Why do Chickens Lay Soft Eggs?
One of the main challenges of raising chickens for egg production is that some of the layers in your flock will occasionally lay eggs with fragile shells or soft eggs.
Whether you keep chickens in your backyard for domestic egg production or you are a commercial poultry keeper, there is a strong possibility you will collect soft eggs at some point. Chickens can lay soft eggs for several reasons: calcium deficiency, health problems, and high temperature.
7 Reasons Chickens Lay Soft Eggs
Every poultry keeper will ask themselves why their birds are laying soft eggs because soft eggs are a serious concern for chicken keepers. Read on to understand the reasons why your hens are laying soft eggs.
– Calcium Deficiency
In most cases, hens lay soft eggs due to calcium deficiency. Hens require sufficient calcium to form a hard shell around their eggs. Furthermore, hens also need this vital nutrient to generate contractions that enable them to pass out eggs smoothly.
If your hens don’t get enough calcium from their feed or the feed doesn’t contain calcium, they will lay eggs with thin membranes.
An excess of calcium can also lead to soft eggs. Too much calcium-rich foods can cause imbalances that affect the quality of eggs in egg-laying hens. If some of your hens are laying soft eggs, there is a huge possibility they aren’t getting enough calcium.
Therefore, you can gradually introduce calcium supplements to your hens to improve the quality of their eggs.
– Health Problem
Health is also a factor that is responsible for soft eggs in egg-laying hens. Some infectious diseases such as bronchitis affect your hens’ respiratory and reproductive systems. Many vital cells and hormones in chickens work together to support optimal nutrient absorption and bone growth. If a health problem affects these elements, your chickens’ reproductive system will be affected.
Skeletal problems such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis to low-quality eggshells. These health issues also cause a reduction in egg production.
– Young Hen
Before looking at other reasons why your chickens are laying soft eggs, it would be prudent to consider the age of your hens. Pullets or young hens that have just started laying are most likely to lay soft eggs.
Young hens also lay eggs with fragile shells. Furthermore, eggs from young hens have thin membranes that can’t hold the yolk without breaking.
The reason why young hens lay soft eggs is that their bodies have a problem adjusting to the egg-laying process. Alternatively, it could be that these young hens don’t have enough calcium to lay high-quality eggs. Pullets need more calcium than adult hens to lay quality eggs.
Old hens, especially hybrid hens, are also likely to lay soft eggs. This is as a result of their biological egg-laying process slowing down. Old hens will start laying soft eggs as their production cycle ends. It gets to a point where old hens can’t lay eggs anymore, let alone soft eggs.
– High Temperature
Hot temperatures can affect a hen’s egg-laying cycle. No wonder hens lay poor-quality eggs in the summer months because temperatures are incredibly high. Hens pant a lot due to exposure to hot temperatures as they try to cool themselves.
Although this is an effective heat-coping mechanism in chickens, it lowers the oxygen levels in your chickens, exposing them to a health condition known as respiratory alkalosis. This condition makes hens lay soft eggs.
High temperatures also make hens drink and eat less frequently. Without eating sufficient food and drinking plenty of water, hens won’t maintain a healthy egg production cycle. Furthermore, hens won’t get the nutrients these birds require to lay quality eggs.
Furthermore, high temperatures can expose your chickens to heat stress. Chickens have difficulty living in hot weather since their bodies don’t have an effective heat-coping mechanism.
High temperatures will therefore stress your birds in the long run. Heat stress also contributes to soft shells. In addition, heat stress also diminishes your hens’ egg production.
– Overcrowded Coop
The quality of your hens’ eggs will suffer if your birds live in an overcrowded coop with poor ventilation and lighting. A crowded chicken coop has a high ammonia concentration due to vast amounts of chicken droppings. High levels of ammonia can suppress your chickens’ respiratory systems.
When respiratory issues occur in your chickens, they will not absorb calcium properly from their feed. Overcrowding can also worsens sanitary conditions in the coop, which affects egg production and egg quality in hens. Each hen should have ample room to move around without stumbling on another hen.
– Rooster Stress
Frequent disturbances from roosters can also make your hens lay eggs with thin shells. Roosters can be randier than usual, especially if the number of roosters in your flock is higher than the number of hens.
In such instances, roosters will over-mate with the available hens. Such behavior stresses and exhausts the hens. Stress and exhaustion can make your hens lay rubber or soft eggs.
