Egg Variation

I’ve been paying close attention to the Gems’ egg laying. Someone is leaving this egg, willy nilly, outside on the dirt, inside on the shavings, but never in the nesting box. The egg is misshapen, lacking it’s outer protective bloom, and thin-shelled. I want to know who is producing it.

odd egg

Since the girls often lay in the same box, it’s hard to tell which egg belongs to which hen. This is true even for chickens that are touted to lay eggs with distinctive colors. I have two hens that are supposed to lay dark brown eggs: Jasper the Welsummer and Onyx the Barnevelder. Neither lay chocolate-colored eggs. In my flock, the hen that lays the darkest egg is Ruby, the Rhode Island Red. Ruby and Garnet are the same age and same breeding. Awhile back, Ruby had issues with laying large, pale, thin-shelled eggs. I stopped feeding table scraps like rice and bread, and the laying went back to normal. Normal, that is, for these two Rhode Island Reds. Ruby lays that dark egg. Garnet lays the pale one.

RIR eggs

Rhode Island Red eggs

Despite raising chickens whose DNA is tightly controlled and in a narrow range, variation in egg color, size and shape happens at the large factory farms, too. However, what makes it into the cartons sold in supermarkets is uniform because all non-conforming eggs are diverted for other uses, like powdered eggs. This is done by machines. Because of this, the average consumer thinks that all eggs are the same. Those of us with backyard flocks know that is far from the truth, and in fact find the differences charming.


But, an egg like that discolored thin one can be an indicator that something is amiss with a hen. So, I have been spying on the hens via the BarnCam, and running outside whenever I think that a hen has laid, and collecting the eggs while still warm, and so I have identified which egg belongs to which hen. Note that Florence, Agatha and Etheldred are all Speckled Sussex, and yet there is variety in the color, shape and size of their eggs. Each egg is unique, and is consistent day after day for each hen. For example, Florence’s egg is always the smallest and the shell texture not as smooth as the others.



I’ve narrowed down the odd-egg culprit to either Onyx or Jasper. Neither have laid for the last two days. That lack of production might be due to Edwina in their midst. Both Jasper and Onyx are the lowest status hens in the group. Edwina has been sleeping in the nesting box and stomping around the coop, which could put anyone off laying! However, this odd-egg laying has been going on well before Edwina moved in with the Gems. I believe that Onyx is laying that strange egg because yesterday she sat in the nesting box for a long time and looked uncomfortable, but didn’t produce anything. A rough and thin-shelled egg like that odd one is difficult to lay. I’ll be keeping an eye on her.


  1. DIfferent subject. I finally got the hens in yhe coop after poking and proding. They like to bunch up at the coop door and not budge. Will I need to keep pushing them in and they will get the message and start going in on thier own? I appreciate your help, Wanda

    • If your chickens go in the coop during the day to eat and drink, they will go in to roost at night (as long as there are windows and they can see where they’re going.) I suspect you are rushing their bedtime :)

  2. it is funny when you have 2 birds of the same breed and get differant eggs, from my 2 white silkies I get 1 pale cream coloured egg and from the other I get a very pale brown, my mottled hodan lays white and my polish lays cream… some one recently has been laying goose eggs im not quite sure who, I thought it was my Buff Orp, but the more I think about it it could be one of my Wynadottes because the egg has the trademark “nipple” on the narrow end that these 2 have always prodecued and the egg is very rough, but they have always produced smooth shells
    but they are getting older

  3. Thank youTerry. They do go in and out during the day. You are right I probable am rushing the bed time. I do have food and water outside in thier run too. Is that okay?

  4. I love Ruby’s egg. :) Our production has been down lately and I attribute it to the stress of having the chicks so close by. I hope Onyx is OK.

  5. I hope it’s nothing that some extra calcium or vitamins and maybe a nice spa day won’t cure. I’ll keep good thoughts for Onyx.

  6. This is very thought-provoking (as your posts often are): Could the presence of two broody Buffs (who hog two of four nesting boxes during the day and sleep there at night) be putting the other hens off their laying? (This isn’t really a problem otherwise, just that egg production is down about a third since broodiness started.) If so, can I isolate both of them together in a “broody cage” for a few days or should I do them one at a time? Why do hens stop laying when one of their flock is acting badly? Seems like if you gotta lay, you gotta lay, but there are no eggs in unexpected places, either.
    Hope your suspect hens are OK. BTW, as a reportedly difficult person myself, I am a huge fan of Siouxsie—glad to hear she is still cranking ’em out, even in exile!

  7. Ever since you told me about a month ago that I was feeding my girls too much oatmeal, I stopped and my BR, Scarlett, has been laying normal shelled eggs. But this morning I found her egg broken under her spot on the roost and her sitting in the nest box like she still had some business to do. I’m hoping it isn’t a serious health problem. I hope Onyx is just stressed out by the new additions to her flock. She is a beautiful bird and I love the picture of her giving the business to Edwina.

    • That’s great that the eggs returned to normal! The second year of lay (that’s my Gems) the shells are thinner, regardless of what you do, but can be sturdy enough with the right diet. What you worry about is the egg breaking before it is laid. It’s good if it comes out – whatever shape it’s in!

  8. Great info. on eggs and egg related problems. Helps us newbies figure out what is edible and what is not. Your egg basket is going to be even more beautiful when all your hens are laying. I’m waiting with high anticipation! Thanks for sharing info. :o)

  9. get out the food color and put a couple of drops in the nostrils >p,s. remember to jot down which color. the yellow does not show up on eggs.