Weird Eggs 101: The Oddities Explained

If you’ve owned chickens for any amount of time, chances are you’ve learned that {generally speaking} no two eggs are the same. They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and sometimes you experience the weird. Sometimes these odd balls can be frightening. Other times exciting. And you’ve probably at some point been left wondering What in the world is this?!” 

Today I would like to shed some light on the good, the bad, the ugly, and the plain old weird, and hopefully clear up some of the mystery behind these out-of-the-ordinary occurrences.

 



Body-Checked Eggs
Ripples, grooves, ridges, etc. are all known as “checks” in body-checked eggs having a corrugated appearance. Sometimes you will only see rippling on the end of the egg {most typically the pointy end}. These “checks” are the product of an egg that was damaged and then repaired in the shell gland pouch. Such damage can be caused by stress, inconsistent lighting, over-crowding, and age {more commonly seen in older hens}.

Photos used by permission.

Mended Eggs
Eggs like the one seen in the picture below have suffered damage during calcification {typically due to stress}, but were repaired prior to lay.

Photo used by permission from David Winter.

Shell-Less Eggs
Eggs that have no shell or simply a membrane encasing the yolk is typically the result of a new layer, especially if that new layer was quick to mature or reach her point of lay. If that is the case, her immature shell gland could be the culprit {and eventually, once mature, this will no longer be an issue}. A defective shell gland is obvious in hens who consistently lay these sorts of eggs. Additional reasons for shell-less eggs include: stress, poor nutrition, molt, disease, or EDS (Egg Drop Syndrome).

 Photo used by permission.

Soft-Shelled Eggs
These eggs, unlike the shell-less eggs, in fact have a shell but it is soft and as a result usually misshapen {or extremely vulnerable to being misshapen}. Only a thin layer of calcium has been deposited onto the membrane, which gives it its appearance of having a shell while lacking a sturdy structure.Contributing factors to this condition include: exposure to high heat/humidity {temps higher than 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit}, parasites, toxins, internal worms, excessive phosphorous consumption, EDS, general stress, molting, or age {older hens}.

Photo used by permission from BYC forum member.

Soft-Shelled Eggs Accompanied by a Growth
All of the factors explained in soft-shelled eggs apply here, but in this case the addition of a tail-like growth is likely caused by a hen trying to pass her soft-shelled egg and, in the process, the end portion of the egg got stuck and remained inside of the vent until the entire product had was able to harden and eventually be completely passed.

Photo used by permission from Trina Maxson.

Flat-Sided Eggs
Also known as “slab-sided”, these eggs have a flattened side that appears to be repaired with a wrinkled edging to it. These are most commonly laid by young pullets immature in their laying career and tend to be the result of an egg that was held over an extra day in the shell gland. These eggs would be the second egg to enter the shell gland pouch {where the egg shell is formed and pigmented} and the flattened side is where it came into contact with the first egg. Additional causes include: inconsistent/incorrect lighting, stress, disease, or crowding.

Used by permission from Crystal Rolfe.

Pimpled Eggs
Small clusters of calcified material can vary in texture, size, and distribution. Sometimes they look like groups of tiny little beads and other times they appear to be large, individual moles. These are the result of either age, poor nutrition, and even breed. Reducing calcium intake during the winter months has been suggested for prevention of pimpled eggs.

 

Misshapen Eggs
These eggs are those that don’t fit the standard shape of an egg, including elgontated, perfectly round, extra pointy, or other shape faults. Most common amongst early layers and late layers. Contributing factors include: stress, disease, and crowding.

 Left: standard egg; Right: symmetrical oblong egg

White or Brown Speckled Eggs
There are two different types of eggs with white speckling: smooth speckles and rough. Those with a smooth surface containing small white speckles are where calcium deposits are formed beneath the bloom. Those with textured or rough {and typically larger} speckling on the shell are calcium deposits that have occurred on the outside of the egg. Brown speckling is similar, except the speckling has been pigmented brown. Causes include too much calcium in the diet or poor nutrition in general, stress or disturbance during the calcification process within the shell gland, or even a faulty shell gland.

Unevenly Colored Eggs

Eggs like these are simply the result of being unevenly pigmented while in the shell gland pouch.

Both photos used by permission; top photo from Joanne at the BYC forum.

Egg Within an Egg
Known as “counter-peristalsis contraction”, this is where a completely formed egg {shell and all} is found within another {larger} completely formed egg. This uncommon event is the product of an early release of a new yolk while an existing egg is still in the formation process and has not yet been laid. When this happens, it causes a contraction which pushes the first egg back up the oviduct to greet the prematurely released yolk and they travel back down together, to be wrapped in albumin, membranes, and finally a shell that completely encloses them both.

Photo used by permission from Karolyn at BYC; photo from her daughter Madi Gannon’s 7 month old Marans pullet.

