Thin-shelled Eggs

Chickens in perfectly healthy flocks once in awhile lay thin-shelled eggs. As the yolk progresses down the reproductive tract, white surrounds it, then a membrane, and then the shell. It takes about 20 hours for the shell to form, and if during that time the hen is stressed, the shell might not fully develop. Sometimes there’s a glitch in that conveyor belt and the egg comes out too soon.

But, if your usually perfect egg-laying hen starts consistently laying thin-shelled eggs, something is amiss. They might need more calcium in their diet. They might be diseased. They might simply be so old that their body is depleted of shell minerals, and they’ll never lay a sturdy egg again.

Here at Little Pond Farm, my older hens were on the antibiotic Tylan, and two were on doxycycline. Antibiotics will cause thin-shelled eggs. The wife of a vet commented that doxy prevents calcium absorption, so Maizie and Siouxsie were especially lacking in shell-making ability. I fed them yogurt. I tried to keep them as stress-free as possible. Siouxsie laid that one, bloody thin egg, but then the next day laid a perfect, thick-shelled egg. I think she’s out of the woods. Maizie is still not well and not laying.

Yesterday I found yet another odd egg. It looked and felt like a deflating balloon.

I think that one of the Golden Comets laid it, but I’m not sure. I collected three brown eggs. Two were from the Golden Comets and one must have been from one of my older, rarely laying girls. If you catch one of the hens in the act, let me know! (I don’t eat these eggs, as the shell and bloom are not there to protect the egg from bacteria.)

Meanwhile, Betsy is still broody, and doesn’t budge, even when a larger hen gets into her space.

There must have been a thin-shelled egg under her this morning, because when I checked her later in the day, she was covered in yolk. I gave Betsy a bath. It’s easy to blow-dry a broody chicken – she just sits there.

By the way, the funny ridges you find on eggs, and those with odd shapes, are usually unique to each hen and are dictated by genetics. You don’t have to worry about those eggs or the hens that laid them; enjoy their quirks.


    • Hello.
      I need some help please! I don’t know how to blog so I am trying to contact you this through this comment.
      Here is my question.
      I have a flock of chickens in a secure pen. My husband has built a secure coop. I also have several smaller coops where I am raising
      11 Leghorns in one and 11 Braham chicks in the other.
      Yesterday, before I left for work, I left out two 10 week old Cornish Rocks (hens) as well as 4 of the 5 week old Braham chick since they were showing signs of pecking and I wanted to give them a break.
      For the first time, I placed in a med.size cage my 3 Bantys. This was the first time to allow them in a cage as they were being raised in the house. I didn’t shut the coop door as the med cage filled the opening and I didn’t want them to get too hot. We were very late getting in and when I hurried to the pen, I was releaved to see the meat birds calming laying in one corner of the pen (the cage I left them in was too high for them to reach by themselves but the Braham chicks had flown up to that open cage to my great relief.
      When I went to the coop, I was shocked to see two of the Bantys dead, one had it’s head missing and the other had it’s guts hanging out. They were not removed from the cage. The third Banty, the smart one was fine.
      My husband thinks that the meat birds did the deed as any other creature would not have left the other unprotected birds alone.
      Please help me with any advice possible.
      Annie May
      7 E Homestead

      • Hi Annie- So sorry to hear of this. From your description, I’m not able to picture the set-up. However, if you combined two groups of chicks, of different ages and breeds, who have never before been together, especially putting tiny bantams with large Cornish, you will have pecking. If the bantams were in a cage, and the others were able to peck at them through the wire, you could have bloodshed. The other alternative is that an opossum or a raccoon came by. They use their paws to grab chickens, and will try to pull them out through the wire. Your husband is correct that there would have been more bloodshed if it was a predator – unless a dog or something else scared it off. I can’t rule either scenario out.
        You were right to worry about pecking as the chicks grow and get bored, so moving them into a larger coop is a good idea. Worrying about heat is also good. From now on, double-check the predator control. Opossums and raccoons climb, can open latches, and will get their paws in coops. Also be very careful about combining different ages and breeds of chickens. Pecking will happen. I hope all is better from now on!

