If you have a chicken laying soft eggs at night there are a few possible causes. The most common cause of soft eggs is a lack of calcium in a hen’s diet. Although, it may also be due to environmental or other stress, or an underlying illness.
In this article, I'm going to cover some of the reasons why hens lay soft-shelled eggs, as well as how you can resolve this issue and turn those soft eggs into strong, healthy, tasty eggs!
What Does It Mean When My Chicken Lays a Soft Egg?
If you’re finding soft eggs, there is a reason why - you just need to find out what it is. Here are the most common causes of soft eggs:
If your pullets or point-of-lay hens have just started laying, they may be laying soft-shelled eggs simply because their reproductive system has not matured fully.
It's normal for hens to lay 'pullet' eggs when they first start laying. These are smaller than regular eggs and are often slightly deformed.
They might have soft or rippled shells, and can look very different from what you expect!
If you have a large flock of varying ages with pullets that may have just started laying eggs, I’d point the finger at those hens being the ones responsible for those soft eggs.
The most common cause of soft eggs in mature hens that have previously laid healthy eggs is a lack of calcium in their diet or a calcium deficiency.
Laying hens need to consume around 4 grams of calcium every day to lay an egg with a strong shell. Eggshells require about 2 grams of calcium, and the rest is used by a hen's body.
If you're feeding your hens a layer feed, this feed has been specially formulated to provide enough calcium and the other key nutrients to ensure they are able to produce healthy eggs.
Some hens still need more calcium in their diets, however. You can provide calcium in the form of commercial supplements, or crush up egg or oyster shells and feed these to your hens.
It’s also a good idea to try and keep an eye on how much your hens are eating. If they’re not eating enough feed, then they’re not getting enough calcium and there might be another reason for this.
Related - Calcium deficiency can also cause chickens to lay liquid eggs.
Various Stress Factors
Stress has a similar effect on chickens as it does on us. When chickens are stressed, their adrenal glands release a hormone and they enter a ‘fight or flight’ mode.
This takes a heavy toll on the body and can cause a number of health issues - one of which is laying soft or deformed eggs.
The main causes of stress for chickens are:
Cramped conditions - Chickens need plenty of space. If they’re cramped, they will peck at each other, fight, and be stressed.
Risk of predators - Chickens are pretty defenseless in terms of how they can fight off predators and are preyed upon by a lot of animals.
If they see foxes, coyotes, badgers, weasels, raccoons, or any other animals that can cause them harm, you can’t fault them for feeling stressed.
Rooster problems - It’s helpful to have a rooster in a flock with hens (if he’s well behaved). But roosters can be aggressive and terrorize hens at times.
It’s important you pay attention to any signs of stress within your flock and do something about it the moment you spot them.
This can be abnormal feathering, lethargic behavior, damage to combs from pecking, laying down a lot, and irregular laying.
It’s always possible that a hen laying a soft egg is sick. This can be due to a number of possible illnesses, but there is no point speculating here as to what that might be.
The only way to find out if your chicken is ill - aside from obvious physical symptoms - is to take your chicken to an avian vet for a check-up.
Related - Read more about the reasons why chickens lay soft-shelled eggs here.
Why Is My Chicken Laying Eggs Overnight?
This actually comes as a surprise to most new chicken owners, but chickens don't typically lay eggs overnight - they sleep (or roost as it's called).
Most chickens will lay eggs in the morning, which is why you might find fresh eggs in their boxes when you first enter their coop.
There is no set time as to when a hen will lay an egg though, so you should check for eggs more than once a day.
If you’re finding soft eggs that have been laid overnight, this is another complication to what is going on with your hen.
It may mean she is being bothered by mites as she is trying to sleep. Or, simply that there is something wrong with her reproduction system and she has to produce an egg overnight.
Check your hens all have space on the roosting bar and that red mites aren’t coming out at night. This issue should also stop once you get to the bottom of why your hen is laying soft eggs.
How Do I Stop My Chickens From Laying Soft Shelled Eggs?
I know how distressing it can feel knowing one or more of your hens are laying soft eggs. Try not to stress though, you just need to get to the bottom of why.
The first thing you should do is make sure your hens are eating a good layer feed with the appropriate amount of calcium.
There is no harm in increasing their calcium, too. Chickens are very good at eating what they need, and not overeating.
Despite looking like all they do all day is eat!
You should also go through the other possible reasons listed above. If the problem persists, you should speak with a vet.
There might be a health issue, and there is always the risk that illness and bacteria will spread among a flock.
Are Soft Shelled Eggs Ok to Eat?
Soft-shell eggs are not ok to eat, no.
Healthy eggshells keep bacteria out of the egg. When a hen produces a healthy egg, it's covered with a protective coating called a 'bloom'.
This is why you shouldn't wash your hen's eggs when you collect them. Washing them will remove the protective coating, you should just give them a dry wipe to remove any dirt.
If you’re finding eggs with compromised shells, personally I would not eat them.
I covered all of the common causes for chicken laying soft eggs at night so I hope you now have a much better understanding of why one or more of your hens may be laying soft eggs.
Obviously, it's always hard to diagnose the exact cause or Reason without seeing your hens. If the problem persists, don't stall calling a vet for professional advice.
Image credits - Photo by Tom Ungerer on Unsplash