Imagine reaching into your nesting box and feeling a soft, rubbery…something. What in the world? Yes, it’s a shell-less egg in between all your lovely breakfast eggs. So, what does this mean? Is there something wrong with your hen? Not necessarily, but there are things you can do to prevent your hen’s eggs from looking like a yolk-filled water balloon. Lets take a look at the causes of soft shelled and rubbery eggs and what you can do immediately at home to prevent it in the future.
Are Rubbery Soft Eggs Normal?
If you’ve owned chickens for any amount of time, you’ve come to realize that eggs are imperfectly beautiful. Your hens eggs aren’t like the ones you buy in the store: they have bumps, discolorations, and are never the same as the next egg. These little blemishes are usually normal and are not a cause for concern.
How Did This Happen?
If your hen has been laying thin-shelled eggs, chances are you missed the signs leading up to this point. When cooking with your eggs, are they extremely easy to break open? Most people want their eggs to be strong enough to withstand the weight of their hens, the transportation from the coop to the kitchen, and finally to the frying pan. I have had several situations where I was collecting eggs and several shells were so thin I could see inside the egg, easily cracking them when I put them in the egg bucket.
Common Causes of Rubbery and Thin Eggshells
1. Lack of Calcium
A hen who is lacking calcium in her diet will typically have thin, and sometimes rubbery or non-existent, shells. Hens need calcium in order to construct lovely eggs on a daily basis. If she doesn’t have enough in her diet, she will have less-than-impressive shells. Sometimes this affects just one hen in the flock, but if all your eggs are thin-shelled, consider providing oyster shells, which are rich in calcium, or review the feed you provide to ensure quality.
A technique I use for providing calcium in my chickens diet is by keeping all my egg shells until I have a hand full. Once they have dried out I will crush them into tiny bits, the shell of an egg is full of calcium and will provide all they need. The critical step in this process is to crush them in tiny bits. NEVER feed a chicken full shells, they will quickly associate their own fresh eggs as food and start pecking and eating their own eggs.
2. Stressed-Out in the Hen House
In case you haven’t noticed, chickens are nervous nellies, but overall they cope with their anxiety pretty well. When things become overwhelming, the stress can cause a hen to produce fewer eggs, rubbery eggs, or no eggs at all. For example, if a predator is harassing your flock, this can cause distress and poor egg production. It is worth the time to watch for any underlying stress factors that could be causing the see-through eggs in your nesting box. Building a proper chicken coop and a proper nesting box is critical to having a stress free chicken.
My flock was once attacked by a coyote and refused to return to the coop, rather, they were laying eggs in random locations. I distinctly remember rubbery eggs and at that time did not connect the dots. Once they re-assimilated into their chicken coop egg production went back to normal. A truly stress free environment is important to have good egg production.
3. She’s Just a Spring Chicken
Young hens are still working out the kinks in their “egg factories.” They need a grace-period before they are expected to lay perfect eggs (there is no such thing by the way.) Some of the most exciting eggs are imperfect—double-yolkers, for example! So, if their first couple months of egg-laying are sub par performance-wise, and you get a few rubbery eggs, cut her some slack, eventually she may turn out to be your best layer.
4. She Ain’t No Spring Chicken
As hens age, their eggs tend to arrive fewer and far between; but when they do arrive, they tend to be larger. Two for the price of one? Yes, please! An older hen may still be consuming the same amount of calcium in her diet, but now more eggshell is needed to compensate for the larger eggs. This can also be a cause of thin, squishy, eggshells. Proper feed with higher rich content can help with this. Know the average age of your flock and try adjusting your feed to keep this in mind.
Sometimes your hen my feel a little under the weather, which can cause eggshell production issues. If you have ensured that the issue is none of the above situations, consider that your hen may have an infection or virus. Watch for similar issues with all of your hens and spend some time observing your flock for signs of illness. You can boost your chickens’ immune systems by providing apple cider vinegar in their water.
When your hen lays a lash egg, it’s a completely different scenario than the above-mentioned situations. A lash egg is not an actual egg, instead, it is egg-matter and pus in hodge-podge layers that take the form of an egg. Yeah, it’s pretty gross, and the only reason it looks like an egg is because it travels down the same route the eggs take, through the oviduct. The best way to describe it is like a ball of dough with many layers inside.
The presence of a lash egg means that your hen has an inflamed and most likely infected oviduct. The technical term for this is salpingitis, and if you’ve found the unpleasant formation in your nesting box, your hen needs to be closely observed. You can also assume that she has an infection of some kind and can treat her accordingly with antibiotics, herbs, and apple cider vinegar.
It’s wise to try to identify which hen is producing the imposter eggs and confine her for observation, treatment and to protect the rest of your flock from anything contagious. Chickens are hardy birds and can fight infections on their own, or with a little help from you, so it isn’t necessary to cull the hen with the disorder. Give her time, especially if she appears healthy—which can mean that she is fighting the infection on her own.
Lash Egg Prevention
Unfortunately, when you don’t know the cause of the inflammation, and infection, it can be difficult to prevent the problem. Your best bet is to ensure your hens have a sanitary coop, a well-rounded diet, access to clean water, plenty of sunlight, and a stress-free environment.
As for thin or rubbery eggs, that are indeed eggs with shell issues, ensuring the proper nutrition is the key to prevention. And remember, young hens need some time to adjust to their new bodies, and it’s polite to be non-judgmental about their eggs for the first few months, they will come around eventually. And, in the meantime, enjoy the blemishes and imperfections, they can be quite interesting.