Please share any abnormal eggs you collect in the comments below to help others recognize the various eggs that hens lay. We are happy to offer our thoughts on what potential causes impacting your abnormal egg.
Let's begin with understanding all the hard work that a hen puts in to gift us with her eggs. Female chicks are born with tens of thousands of ova (yolks). While only a small portion of those ova will develop into eggs, chicks are born with the maximum number of eggs they’ll be able to lay. When hens are getting close to point of lay, her waddles and comb will turn bright red (some rare breeds are different like the Silkie and Ayam Cemani).
What do normal, healthy eggs look like? Egg colors can vary significantly based on the bloom that each breed an individual hen of the breed produces. Consider what color is normal for the breed of hen you have before entering a concern of the color of egg that is being produced.
Most abnormalities are caused by diet, genetics, age, or environment. When laying her first eggs, it is completely normal for your young lady to have a few abnormal eggs right out of the gate. Her body is maturing and will take some time to get her eggs to normal size and shape. Eggs offer a window into the health of your hens. Don’t fret about an occasional odd egg. If it is occurring frequently, it is a good idea to determine the cause. As your hens get older it is normal that these hard working ladies' eggs will not be as consistent nor as perfect as when they are at their peak laying age.
Tiny Eggs / Fairy Eggs
Description: Eggs that are significantly smaller and do not contain a yolk.
· New layers may provide a fairy egg as their reproductive system is still maturing.
· Foreign mass such as tissue triggers her to produce an egg.
· Disrupted development due to stress. The hen's energy is being spent healing her body and rendering her unable to produce a regular egg.
Edible? These eggs are edible. They are not much of a food source, but are endearing to find. They are great for art projects or a keepsake as the egg white will eventually evaporate. Fairy eggs do not give off the normal rotten egg smell.
Soft shell or No Shell Eggs
Description: Soft shells or no shell eggs are described as having the membrane intact, however, either a very soft outer shell or no shell.
· Young layers may deliver their first egg without a shell as their shell gland is still immature.
· Insufficient calcium is the most common reason. Make sure your girls always have access to oyster shells and that their diet contains appropriate calcium.
· Inadequate nutrition: phosphorus, manganese, or vitamin D3
· While chickens are typically cold hardy, overheating is a higher threat. On days over 80 degrees, heat stress can be a factor if they do not have enough water/ shade. Mint leaves in their water can help.
· If the previous egg was delayed in her shell gland, it is possible the soft shell egg is being laid too soon.
· Certain diseases can cause this symptom: Avian Influenza, NDV, infectious bronchitis, Egg Drop Syndrome 76
Edible? The shell provides protection to the egg. Without the shell, it is hard to know what has passed through the membrane. I do not recommend for human consumption. It is good for tossing in your compost pile or cooking and giving to your dogs, cats, or pigs as a treat.
Double Yolker Eggs
Description: Double yolker eggs occur when two yolks are released into the oviduct to quickly, and are included in the same shell. This can be due to a hormonal change or imbalance that causes the yolk to release too early. While many rejoice for the gift of an egg with (2) yolks inside, it is a hen health concern. A double yolk egg is larger and increases her risk of becoming egg bound and could result in vent prolapse. Thus, it is not recommend to breed for this trait.
· New layers and older layers nearing the end of their laying cycle are more likely to have a double yolker.
· Double yolks can be hereditary. Production breeds like Rhode Islands and Plymouth Rocks are more likely to yield a double yolk.
· A hormonal change or imbalance that causes the yolk to release too early.
Edible? Eating a double yolk is absolutely alright.
Blood Smeared Eggs
Description: Dried blood smears are found on the outside of the egg shell.
· Most commonly occurs when pullets begin laying
· Sudden, significant increases in day length or light
· Overweight pullets
· Prolapsed Cloaca
· Poor hygiene or vent pecking
Edible? Yes, the bloom on the shell protects the eggs contents until ready to wash and eat. Not appealing if you are selling eggs. Recommend for personal or pet consumption.
Bloody, Meaty Yolks
Description: Blood spots visible when a blood vessel in a chicken's reproductive tract breaks during the laying process. Meat spots look gray or brown and occur from a ruptured blood vessel on the yolk surface when it's being formed. Do not confuse red, gray or brown spots as an indication that the egg is fertile. Bullseye marks on a fertile yolk are white. Commercial egg producers candle their eggs to avoid selling eggs that have blood or meat spots in them.
· Genetics. Occurs 5% of the time in brown eggs an 1% of the time in white eggs.
· Vitamin imbalances such as Vitamin A and K
· Artificial lighting
· Fugal toxins in damp pellet feed. If feeding commercial pellets, keep off the ground and ensure it stays dry. It is helpful to sprout feed daily so that they are only served what they will eat in a day. If any sprouts are left, they can grow into a viable plant instead of mold.