  1. ive found a thin shell egg once before, just out in the grass, it looked like all it had was the membrane with no shell whatsoever. hasnt happened since, thank goodness!

  2. One of the first eggs I got from my girls, years ago, was a soft-shelled egg. They really are most peculiar aren’t they? I find my lot lay the occasional one just before moult, or at the beginning of lay in spring.
    Do you have a product called Shellstim over there? It goes the the water to stimulate thicker shells. There’s also in injection called Calciject which can be given to an individual hen if you don’t need to dose them all.

    • We don’t have either of those products. The only thing available for the backyard hen keeper is the oyster shell grit, or simply feeding yogurt. I’ve read that for older hens, even with extra calcium, that they can’t restore their mineral reserves back to the level of their younger days. Yet another reason why two-year old hens are not economically viable on commercial farms. Our girls are lucky we don’t mind their funny eggs!

      • I agree that if a hen isn’t absorbing calcium effectively from her well-balanced pellets and oystershell then she probably won’t from a supplement and there’s probably some malabsorption thing going on. I’m always a bit suspicious of supplements anyway but sometimes I give it a go just to make myself feel better! The hens indulge me…
        here’s another that I hear good reports of – let me know if you’d like me to post some.

        • I’m fine with free-choice calcium but have concerns about feeding supplements. There are problems with consuming too much calcium, and I fear that dosing with these products will cause other issues. In my experience it takes time, but the soft-shelled egg laying either rights itself (as with Siouxsie) or the hen stops laying altogether (usually that happens with the older hen and it’s a natural part of aging.)

  3. Terry, my Barred hen LuLu Belle has been laying “rubber eggs” or an egg with “no shell” for over a year. I have tried everything under the sun, calcium and grit are continuously available, along with scratch and organic feed. She appears healthy and is not singled out by her peers. I have accepted her quirk, but would love to know what could be causing this, any ideas? Thank you, Julie.

    • How old is she? Also, you’ve had bullying stress in your flock, right? And have just removed the culprit. I’d be curious if the eggs improve now that there is peace in the flock.

  4. Terry -I’m learning so much from your blog! Who knew half of this?! Boy, what I didn’t learn as a kid is huge -but in my defense, I do know how to get the water out of a barrel cactus! I’m sure I’ll need that information at some point in my life. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your words and your beautiful photos. The ‘friday blues’ is one of my favorites. carol

  5. I suspect your dogs really appreciate it when your older hens lay those weird eggs, because then they get to eat them :)
    Oh something I want to share with you since you will be going to San Francisco in August for your son to help him move in to his dorm. A lady on Backyard chicken forum, shared her blog and well she has a red sex link hen named Lulu who has a problem with her leg and can’t walk very well. And because of her disability she has become a house chicken mostly though in the winter. Well she has taken Lulu with her on road trips with her family. The last one was to visit White Rocks, WA and guess what she decided to do ?
    She took Lulu to visit the Pacific Ocean.
    Here is her blog and the photos she took of Lulu by the Beach
    So I was thinking that could be an idea you might want to do if you decide to take one of your bantam hens with you.

    • I don’t travel with my chickens unless it’s for work! Goodness, their manure stinks. I guess we all have different tolerances when it comes to our animals.

      • Lol I know. She does love her chicken though. And she doesn’t even diaper Lulu. Just sticks a pad under, acourse she doesn’t move as much as other chickens. The lady did do a post on keeping in her house and how her poop doesn’t smell as bad as other chickens because of her diet. That I don’t believe too much. But Lulu did seem to like to travel, so I guess it depends on the person and the hen.

  6. All of my hens except two are getting older so we get those squishy eggs from time to time. The two that are not older are sisters and when they lay, they lay very well. Unfortunately they’ve been taking turns going broody for the last few weeks. One will stop and we’ll get a day or two of eggs from both and then the other will decide to go broody. And they’re both VERY unpleasant broodies!

    Marna (CT)