Eggs with thin shells are among the most frequent problems experienced by chicken owners.
When chickens begin to lay eggs with thin shells, it can be concerning. Eggs with thin shells are weaker and more likely to break than normal eggs while being carried and transported. This could be a problem for poultry keepers who make their living by selling whole eggs.
There are many different reasons why chickens produce eggs with thin shells, but fortunately there are treatments for this issue.
Abnormal Shell Patterns
There is no cause for concern when abnormal shells occasionally form. Both sporadic and seasonal abnormalities are expected.
Shells will be thicker and stronger in winter but will get thinner in warm weather. Soft-shelled eggs are also common when production peaks in spring.
In the winter, shells will be thicker, while in the summer, they will become thinner. Also, when egg production increases in the spring, soft-shelled eggs are normal.
When 2 eggs are laid fewer than 25 hours apart, abnormal patterns can also develop. The shell of the second egg may be thin and wrinkled.
Older hens will eventually begin to lay larger eggs with thinner shells. However, the strength of eggshells can be impacted by a variety of factors independent of the age of the hen, including environmental stress, poor diet, drugs, immunizations, parasites, and disease.
A hen that consumes insufficient amounts of calcium will produce eggs with fragile shells. She will also develop osteoporosis because she pulls calcium from her own bones.
Unfortunately, the best egg layers may not get enough calcium from standard, chicken feed.
Additionally, a hen’s need for calcium may not be met by her diet during periods of warm weather when all chickens typically consume less food.
Since most grains are low in calcium, a hen’s diet must contain a calcium supplement.
Calcium carbonate, a mineral also present in aragonite, limestone, and oyster shell, makes up the majority of the material in eggshells. Therefore, a supplement of ground aragonite, crushed oyster shells, or chipped limestone should be available to all laying hens.
To account for the variations in nutritional requirements of individual hens, the calcium supplement should be provided free-choice, in a separate feeder, rather than being mixed with the chicken feed. This prevents those who require less calcium from consuming too much, which could harm their kidneys.
Also, offer phosphorus in the form of bone meal, dicalcium phosphate, or soft rock phosphate in a separate free-choice feeder to counteract the calcium supplement.
The chickens will eat the right amount of calcium and phosphorus when they are given the option to choose these nutrients individually.
*Please Note: Dolomitic limestone should not be given to hens since it may reduce egg output.
To build strong bones, beaks, claws, and eggshells, vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium.
A pattern of normal egg production followed by the appearance of thin and soft-shelled eggs, followed by a decline in laying eggs, followed by a return to normal egg production is a classic indicator of vitamin D deficiency in chickens.
Before she lays an egg, a deficient hen could sit like a penguin due to weak legs.
Her beak, claws, and keel will soften if the deficiency is not addressed, and her eggs will be small.
Vitamin D requirements for chickens are closely related to calcium and phosphorus requirements. Any one of these 3 dietary deficiencies can result in egg eating as well as osteoporosis in older chickens.
A lack of vitamin D is more common in confined chickens than in those with access to the outdoors since a chicken’s body produces this vitamin from sunlight.
With access to sunlight or by adding cod liver oil to feed at a rate of 2 tbsp per 5 lbs, a vitamin D deficiency can be easily corrected. Or, you can follow the instructions on the label of a vitamin AD&E supplement.
Full-spectrum fluorescent lighting for a portion of the day is the next best thing in situations where baby chicks cannot have access to sunlight.
Hypercalcemia, or an excess of calcium in the blood, can result from getting too much vitamin D.
In addition to harming the liver and other organs, too much calcium can cause the kidneys to calcify.
Calcium pimples on eggshells, which can be scraped off to reveal tiny holes in the shell, are one symptom of a hen’s diet being excessively high in vitamin D.
The third most common mineral in a chicken’s body is potassium.
In times of heat or other stress, a potassium deficiency can develop, leading to decreased egg production, thin shells, and muscular weakness.
Legumes and other forms of protein are high in potassium. Dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and boiled white potatoes are alternative sources of potassium.
Eggshell quality also requires manganese, a strong antioxidant. Manganese deficient hens lay poorly and lay eggs with thin shells.
With the exception of corn, the majority of foods consumed by chickens are high in manganese, but many of the same ingredients used to make homemade chicken feed also include anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of manganese. (Compounds known as anti-nutrients prevent the body from absorbing nutrients.)
With a manganese supplement, such as manganese sulphate (Epsom salt), at a rate of 1 tsp per 50 lbs of chicken feed, poor egg quality may be improved.
Manganese is one of the least toxic minerals and is unlikely to cause an overdose when used sensibly (excess amounts are excreted).
A balance of manganese and other minerals is what commercial chicken feed is supposed to offer.
Eggs with soft, thin shells could be the result of an illness.
A viral respiratory disease, such as infectious bronchitis or Newcastle, or vaccination, can result in watery whites, and weak or deformed shells with a change in texture.
Fusariotoxicosis, also known as trichothecene mycotoxicosis, fusariotoxin, and mycotoxicosis, affects chickens and results in thin eggshells, lethargy, and low hatchability. It also produces bluish comb and wattles and a sudden, significant drop in egg production.
Molds in corn, barley, rice, wheat, oats, rye, safflower seed, and sorghum cause fusariotoxicosis. Trichothecene toxins found in bedding can also cause it when inhaled or come into touch with the skin.
Fortunately, this poison is quickly excreted, so if the contaminated feed is replaced, hens usually recover.
Ochratoxin mycotoxicosis, commonly known as ochratoxicosis, affects hens and results in decreased laying, yellow diarrhoea, and thin-shelled eggs with blood or meat stains.
Replace any contaminated feed right away because mouldy or insect-infested feed is the root of ochratoxicosis.
Please Note: By 4 days after the contaminated feed is replaced, there is little risk of residual toxins in meat or eggs since ochratoxin is quickly eliminated.
Egg size, color, and shell texture can all be affected by coccidiostats in a hen’s feed. (To prevent the development and reproduction of coccidian parasites, chickens are given coccidiostat.)