Does it Hurt Chickens to Lay Eggs?
The average hen lays 250-300 eggs annually. Thus, if you have a few hens for your farm, you are guaranteed eggs for your table and a mouthwatering profit. However, as a responsible poultry keeper, you might be scared that egg production is uncomfortable, or even painful, for your hens, and your venture is inhumane.
Read on to find out chicken’s anatomy when laying eggs and if they feel pain.
The Anatomy of the Chicken Egg-Laying System
When a chick is born female, it has thousands of immature yolks and chicken ova in its ovaries. When it turns 16-18 weeks old, the egg formation process is triggered by the entry of light into its eye. This light activates the pineal gland to release an egg from the bird’s ovary. This egg, now a yolk, will travel to the infundibulum, the start of your hen’s oviduct.
When the yolk gets to the oviduct, the formation of egg white starts. The developing egg then travels down the oviduct while spinning until the chalazae, or stringy egg parts, are formed. The egg shape is formed in the isthmus, where extra membranes join the albumen to form an oval.
The egg then goes to the shell gland that makes the eggshell to protect the yolk from bacteria. The shell formation is the longest process and takes approximately 20 hours.
When the shell is done, the egg moves to the cloaca, the space in the vent, a posterior opening from which eggs lay eggs and defecate. One egg takes about 24-26 hours to form, so a hen will lay an egg per day at most.
Does Egg-Laying Hurt Chicken?
Before we address pain when laying eggs, you should first know whether chickens can perceive pain. Like most living organisms, many studies have found that chickens can respond to pain.
In one study, it was found that chickens with hurt beaks, highly sensitive organs with multiple nerve endings, often covered their beaks under their wings to stop preening and pecking.
In regards to egg-laying, the part involved in the process is the cloaca. This has nerve endings that can be triggered and cause sensations when used, such as when a hen is laying eggs or passing stool. This does not mean that chickens are hurt each time they lay eggs. Laying eggs is a natural process that is not painful.
However, the process can be painful for some hens, such as when they lay an excessively large egg or laying eggs when they are very old or young.
Signs of Discomfort during Egg Laying
You might have noticed your hens creating a stir after they lay eggs and believe that this is their sign that they are uncomfortable with the process. Nonetheless, the uproar that often follows egg laying is known as the “egg song”. It has been speculated to be a sign of pride or relief for the hen after laying an egg or a way of drawing a predator’s attention from the laid egg.
If you want to know whether your hens are experiencing any discomfort from laying eggs, here are the signs to look for:
- Vocalizations like squawking or a wheezing sound when laying an egg.
- Blood stains on the egg.
Factors That Affect Egg-Laying Comfort
Below are the main elements that might affect the comfort of your chickens when laying eggs:
Age of the Hen
Young chickens, especially those laying eggs for the first time, will experience more pain than seasoned birds. This is because their bodies have not yet gotten accustomed to the process and will thus stretch as they push the eggs out.
Old hens might also have some discomfort when laying eggs. This is because of the damage they might have suffered from years of laying large eggs or age-related issues like weaker muscles and tired joints that increase their strain when pushing eggs out.
When a hen lays a larger egg than what it usually does, this can cause some tears and need more work to push out. If an egg is too large for your hen to push out, it can become stuck, a condition called ‘’binding’’.
In this case, the hen requires assistance to evacuate the egg and save its life. Egg binding can also follow premature egg-laying, an unbalanced hen diet, calcium deficiency, and obesity.
Common Egg-Laying Problems
Even when you want to enjoy as many eggs as possible from your chickens, you should keep an eye out for common egg-laying problems, so you know how to handle them. Here are a few of these issues.
- Egg yolk peritonitis. This happens when the egg yolk passes to the hen’s abdominal cavity and causes an inflammatory response that leads to peritonitis, and even death, when not treated.
- Lash eggs: These are rotten eggs comprising a mass of rubbery debris like solidified pus. They result from salpingitis, an inflammation of the oviduct, often caused by Mycoplasma or E. coli.
- Soft eggshells: Your egg might not have an eggshell or might have a soft one. This is often caused by a lack of calcium or dietary imbalance. You can give your hen oyster shells to correct this.
- Egg eating: This is when your hens eat their eggs. The problem is often caused by insufficient protein, boredom, or low calcium levels.
- Strange shell colors. Hens have different colors for their eggs depending on their breeds. You might, however, notice a fading of your usual egg color because of molting, reduced sunlight hours, advanced hen age, temperature variance, and stress of your hen.
Egg production is the main reason for poultry keeping among most people. From the above article, you can rest assured that laying eggs is not painful for your chickens and know the issues that might make it painful in some cases.
You also now know what causes the common egg-laying problems you might encounter. To guarantee the comfort of your egg-laying chicken, give it enough food and water throughout its egg-laying life.
The peak egg production time for most chicken breeds is the first two years, and most continue laying eggs until their death.