Egg irregularities are common. As a backyard chicken-keeper, do not worry yourself unnecessarily about the occasional strange-looking egg. Take a picture of it, discuss it at the water cooler next day and get a good chuckle out of it. They happen and the vast majority of the time they do not indicate any cause for alarm. In order to understand why irregular eggs occur, it’s important to understand how a hen’s reproductive system is supposed to work when firing on all cylinders.
Here's the deal with a hen's reproductive system: a female chick's ovary contains all of the ova it will ever have when it's hatched. The ovary begins to convert ova to egg yolks when she is mature. With the right lighting conditions exists, hormones stimulate ova to develop into yolks. Yolks are released from the ovary into the oviduct when they reach the right size and travel down the oviduct to acquire their whites, membranes, color (if any) and shell. An egg requires approximately 25 hours to complete the addition of the egg white, the shell membranes, and the shell. Soon after an egg is laid, the process starts again.
|*A hen's reproductive system consists of an ovary and oviduct (a long tube with several parts that have different jobs)|
|*Anatomy of an egg.|
A hen must mate with a rooster in order for her egg to contain both the male and female genetic material necessary to create an embryo inside the egg. An infertile egg does not contain the rooster's genetic material, which means a chick can never hatch from that egg. Every egg contains a concentration of cells containing the hen's genetic material on the yolk. These cells are termed the blastodisk and they look like an irregularly shaped, white circle.
When an egg is fertilized by a rooster, the blastodisk becomes known as the blastoderm, which is the first stage of embryo development. The blastodisk contains the genetic material from both the hen and the rooster. The blastoderm is also known as the germinal disc. When incubated under specific temperatures and humidity levels for 21 days, these cells will develop into a chick. The blastoderm is characterized by its bullseye appearance of regular, concentric circles.
EGG IRREGULARITIESDOUBLE YOLKS
Commonly occur in new layers when the yolk release is mistimed and two yolks travel down the oviduct together. Some hens are genetically predisposed to laying double-yolked eggs.
|This double yolked egg was laid by my Easter Egger, Esther.|
Can a double yolk egg hatch? The short answer is: yes, but it happens very rarely. While extraordinarily uncommon, miraculously it can happen, watch twins hatched here!
The following video shows twin embryos inside an eggshell during candling.
|This double yolked egg weighed 90 grams and while I don't know who was responsible for it, I have sympathy for her.|
|Triple yolker. Yikes.|
Tiny eggs containing no yolk are referred to as rooster eggs, wind eggs, dwarf eggs, rooster eggs or fart eggs (I don't make this stuff up, folks.). These eggs are common in new layers when the reproductive system isn’t quite synchronized yet. They can also occur in older layers when a piece of tissue from the reproductive tract breaks free and tricks the hen’s reproductive system into treating the tissue like a yolk, creating an egg out of it. A little piece of tissue is visible in this photo:
|Egg with no yolk, see tissue fragment at 3 o'clock in this picture.|
|Wind egg in comparison to a white egg from my bantam Silver Spangled Hamburg.|
I call soft-shelled eggs rubber eggs because the membrane is soft and pliable. Commonly produced by new layers, caused by stress, an immature shell gland, a nutritional deficiency or a glitch in the uterus, aka: shell gland. To find them occasionally is no cause for concern, to find them regularly can indicate a calcium, phosphorous or vitamin D deficiency. High temperatures can also cause thin-shelled eggs due the hen's decreased ability to store calcium in hot weather.
Easter Egger, Lucy.
This was Lucy's second attempt. I found it in the run. It must have come as a surprise to her. Her eggs normalized after the first two.
ODD SHELL SHAPE or TEXTURE
(Includes too large, too small, flat-sided, 'body-checked' eggs) I affectionately refer to these as 'mutant eggs.' In new layers, an immature shell gland can cause odd shell shape and is most often of no concern. In senior layers, oddly shaped eggs can result from stress or, if they are a regular occurrence, a defective shell gland. Misshapen eggs can also be caused by infectious bronchitis or egg drop syndrome, both of which are cause for concern.
