Friday, June 8, 2012

Egg Drops or The Soft Shell

Soft egg next to garden
Chicken keeping  -  So lately we've been running into an interesting situation with the egg production from our two hens.  We'll go for several days with an egg from each per day, then one day we'll just get one egg.  Later I would be walking around the yard, or the garden and find a soft egg deposited somewhere.

One day, several weeks ago, Sheri called me up and said Beulah was acting rather strange (I was not home at the time).  She said the hen was not making her normal clucking sounds, and was just sort of standing there.  Then she went into the run and just stood in front of the ladder not making any attempt to jump up and go into the coop.

I dug into it a little, and learned that a chicken can act like that if she is egg-bound.  So, I said to Sheri that she needs to take the hen into the house, and draw up a bath of warm water.  Then she needs to massage the vent area with the water to try and loosen up the egg.  Needless to say, Sheri was rather worried - especially since we lost Nellie back in November.  I'm now rather certain that it's because she, too, was egg-bound at the time, and died trying to get it out.  It's a sad feeling knowing that we could have done something had we known a bit more.

Next, I read that in a situation such as this the bird needs to get some electrolytes as soon as possible.  I could not think of anything we had around the house that had electrolytes, so I told her she had to go to the store and pick up some Pedialyte.  The store is just a few blocks away, and she hurried out to get some.  In the meantime she barricaded the bathroom (mostly so the cats wouldn't go in snooping around, and left Beulah in the warm tub.  When she returned she found egg parts in the tub.  The warm water apparently worked, and she passed the egg.

Soft egg dropped in the coop (under the roosting bars - viewed from above)
Soft shelled egg under
roosting bars (view from
Sheri worked to get some of the Pedialyte down her beak, but it wasn't going well.  She said the hen started to sound her normal self, so the crisis was over.  Afterwards we found out that we actually DID have something we use every day that has electrolytes in it.  It's called Fortune Delight, a wonderful organic, herbal drink by Sunrider International.  We're Independent Business Owners (franchisees, if you will) of this company.

So, the issue with the soft eggs being dropped regularly around the yard is still plaguing us.  I decided to do some checking into the feed.  We've been feeding our chickens organic, non-soy layer mash from CFS Specialties, Inc.  Up until now it's been great.

Close up of a soft shelled egg
One of the things I discovered is that soft eggs sometimes come from the chicken experiencing sudden shock, but most of the time a cause cannot be found.  From Omlet's Wiki: "It is quite common for a hen to very occasionally lay a thin-shelled or soft-shelled egg. A few hens do this for a short while and a very few may do this for several weeks.

This is extremely unlikely to indicate a problem with a hen. The one-off dodgy egg is just a blip in the egg production system, possibly caused by a shock, but usually no cause can be found."

Another possible cause of the soft shell egg is not getting enough calcium in the hen's diet.  Now, the CFS Specialties layer mash is supposed to have all nutrients and food needs for a hen to be a good layer.  But, the feed is old, so I took some saved egg shells, pulverized them and added them to the feed.  It didn't seem to be making a lot of difference.

Then, through more investigation, I found out that the nutrients in the feed begin to break down after about three months.  Well, since we had purchased this fee back in July last year, this could be the biggest culprit.  It's nearly a year old!

I am picking up some fresh organic, non-soy layer mash from Nature's Grown Organics via JR's Farm and Garden of Crystal Falls, MI.  Hopefully we'll know within the next week if that changes things.  Keep your fingers crossed.

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