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Ex-battery hens laying soft eggs – why & what you can do

Most ex-battery (caged) hens are released from commercial farms when they are around 18 months old and when they’re starting or about to start moulting. At this point, they can become less productive layers and it’s not financially viable for the farm to keep them.

When ex-battery hens go out for re-homing there’s a chance they may never lay eggs again, however many do carry on laying fairly productively for some time.

It’s not uncommon for ex-battery hens to lay a soft egg or an egg with a very thin and brittle shell. This is usually due to the fact the hens are getting older and their bodies are beginning to change, but in some cases, it could be due to the fact the chickens are run-down or have a nutrient deficiency.

Read on to find out more about what you can do to help your hens if they’re laying a soft egg and how to improve their general health using supplements and by feeding them nutrient-rich foods.


What does it mean when a chicken lay soft eggs?

When a chicken ovulates the yolk is formed first followed by the membrane (or egg white) and the final stage is the formation of the hard outer eggshell.

A soft shelled egg can appear in various forms, including:

  • A jelly-like egg with no shell at all.
  • A very soft shell which makes a dent in the egg if you press it.
  • A thinner than normal yet firm shell which will easily break if knocked.

The main reasons that chickens lay a soft egg is because they’re either young and their egg production system is still new to laying or that the bird is older and reaching the end of their egg-laying cycle. Another reason for thin or completely missing eggshells is a calcium deficiency.

Throughout their time on a commercial farm caged hens are fed on a layers feed which is high in calcium to ensure their eggs have hard and tough eggshells which cannot be easily broken.

When you first re-home ex-battery hens it’s unlikely they’ll have a calcium deficiency because they’ve been fed on layers feed, so a soft eggshell is more likely to be a sign that the chicken is run down due to moulting or coming to the end of their laying cycle.

It’s also very common that an ex-battery hen will stop laying while they go through the moulting process and will start laying again once they’ve regrown feathers and their bodies can go back to focussing on egg-laying again.

Image of eggs and broken egg shells

How to make eggshells stronger

If you have an ex-battery hen who is laying eggs with thin or soft eggshell, then there are some things you can do to make the shells stronger, these include:

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article was first published on November 18, 2020..

  • Keep the hens on layers feed so they continue to get a constant source of calcium.
  • If you don’t want to feed your hens layers feed then provide oyster shell to make sure they continue to get calcium in their diet.
  • Give your rescue hens a daily dose of Verm-X Poultry Zest which restores the health of moulting hens.

We had an issue with one of our hens laying thin to soft-shelled eggs and we added Poultry Zest to their normal layer pellets along with a daily tin of sardines and we quickly saw a marked improvement in the hen and her eggs.

Whole tinned sardines are really good for chickens who are run down and moulting because they’re high in calcium, healthy oils and many other nutrients – chickens love them too.

As well as improving egg quality you will also be helping to maintain bone strength which can be another issue with ex-cage hens along with general health and well-being.


Why are thin eggshells a problem?

When a chicken is laying soft-shelled eggs they can actually become unwell at the same time. A chicken who is struggling to lay properly can stop eating and become withdrawn and inactive.

If you notice these things in conjunction with a soft shell, try giving them a calcium boost using the tips above, however, if you become concerned about your hen seek advice from a vet as soon as possible.

A thin eggshell can also lead to the egg breaking in the nest which might be eaten by the chickens. Once a chicken/or chickens develop an egg-eating habit, this can become an on-going problem, find out more about this topic in the link below:

Chickens eating eggs – why they do it and how to stop it

A thin-shelled egg is also a nightmare to cook with, they either break in your hand when you try to crack them or they pop in the pan if you’re making boiled eggs.


Related articles

I hope this post has helped you to find out more about what to do if your ex-battery hens are laying soft shell eggs, you might also find the following article helpful:

Ex battery hens not growing feathers – what to do

Complete guide to keeping and caring for ex battery hens

Verm-X for chickens – how and when to use it

How do you know when a chicken is happy?

How to introduce chickens without the drama


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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 18, 2020..

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