Small Eggs
Known by different names such as “dwarf eggs”, “wind eggs”, and “fart eggs”, these tiny and often yolk-less eggs are generally resultant of a new layer with an immature reproductive system -or- {in an older hen} the product of a situation where a piece of reproductive tract has been sloughed off and then treated like an egg, thus prompting it to be encased within albumin, membranes, and shell {giving it the exact appearance of an egg, just much smaller and generally without yolk}.

 

Large/Multiple Yolk Eggs
These are the type of eggs that tend to make you cringe to look at. Double, triple {or bigger} in size than the average egg, these unusually large eggs sometimes containing multiple yolks is the result of rapid ovulation or when yolks accidentally become joined. Most commonly seen in new layers who have not yet reached maturity. Once their reproductive cycles have synchronized, this anomaly is less common.

 

Lash Eggs
Likely the least understood and unusual of all egg oddities, lash eggs can be a bit frightening to happen upon. Their unappealing fleshy, meaty appearance could inspire dreadful worry in the unsuspecting egg collector. Interestingly enough, these shell-less formations aren’t even eggs at all, though some might appear to be. Instead, it is believed that they are the product of lining that has been disbanded by the reproductive tract.
Lash eggs can vary in size and color but are typically pale and smaller than your standard egg. They might also be accompanied by an unpleasant odor.  It is almost certain that lash eggs are the product of a hormonal change within the hen, whether it be stress-induced or related to illness or infection. It may possibly signal that this particular hen is approaching the end of her laying career {while some hens will continue to lay lash eggs on a frequent basis}. It can also happen to a hen returning to laying following broodiness or another event {particularly a stressful one} that prompted her halt in production. No matter the cause, the term “lash” typically applies to any unusual product that has been passed by the reproductive tract of a hen.

A lash egg produced by one of my Black Star (Black Sex Link) hens; lash eggs seem to be more common amongst sex links and hybrids.

Sources:
http://www.alltech.com/sites/default/files/alltech-egg-shell-quality-poster.pdf
http://www.avianweb.com/eggproblems.html#texture
http://www.browneggblueegg.com/Article/WeirdEggs_PeterBrown/WeirdEggs_PeterBrown.html

For further reading about eggs, visit this popular post!

http://yellowbirchhobbyfarm.com/?p=37
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About yellowbirchhobbyfarm

Hi! I'm Erin, a 19th-century homesteader at heart. Here at Yellow Birch Hobby Farm we practice self-sustainable living by way of organic gardening, canning & preserving, raising a variety of livestock, hunting, foraging, and cooking from scratch. And here at our blog, we share it all with you! So glad you've found us.

22 comments on “Weird Eggs 101: The Oddities Explained

  1. Woah, those are some weird eggs! Holy moly. I haven’t seen some of these thank goodness, but I have seen the calcium deposits, misshapen eggs, and shell-less eggs before. I hope I never get any of the more strange looking ones because I might freak out haha!

  2. Over the last 8 years, I’ve seen many of these oddities. Thankfully, not very often. I was fine with all the photos until I got to the lash. That would give me great pause and gagging if I came across it. Thank you for all of the great info, as always.

    • Oh, trust me- when I found that lash egg, it was tossed into the snowbank rather quickly. It was only a little bit after that I thought “Hmm…I need to know what this is” and so I picked it up and it was that egg that inspired this research. I figured it might help someone in the future from completely freaking out like I did ;).

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Very interesting post!! I had an older hen that would lay the body checked eggs and I have seen a few pimpled eggs but I agree with Christine, I hope to never see a lash egg!

    • In thirty years of raising chickens, this was my first experience with a lash egg. So they’re pretty uncommon…hopefully you can avoid them. Pretty disgusting things they are!

      Thanks for visiting!

      Erin

  4. We got an egg-within-an-egg before. It was insane! I was sure our hen wouldn’t make it. She was having a terrible time laying it. We have another hen that has pimpled eggs every time she kicks back into laying after a time. She’s an old girl, so we don’t give her too much grief about it. 😉

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  5. i just found your blog through a bit of searching. I don’t have chickens yet, but plan on it soon, once we make our move from city to country. one question regarding the ‘weird’ eggs, can they (some of them) still be eaten? or do all deformities need to be tossed?

    • Hi, Jill! So glad you came over for a visit! 🙂

      Good news is, you can eat most of these no problem. Most are just physical oddities of the shell. The only ones I would not eat are: the lash egg (pretty obvious there, haha!), or the no shell/soft shell eggs. The reason for not eating those without a complete shell is the shell has a cuticle or “bloom” which is a coating that protects the egg shell and its thousands of tiny pores from allowing bacteria into the egg. Without a complete shell and bloom, bacteria can easily get in. So just throw those. But eat the rest 🙂

      Good luck on your move and future chicken keeping! Such a joy 🙂

      Erin

  6. Thanks for this post. I’ve experienced every egg oddity except the lash egg and the egg within an egg. This has been very interesting. I noticed many of these eggs last season and we had, stress (fox attacks), overcrowding and old hens, so there it is.

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