Why Does my Egg Look Weird? Eggshell Quality Problems in Backyard Chickens

-Photo credit: Peppercreek Farmgirl-
Soft-shelled eggs, lash eggs, "wind" or "fairy" eggs, wrinkled, misshapen or speckled eggs. I get asked fairly often (and sent all kinds of crazy photos via email) about eggshell issues - bumps, ridges, tiny spots, speckles, soft shells. Most are nothing to worry about.  

Although an egg is often a good representation of overall hen health, i.e. healthy hens who are fed a well-balanced diet lay the most uniform, beautiful eggs, an abnormal egg every once in awhile is actually pretty normal.

This chart is the very best I've seen for a very complete listing of eggshell quality issues - as well as possible causes.

-Photo credit: Alltech Poultry Advantage-
Use the handy chart above (click on the chart to view it full screen) to troubleshoot eggshell quality issues in your flock and realize that most 'odd eggs' are nothing to be concerned about. Most are a one-time thing. I would recommend keeping a close eye on which ever hen laid the odd egg, but not worry unless it becomes a regular occurrence. That can be an indication of a more serious health issue.

Here are some of the more benign, common, egg oddities you might run across...

"Wind" or "Fairy" Eggs

These are the tiny marble-sized eggs you might often find from new layers. Just a glitch where the shell begins to form without a yolk being released, so a far smaller shell encases just the egg white. It's common in young layers before their bodies have everything all sorted out. While fine to eat, they won't hatch if you try to incubate them, because even if there is a yolk inside, the shell isn't large enough to allow embryo growth.

Double Yolked Eggs

The flip side of the coin are double yolkers. When two egg yolks are released too close together in the oviduct, sometimes the white (and shell) will encase them both, resulting in a gigantic egg. While a double yolk egg is generally nothing to worry about, if you have a hen laying them consistently, I would keep a close eye on her for egg binding, a potentially life-threatening situation. Double yolked eggs are okay to eat.

Speckled Eggs

As an egg travels down the oviduct, it spins. If it spins too fast, the egg can appear 'smeared'. If it turns too slowly, it can end up being speckled with pigment. Many hens (especially Welsummers) lay speckled eggs regularly. Some of the prettiest eggs, these are perfectly fine to eat.

White Spots or Crust

White spots on the egg are often calcium deposits. If there is debris of any kind in the oviduct as the shell is being formed, calcium can be released to enclose that debris. That will result in rough white patches on the shell. The deposits can normally be brushed off with your fingernail and the egg is perfectly fine to eat.


Wrinkled or Ridged Eggs

Common in older layers, wrinkled eggs or eggs with ridges in the shell can also be caused by stress while laying, such as a dog barking, predator lurking, thunderstorm or other abnormal stressor. While aesthetically not the prettiest, the eggs are perfectly fine to eat.

Soft-Shelled Eggs

Soft-shelled eggs are usually due to a lack of calcium in the diet but there can be other reasons for shells being soft, including a diet that includes too much spinach. I wouldn't risk eating a soft-shelled or no-shelled egg because its missing the first line of defense against bacteria getting inside - the shell.
-soft-shelled duck egg-
Lash Eggs

One exception can be lash eggs. You may have heard of them. In seven years of chicken keeping, I've never collected one personally, but know that they are NOT a death sentence as you may have read or been told. However, it is a concern and lash eggs shouldn't be eaten.  A lash egg is not technically an "egg" at all, but instead is a rubbery mass that a hen sometimes lays near the end of her laying cycle. According to the experts at Your Chickens magazine, it is actually part of the chicken's reproductive system that breaks down and collapses and ends up being expelled through the oviduct. That hen will not generally lay any more eggs after passing the lash egg.

Normally an odd egg is just a one-time glitch and nothing to worry about, but it's always good to have something to reference....just in case.

Resources:
http://chickensaspets.uk.com/lash-eggs-and-dangerous-advice-from-bloggers/
http://bornagainfarmgirl.blogspot.com/2016/01/what-is-lash-egg.html
http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=ajar.2011.1.16

Thank you to Peppercreek Farm Girl for allowing me to use her great photo of 'weird eggs'. Visit her at Peppercreek Family Farms on Facebook and on Instagram @peppercreekfarmgirl.

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