Shells with wrinkles or ‘checks’ in the shell are known as ‘body check’ eggs. These eggs have been damaged while in the shell gland from stress or pressure put upon them. The cracks in these eggs are repaired in the shell gland, resulting in checks or wrinkles.
Rough shelled or Pimpled Eggs
Egg shells can have different textures causes by a range of things from excess calcium intake (pimpled eggs) to double-ovulation, disease, defective shell gland or rapid changes in lighting conditions (sandpaper eggs). As long as these types of eggs are found infrequently, there is no cause for concern.
|Pimples are likely caused by excess calcium intake. You know how delicious those oyster shells can be!|
Eggs of unusually large size ordinarily contain double yolks and the hen's reproductive system accommodates for the anomaly by working overtime to generate these monstrosities. On average, an extra large egg weighs 64 grams and a jumbo egg weighs 71 grams. The two largest eggs I've ever had were 90 and 95 grams.
|This egg weighed 95 grams. The Marans eggs next to it were big eggs compared to the average egg.|
|This is the 95 gram egg next to an average Ameraucana egg.|
This situation occurs when an egg that is almost ready to be laid reverses engines into the reproductive tract, meeting up with another egg-in-progress. It gets another layer of white/albumen and a new layer of shell before being laid. The cause is not known. While the literature characterizes this egg-within-an-egg phenomenon as "rare," my sense is that it is significantly more common than previously believed. Many backyard chicken-keepers report discovering eggs-within-eggs from their hens.
|Both a spot and a blastoderm are visible on this fertile egg.|
As opposed to blood spots, which occur on the surface of an egg yolk, meat spots are found in the egg white (albumen). Meat spots are the result of a small piece of the oviduct sloughing off as egg white is being added in the egg-making process. Meat spots can be removed with the tip of a knife and while visually unappealing, would be safe to eat.
SHELL COLORINGAll egg shells start out as white eggs. Colored eggs have their pigment added to the shell at the end of the shell formation process in the uterus, which is also referred to as the shell gland.
Brown eggshells contain the pigment protoporphyrin, ( a by-product of hemoglobin) which is found only on the surface of the shell. Brown pigment is applied during the formation of the last layer of the egg, the bloom or cuticle. The brown pigment can be rubbed off easily and does not color the inside of the shell.
Blue eggshells are produced by the pigment oocyanin, (a by-product of bile formation). The color is applied early in the shell's formation and penetrates the entire shell. The blue coloring cannot be rubbed off.
White eggshells have no pigment at all.
Uneven shell coloring results from the uneven distribution of pigment as the egg passes through the oviduct. Sometimes an egg is stalled for a time in the uterus, which allows more time for pigment to be applied.
|This egg was laid by my neighbor's hen during a heatwave. The temperatures were over 100 degrees most of the week, which is uncommon where we live. The stress of the heat is the likely cause of this unusual & spectacular coloring.|
|Spots on this brown egg appear purple due to the uneven distribution of brown pigment.|
|This camouflage egg was laid in the heat of the summer by my Easter Egger, Esther, who generally lays an khaki colored egg.|
|This egg was laid by one of my Blue Splash Marans. The colored flecks could be rubbed off very easily.|
|This spotted egg was laid by one of my Easter Eggers.|
|This egg was laid by one of my Olive Eggers.|
The preceding information is provided as a general guideline to understanding some egg irregularities and some of the more common causes of them. It is not intended as an exhaustive review of the subject. If you have some concern that your hen may be ill or if she consistently produces irregular eggs, you should consult an avian vet or perform in-depth research based upon your individual circumstances.
*Anatomical illustrations and photo reproduced for educational purposes, courtesy of Jacquie Jacob, Tony Pescatore and Austin Cantor, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Copyright 2011. Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, M. Scott Smith, Director, Land Grant Programs, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Lexington,and Kentucky State University, Frankfort. Copyright 2011 for materials developed by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. This publication may be reproduced in portions or its entirety for educational and nonprofit purposes only. Permitted users shall give credit to the author(s) and include this copyright notice. Publications are also available on the World Wide Web at www.ca.uky.edu. Issued 02-2011