Egg woes

perfect eggs

Oh, the ‘Green Dream’. We all long for the countryside cottage with a handful of lazy chooks hanging about, laying eggs for the family table. But what happens when those eggs start arriving warped, wrinkled or looking generally odd. Are your chooks okay? Are they safe to eat? As a vet working a lot with poultry, I encounter this question regularly, so let’s hit up a few of the regular complaints.

“The shells are getting really thin these days”

That’s usually okay, a chicken produces the same amount of shell regardless of egg size. So as your chook gets bigger, older, or fatter, her eggs will naturally be larger and hence thinner shells.

The one thing you can do is check is that her diet calcium and phosphorus levels are correct by feeding a quality layers mix. If you’re not sure about the calcium levels, offer a separate dish of oyster grit or calcium lime flour; they’re fantastic at supplementing themselves when they’re feeling low!

“The yolks are pale! My chook must be undernourished or sad!”

Not necessarily true. The orange colour comes from carotenoids, which are found in plants and grains. If eating grass, corn, carrots or pumpkin, the yolk will be darker. Feed your quality pellets first thing in the morning, before going outside to gorge on fibre.
Internal parasites can affect the yolk colour. Make sure your chooks are dewormed with a quality product at least a couple of times a year. Avoid spot-on treatments as bird skin doesn’t absorb the drug the same way a cat or dogs’ would.

IB eggs

“Oh my gosh, there’s blood in it…did I just eat a baby?”

Despite the idea of it putting me off eggs for weeks, a spot of blood is usually nothing to freak out about. The spot would have come from a burst blood vessel somewhere inside the reproductive tract, often just from a large egg or double-yolker. Irritation of the tract can also be due to fungal toxins or vitamin deficiencies. Just check her backside as well, to make sure she hasn’t traumatized the vent itself.

“Wrinkly shells…Now THIS is strange…”

This one IS something to consider. As any fellow dieter well knows, egg whites are straight protein. Interestingly, the density of the protein is actually what holds the shape of the egg, so when chook is low in protein or losing it somehow, the shell can collapse in on itself and appear wrinkled. This is what happens with a disease called Infectious Bronchitis (IB), when they lose protein through the kidneys. Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS) is another one that can cause egg quality and production to crash.

“She just stopped laying, what’s wrong with her?”

All birds should go through a moult and stop laying during the cold months, this is normal. However, if she stops suddenly during summer she may not be eating enough, drinking enough, or may be unwell.

If needing help with your beloved chook, make sure you consult a vet comfortable with birds.

The epitome of a prey species, chickens are excellent at hiding their illness until it is too late to help. If you notice ANY behavioural changes in your chook, get her checked out immediately.

Dr Sarah Clews BVSc BSc


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.