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What Causes Soft Shelled Chicken Eggs?

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Soft-shelled or "rubber" eggs can be caused by a lack of calcium, too much spinach or a bit more uncommonly a disease. Learn the causes and how to prevent them.

The longer you raise chickens, the more chance that eventually you'll collect some odd-looking eggs on occasion. Most times, they are nothing to worry about - just a glitch in production. 

One of the more common 'glitches' is a soft-shelled or "rubber" egg. Which is to say, basically an egg laid without a shell or with a very soft shell.


What Causes Soft Shelled Chicken Eggs?

You might notice a piece of membrane in the nesting box or on the ground or floor of the chicken coop. You might even notice a strand of membrane trailing from your chicken's vent. 

You might  notice a broken egg. Or you might start to notice that the shells on your chickens' eggs don't seem quite as thick any longer and that the eggs crack much more easily.

These are all signs that you might have a hen laying soft-shelled eggs. 


What is a Soft-Shelled Egg?

Soft-shelled eggs often look and feel like water balloons, with the yolk and white covered only by a membrane, not the hard shell, but sometimes there is a shell that is just extremely thin and you can easily crack just by pressing your finger into it.


Calcium Helps to Prevent Soft Shelled Chicken Eggs

A hen needs calcium not only to form the shell around each egg she lays, but also to produce the contractions that help her to lay that egg.

And a diet that consists of good-quality layer feed plus free-choice crushed eggshell or oyster shell normally is sufficient to ensure nice hard shells.

But sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes a hen's body doesn't absorb the calcium she's getting in her diet correctly or there could be a more serious underlying issue.

So what causes soft-shelled chicken eggs?

Common Causes of Soft-Shelled Chicken Eggs

Causes |


  • Young layers often lay soft-shelled eggs when they are first getting started. This should stop once their reproductive systems mature and fully develop.
  • Stress can cause a hen to lay her egg prematurely without the shell. Being chased by children, or harassed by dogs or other predators can be the cause of great stress and fright.
  • Older hens often lay thin-shelled eggs since the same amount of shell must encompass a much larger amount of yolk/white than when she was younger (eggs generally get larger as a hen ages).

  • Calcium deficiency can result in soft-shelled eggs, so be sure you provide the added calcium supplement in the form of egg- or oyster shell always fed in a separate container from the feed, so each hen can eat as much or as little as she needs.
  • A Vitamin D deficiency can also result in eggs with soft shells, so allowing your chickens time outdoors in the sunlight year round is important.
  • Far less common, soft-shelled eggs can be a symptom of such diseases as Newcastle disease or infectious bronchitis. If you are regularly seeing soft-shelled eggs, a vet should be consulted if you have ruled out all other causes.


How To Prevent Soft-Shelled Eggs


Prevention |

  • Crushed eggshell or oyster shell should always be made available to your flock on a free-choice basis, not mixed into their feed. This way each hen can eat as much or as little as she needs.
  •  Different hens absorb calcium differently, and depending on how good a layer she is, one hen may just need more than another

  • Avoid overfeeding spinach, as well as beet greens, chards and citrus fruits, all of which which can interfere with calcium absorption. If soft-shelled eggs are a problem, try cutting those treats out completely.
  • Be sure that your chickens are spending at least part of each day outside. They need Vitamin D for the calcium they eat to be absorbed properly, so a run with a solid roof really isn't optimal for chickens.  They should be in the sunlight for the majority of the day if possible. Although chicken feed has Vitamin D in it, every little bit helps.

  • In severe cases, some liquid calcium can be added to your flock's water as an added calcium boost.

Add Some Calcium-Rich Herbs and Weeds to their Diet

You might wonder how wild birds, waterfowl and other animals get the calcium they need in their diet.

Well, that's easy! 

There are lots of greens and weeds that are rich in calcium. If your chickens free range, they are likely finding and eating some of these one their own, otherwise you can plant or pick them for your flock.

Good choices of herbs and other greens rich in calcium include |

alfalfa
burdock root

chamomile

chickweed

clover

dandelion greens

horsetail

lambs quarter

mustard greens

nettle

parsley

peppermint

raspberry leaf

rose hips

watercress

The Problem with Soft Shelled Eggs

Soft-shelled eggs aren't a problem merely because your hens aren't laying eggs that you can eat, but because a hen laying soft-shelled eggs may more easily become egg bound or suffer peritonitis. 

Two conditions you definitely want to avoid if at all possible. So taking steps to harden those eggshells is imperative! 


Take a Peek at my 'Rubber" Duck Egg  Video


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For more egg oddities, read HERE.

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