To avoid rooster stress, which ultimately affects egg quality and egg production, it would be wise to have a few roosters in your flock such that each rooster has a hen to mate with without fighting with other roosters over hens.
– Predator Stress
Chickens experience bouts of stress when predators and other chickens disturb their peace. Being sensitive creatures, any threat to your chickens’ lives will lead to severe stress, ultimately affecting their egg quality and egg production. For instance, when a predator such as a dog or a stray cat harasses your hens, your hens will be scared.
Fear can make your hens lay prematurely even when the eggs haven’t formed their shells properly. Backyard chickens foraging near predators also have poor egg production. Chickens need peace while laying. They cherish a quiet environment without disturbances.
Predator stress will therefore contribute to poor egg production. It will also make your hens lay soft eggs since they usually lay premature eggs with thin shells.
How to Prevent Chickens Laying Soft Eggs?
While soft eggs are a crucial concern for poultry owners, they are preventable. Let’s delve into some of the things that can prevent your chickens from laying soft eggs.
– Proper Food and Diet
Ensuring your hens have a proper diet is an effective way of preventing your birds from laying soft eggs. You can take some specific steps to address your hens’ dietary needs. For instance, you can add probiotics to your hens’ diet to help the birds improve their eggshell quality.
Avoid introducing fresh produce such as spinach, beet greens, citrus fruits, and chards to your egg-laying hens. Fresh produce hinders calcium absorption in hens. Therefore, your hens will suffer from calcium deficiency, and they will ultimately start laying soft eggs as a result of consuming fresh produce.
Introduce fresh produce to your hens sparingly. If your hens continue laying soft eggs even after reducing their consumption of fresh produce, it would be prudent to avoid giving them fresh produce altogether.
Provide your hens with crushed eggshells and oyster shells to boost their calcium intake. Separate the shells from your hens’ feed and allow the hens to feed on the shells separately. Their bodies will figure out how much shells to consume for additional calcium.
Protein is vital for improving egg quality. Introduce mealworms and different types of protein-rich foods to your chickens. With sufficient protein, your hens will lay high-quality eggs. Furthermore, protein will also enable your birds to maintain a healthy egg production cycle.
You can let your hens out once in a while to allow them to pick up bugs, which are rich in protein. Alternatively, introduce live insects to your indoor chickens to provide them with enough protein to help them combat protein deficiency.
Ensure you provide your chickens with plenty of clean water. Water is equally essential for chickens as food. Even if you give your hens plenty of food daily and deny them clean water, they will continue laying soft eggs. Water will help your birds overcome heat stress, which is a leading contributor to soft eggs in egg-laying hens.
– Reduce Stress
Your hens will continue laying soft eggs as long as they are stressed. Therefore, consider addressing stress in your chickens by ensuring your birds are stress-free. For instance, remind your kids to stop chasing the hens since they will be stressed and continue laying soft eggs.
Be on the lookout for predators that stress your chickens, making them scared and likely to lay prematurely. Seal your backyard or have a fence in your backyard to keep stray dogs, cats, raccoons, and other predators at bay.
If roosters are stressing your hens, it would be wise to separate the roosters from the hens for a while. After all, your hens will continue laying eggs even without roosters around, although the eggs will be infertile.
Or, you can reduce the number of roosters in your flock to ensure every rooster has a hen around, rather than fighting other roosters over the hens. Give your hens a sufficient water supply in the summer months to enable the birds to overcome heat stress. Furthermore, open the coop windows’ to let in cold air in the coop during hot weather.
– Proper Housing
Good housing conditions will prevent your chickens from laying soft eggs. The chicken coop needs to have proper lighting and ventilation. Your hens need ample space to roam freely in the coop. Remove chicken droppings regularly to prevent the concentration of ammonia in the coop.
Clean and sanitize the coop regularly to save your chickens from diseases and stress. If the chickens live in congested conditions due to having too many chickens, transfer some of the hens to another coop or expand the coop to accommodate all the birds.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have nest boxes for your hens. Nest boxes will provide your hens with a comfortable and quiet place to lay, devoid of disturbances from other birds. Ensure there are sufficient nest boxes in the coop to give each hen in your flock a conducive laying environment.
Soft eggs can be a real problem whether you keep hens for domestic or commercial purposes. After all, no one wants to eat or buy poor-quality eggs. Chicken keepers have to evaluate the root cause of soft eggs in their hens and immediately fix this problem.
With proper measures, though, you can successfully address the issue of soft eggs in your egg-laying hens.