Soft Shell Eggs

Soft shell eggs can be difficult for a hen to lay as the egg has no hard shell to help it exit the vent easily. A soft shell egg can get stuck within the hen, who may then show signs of distress by staying in the nest box for a prolonged period, but failing to lay the egg.

Symptoms

  • Eggs found in the nest box with no shell or paper thin shell.
  • Misshapen or soft shell.

Causes

  • Lack of calcium in diet.
  • Shell gland infection.
  • Infectious Bronchitis.
  • Bullying.
  • Approaching end of lay.

Guidance

Note that this home remedy is not intended to offer a cure or replace veterinary treatment, but may alleviate symptoms where no professional support is easily available. The suggestions are based on experience gained with our own hens.
  • Most hens will eventually be able to pass a soft shell egg through the vent.
  • If your hen passes a yolk with no shell, please contact our Hen Helpline.
  • In some cases the shell might break inside the hen just before laying; this can result in shell fragments being retained and / or a partially laid membrane hanging out of the vent. If you feel confident, make sure your hen is relaxed then very gently tease the fragments out. As you very gently pull a millimetre at a time, your hen will realise you are trying to help and pulse her vent muscles to help excrete the fragments. If there is resistance when you pull or any blood is seen stop immediately and contact our Hen Helpline. On successful removal, your hen should bounce back and feel better almost immediately.
  • Seek veterinary advice if unsure.

Prevention

  • Use a good quality feed such as Allen & Page Layers Crumble which contains calcium prills.
  • Provide oyster shell and / or mixed grit (soluble and non-soluble).
  • A liquid calcium such as Zolcal D can be helpful in drinking water.

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