Weak, thin, or soft chicken eggshells can lead to loss of eggs and income, deformities in chicks, and other difficulties. There are several reasons why shell strength may degrade, and different ways to prevent it to ensure the most productive laying hens.
Why Hens Might Lay Weak or Soft Eggs
There can be several causes behind weak chicken eggs. While any hen might have an occasional soft egg and infrequent weak eggshells are nothing to be concerned about, if a hen is laying soft eggs regularly or with noticeably increasing frequency, she may be suffering from any of these conditions.
- Over Production – If a hen lays too many eggs too quickly, she will likely lay more soft eggs. It takes roughly 24 hours for an eggshell to properly deposit in the bird’s oviduct, and faster laying will mean weaker eggshells.
- Poor Nutrition – An inadequate diet can lead to poor eggshell formation. This may be a problem such as low calcium intake or could simply be less feed, especially on hot days when hens lose their appetites and may not take in enough nutrition to create sturdy eggs.
- Hormone Deficiency – A hen with hormone imbalances may lay eggs with thinner or softer shells. This is especially common as hens age and reach the end of their most productive egg-laying years.
- Stress – A very stressed hen may have problems laying strong eggs. Whether the stress is from flock bullying, the presence of predators, moving to a new coop, or other causes, the hen’s laying productivity and egg strength can be impacted.
- Thyroid Dysfunction – If a hen’s thyroid (a gland near the base of her neck) isn’t functioning properly, her ability to absorb calcium is compromised and she may not be able to lay eggs with stronger, thicker shells.
- Molting – When hens go through their regular molts, their body’s nutrition is directed toward growing new, strong feathers to replace those that are shed. As a result, thinner or weaker eggshells are common during molting periods.
- Ammonia Poisoning – Excess ammonia (from unclean coops and feces buildup) inhibits a hen’s ability to absorb calcium and properly form eggshells. Ammonia poisoning may come from airborne ammonia or contamination of food or water.
- Dehydration – Simple dehydration can impact a hen’s laying ability and lead to softer eggs because of decreased metabolism and inability to absorb the appropriate nutrients from feed in order to form the strongest eggshells.
- Illness – If a hen is sick with a virus or bacterial infection or just with a simple wound, her body will direct its energy toward that healing. This can compromise eggshell production and lead to temporarily softer or weaker shells.
10 Ways to Increase Shell Strength in Chicken Eggs
Because there are many different possible causes of weak chicken egg shells, it is important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. If the bird is injured or has nutritional deficiencies, the vet can recommend appropriate treatments and supplements or medication as necessary. Other options for increasing shell strength in chicken eggs include…
- Improving Diet – A healthier diet will naturally lead to healthier, stronger eggs. Depending on individual hen’s nutritional needs and the composition of the feed, more protein, calcium, or Vitamin D can be helpful for improving egg shell strength.
- Offering Supplemental Calcium – Providing an extra source of calcium, such as calcium-enriched grit, can help hens get enough of this essential mineral. Dark, leafy greens offered as enrichment forage can also be a great source of calcium.
- Lowering Stress – If the flock has been stressed, that can cause hormone imbalances and anxiety that affects hens’ laying abilities. Reducing stress by reducing overcrowding, keeping pets from agitating the birds, and ensuring there are no predators can help soothe hens.
- Keeping Cool – Taking steps to keep chickens cool during the hottest months can improve egg quality. Extra ventilation, abundant fresh water, positioning the coop in shade, and providing ice blocks for enrichment can all help keep hens cool when temperatures rise.
- Improving Overall Health – Ensuring hens are healthy overall is always good for laying productivity and strong eggs. Keep birds at the proper weight, provide suitable enrichment, offer nutritious feed, and take other steps for a wholly healthy flock.
- Medication – If an individual hen has thyroid or other hormone problems, or may have an injury or infection, appropriate medication can speed her healing and improve egg quality. Consult a veterinarian for the right diagnosis and specific treatment options.
- Cleaning the Coop – A cleaner coop will be a healthier, lower stress living environment for all the hens. Removing excess feces regularly will lower ammonia levels, and improved ventilation will keep the birds more comfortable for the best egg laying.
- Provide Plenty of Water – Not only do hens need an abundant source of water, that water should be as fresh and clean as possible. Creating several watering stations can ensure all hens have good access to the water without crowding or stress.
- Deworming – Internal parasites impact a hen’s gut health and nutrient absorption capabilities. Regular deworming can keep the chickens in better digestive balance to be sure they make the most of their feed, leading to healthier, stronger eggs.
- Consulting a Veterinarian – If any hen begins laying soft eggs with greater frequency or if there are other noticeable changes in egg production for one or more hens, it is imperative to consult a veterinarian immediately. While an occasional weak eggshell is normal, an ongoing or widespread condition will require further treatment.
The more steps you can take for a happier, healthier flock, the better the resulting eggshell strength will be and the more productive each hen will become. By understanding the different causes of weak eggshells, it is easy to take steps to increase shell strength in chickens and have much better egg production.