What are these weird chicken eggs!?
Understanding miniature eggs and blood spots, and when to be concerned.
There really isn’t anything uncommon about uncommon looking eggs. Because of the biological demands that reproduction (egg-laying) has on hens, it’s not a surprise for them to experience a strange egg once in a while. Most abnormal eggs are once-offs, heralding no need for concern. First, some eggciting egg information. Let’s meander down the egg road.
The production of the egg takes roughly 26 hours from ovulation to presentation in the nest (see article). The rooster’s presence has nothing to do with the formation of the egg beyond the fertilization section itself (you will have an egg that is fertilized for hatching if you run roosters).
After ovulation, the yolk enters the oviduct which is composed of five sections, the most important of these being the:
- Infundibulum – a 3 to 4 inch long funnel that holds the yolk temporarily where fertilization can occur. The yolk is only held in the infundibulum for about 15 minutes.
- Magnum – the yolk remains in this section for about 3 hours where the “egg white”, or albumin, is created.
- Isthmus – The narrow stretch of the oviduct where the inner and outer shell membranes are formed.
- Shell Gland (uterus)– And finally the shell, made mostly of calcium carbonate, is formed around the egg. The egg remains in the uterus for up to 20 hours, and this is also where any shell color forms on the egg.
The genetics of the breed dictates the color of the shell. You can tell what color your hen will produce by noting the tint of her ear lobes usually. Silkies have blue ear lobes and lay pale beige eggs. Chickens want to keep you guessing. Common egg colors are white, light brown, dark brown, green/blue, or pink.
Before your breakfast appears, the hen applies a bloom to protect the contents of the egg. This bloom preserves the egg’s interior for the embryo by sealing the shell pores. DO NOT remove this, especially if you are going to hatch the eggs. Hens are not laying eggs for you, they are engaging in avian reproduction,¦but if you leave the bloom on, it will benefit the keeping and freshness of your eggs by sealing in moisture and locking out contamination.
Now for the Weird Eggs Guide
Each section has a should I worry or not” guide.
The Concern Level Scale – to decide if a course of action is needed.
0 (whatever) 5 (big deal)
Wind egg: These teeny eggs range in size from those produced by quail to those popped out by starlings! The wind egg (or “rooster egg”) does not have a yolk. These cute birdy eggs often happen in beginning or end of a hen’s laying cycle, but they can also just happen randomly.
Wind eggs are produced due to fluctuating hormonal levels and by a section of the ovary or oviduct sloughing off which sets the egg-making process in motion. These egglets are great for decorating, making curious conversation or for fixing tiny omelets for people afraid of yolks. Birds over 3 are more likely to pop out a few of these as long as the hens are feeling ducky all is well.
Concern level: 0
Blood spots: Eeeew. It happens. This is what chefs call the bad egg. There is nothing wrong with the egg, other than the gross factor. It happens when a blood vessel breaks during ovulation. The hen is fine and there is no danger the vessels are teeny. I have a Brahma who regularly makes these lovelies.
Concern level: 0 (other than the surprise when you crack the egg).
Pullets and Their Unusual Laying Habits
Always monitor your pullets as they reach sexual maturity (4-8 or more months depending on breed and season). Laying almost always goes along as nature planned but some pullets may display issues.
Pullets may lay one egg and not another for quite a while. A first egg is nearly always coated in some manure and often streaked with blood. This is not a cause for alarm. Pullets are also known to lay in any old place, so provide extra nest boxes and place dummy eggs in them to give the young birds the right idea. Boxes should be set in dark and quiet areas as the chickens will instinctively search out such nesting areas (make your own nests or try one from eFowl).
You can either choose ideal spots or the pullets will! Older hens may also kick these new eggs put from the nest box. Everything has a way of smoothing out. Just monitor the habits of your young pullets, and you should see them find a normal laying routine soon.
Concern level: 1-2
When You Should Worry
Straining Hen: Overweight hens and pullets can suffer from a tough lay. Do not let birds get too fat. Some hens have a narrow physiology that genetically effects their ability to pass an egg. This can be a very dangerous situation. Essentially, the bird is experiencing a difficult birth.
Concern level: 3-5
Treatment: Young pullets experiencing this may be just a once-off. Consult a vet if the situation continues or of you have a hen that begins to have difficulty laying. If you see a hen straining to lay (she may be off the nest) place her in a warm area with a heating pad. Use olive oil or mineral oil to lubricate the vent. If the hen does not pass the egg she will need immediate emergency veterinary treatment. This can rapidly become fatal.
Hen lays broken eggs: This can happen due to poor shell thickness or from injury. Keep an eye on the bird. If she feels fine and begins laying normally again, all is well. If the bird appears ruffled, sits alone, waddles when walking, or is exhibiting any other signs of illness, this is an emergency situation. It can be life threatening. Consult a veterinarian immediately.
Concern level: 4-5
Treatment: Consult a veterinarian immediately.
No shell on a consistent basis: Very very rarely this is a sign of a disease (like IB) . Hens that are producing eggs without a proper shell or with a rubbery shell may be experiencing a nutritional issue.
Concern level: 2
Treatment: Be sure to give the birds good poultry layer feed and supply calcium (oyster shell). If the birds are getting all of the proper feed and calcium and a hen still produces no-shell eggs, try feeding her some oyster shell. If this ain’t workin’, her body may not be using the nutrients and elements properly. She will need intervention. A poultry specialist will recommend what supplements to try. Old hens may have this problem as well.
Case Study (Bianca’s story): My Andalusian pullet, Bianca, was unable to lay a shelled egg. She also did not feel well when ovulating and laying her shell-less eggs. We tried the nutritional supplements. Nope. No shell. Bianca’s body had all of the nutrients and calcium she needed to make an egg, but these elements were not uniting properly to actually MAKE the shell. This was the equivalent of a cook setting out his ingredients and waiting for them to mix and cook themselves. Homeopathic treatments (by Laurie Lofton, DVM), were able to show Bianca’s body how to combine the ingredients to make the egg. After a few months of using the remedy on a daily treatment plan, Bianca now makes shelled eggs all by herself!
Unwell bird that feels uncomfortable before or after laying: Please consult with a poultry specialist or veterinarian. This may be a disease process, a nutritional issue or a similar issue to my hen, Bianca.
Bird Nesting but Producing No Eggs: If the hen is not brooding, she may be an internal layer. If her abdomen is squishy you are dealing with an internal layer. Peritonitis can be a serious side-effect. This could also be a sign of cancer.
Concern Level: 5
Treatment: Seek veterinary treatment immediately, as this can very well be fatal if not treated.
Closing Case (Emily): Emily was genetically predisposed to be an internal layer. She ended up getting a hysterectomy and making the Tufts University Magazine. She is 6 years old and going strong. Read about her story here.