that speckled eggs might actually have stronger than normal shells, and they can look quite attractive, too. Eating such eggs is certainly not a problem.

  • ODDLY-SHAPED EGGS

The description is self-explanatory, and chickens will, at some time, lay an egg, or several eggs, that are oddly shaped. Eggs that are not uniformly shaped – having bumps, a lumpy appearance, or being very pointed or uneven – are usually due to a problem during the egg-forming process. Stress can be a factor, although there can be rare cases when respiratory disease might be responsible. There is also the possibility, if a hen has been consistently laying such eggs for some time, that there may be internal problems, so investigation should be a priority. Eating oddly-shaped eggs is not a problem; however, a particularly unattractive shell will be off-putting.

IN CONCLUSION…

Although in most cases abnormal eggs can be eaten, certain eggs are just better disposed of. Anything with an intact shell should not be a problem, unless it is particularly disturbing and unappetising. Eggs with either a partial or soft shell should be disposed of, as the contents have most likely been compromised, either during the laying process, or in the nest box. For the most part, regard them as a warning of potential problems, and a reason for checking possible causes, as in most cases there will be a health implication, be it stress, or something more serious. However, do not panic – many abnormal eggs are just a passing phase, and normal service will be resumed shortly, but if you make appropriate checks, you will be prepared to deal promptly with anything more problematic.

Commercial poultry keepers consider abnormal eggs as a reason for disposing of birds, but this should not necessarily be the case – certainly for non-commercial small-scale keepers – as the problem is often an easily curable infection, and a visit to the vet usually provides a cure. Try to make sure that your vet does have poultry expertise, though; otherwise, good advice may prove elusive.

 

Posted in: Poultry

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