· Diseases: as Avian encephalomyelitis or tremovirus.
Edible? The spots are perfectly edible. They may be distasteful to those that are not use to farm fresh eggs. The spots are typically small and easy to remove if desired.
Awkward Shaped Eggs
Description: Awkward shaped eggs are not uniform in shape and may have a lop –sided bulge or extreme pointed end, lumpy appearance, too small or too large, round instead of oval, or any difference from normal shapes.
· Abnormal disturbance in the egg forming process, such as stress due to over-crowding. Make sure you are offering a minimum of 1 nesting box per 3 hens and 10 sq ft per hen run space.
· Age both layers just starting with immature shell glands and layers nearing end of lay.
· Defective egg shell gland.
· Diseases: Avian Influenza, NDV, infectious bronchitis, Egg Drop Syndrome 76
Edible? They are safe to consume.
Description: The egg shell is smeared in dried feces and/or dirt.
· It is possible that a hen requires training to lay eggs in a designated nest box versus laying on the ground.
· The run may be too muddy causing the hens lower bodies and feet to be muddy. Keep the run dry to avoid this.
· Indication that the living conditions are not clean. At the first sign of smudges on eggs, I would recommend a deep cleaning of the coop and nest box area. Eggs should clean and the nest box should be pleasant for both the hens and the egg collectors. To help improve living conditions, place a small amount of Serenity Sprouts Dust Bath on the bottom of a deep cleaned nest box. Then, add the bedding material of your choice (pine shavings or soft straw) and top with Serenity Sprouts Nest Box Herbs.
· Wet droppings or poor gut health; make sure you feed a quality diet.
· Electrolyte imbalance
Edible? In theory, you can clean off well and cook fully to meet safety guidelines. Egg shells are porous and dirty eggs are a sign that the hen’s laying area is not well kept. There is a higher risk of Salmonella from feces covered eggs. Water pressure used to clean the egg can push microscopic exterior contents inside the egg. Personally, I would avoid consuming these eggs and add to compost pile.
Description: Ever incorrectly crease a shirt when you are ironing? That is what a wrinkled egg looks like. Watery albumen (egg white) leads to wrinkled or rippled egg shells as it is harder for the shell to be formed correctly.
· As hens age, the albumen gets thinner. Seen more often in production breeds like Rhode Island, Plymouth Rocks, and hatchery hybrids.
· Defective shell gland
· Disease: Infectious bronchitis can cause thinning of the albumen. Even years after the infection, hens are carriers for life.
Edible? Yes, as long as the shell does not contain a hairline crack.
Description: White irregularly shaped spots deposited on the external surface of the shell. They can be raised and bumpy.
· The most likely there is an excess of calcium in her diet.
· Defective shell gland
· Stress causing disturbances during the calcification process.
Edible? Absolutely, these as are just as delicious as any other egg.
Description: The development of the color pigment on eggs is often described as the egg traveling through a color printer/ paint bay. Incomplete pigmentation can look as though the hen simply ran out of toner. It is usually a rare occurrence.
· Stress such as heat stress.
· An older layer will often produce eggs with paler shells, as well as a hen who had been laying intensively over a long period.
· Environmental stresses
· Diet deficiency. Specifically, zinc, copper and manganese support transporting pigment onto the shell.
· Disease: Infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, egg drop syndrome 76, and avian influenza can cause damage to the oviduct, resulting in loss of shell color.
· A heavy infestation of roundworms, capillaria worms, and/or red mites, can cause pale shells.
· The coccidiostat drug, Nicarbazin, can interfere with eggshell pigmentation.
Edible? Yes, egg coloration does not impact the nutrient value of the egg.
White Banded Eggs
Description: When the hen is forming the shell of the first egg, the normal calcification process is interrupted, allowing a 2nd egg to enter. When both eggs enter the oviduct and make contact with each other in the shell gland, the 1st egg gets an extra layer of calcium – which is the white band marking.
· Flock stress, watch for abnormal behavior in your flock that could be creating stress.
· Sudden changes in lighting conditions.
Edible? Yes, they are.
Cracks – Hairline Fractures
Description: Hair line cracks, star cracks, or large cracks that result in a hole in the shell.
• Heat stress
• Older hens nearing the end of their laying cycle.
• Inadequate bedding in the nesting box or area hen is laying.
• Inadequate nutrition: Calcium and vitamin D3
Edible? The crack can allow bacteria and other nasties in. They are not good for human consumption. If fed to animals, the eggs should be cooked first. These eggs are good for compost.