Marg or anyone else -- egg advice!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by gcvmom, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    The second brown hen was acting funny yesterday -- I thought maybe she was sick -- just laying down a lot and very passive. Felt warm and was flushed (like the hens usually are when they're about to lay), but she wasn't panting like they normally do as they're about to lay. I picked her up and she just closed her eyes and went to sleep. Very untypical behavior.

    So this morning I went to check on her status and she was up and about, seemed fine. And then I saw a broken egg below the spot where she perches. She must have passed it while she was roosting. The odd thing, though, is that the shell was soft and rubbery. So maybe that's why she felt poorly all day.

    I know that sometimes a first egg can be misshapen... has this ever happed with your birds? I'm just hoping it's not a chronic problem.

    Their diet should not be the issue. They all eat the same things and the other hen that's laying has no problems with her eggs.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Is she getting any calcium in her diet? You can crush up the old egg shells and feed them back to the hens...or even better you should give them laying mash. We did both....we threw out the old egg shells plus the laying mash when we had laying hens.
  3. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    It's been years since I had chickens but I do know that once in awhile we would get an egg like that. My grandmother bought what was called crushed oyster shell (don't know if it was really that or just called that) to feed them to harden the shells.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Janet, they get lay crumbles or lay pellets, plus various and sundry grains, greens, bugs and grit from the yard. The other hen is laying perfectly normal eggs.

    MM I'll check the feed store about the oyster shell. I s'pose I could grind up old egg shells like Janet said and feed them back to them! Not sure the best way to grind them, though... blender maybe? NOT going to use my coffee grinder! :p
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There can be a problem with a bird's calcium metabolism also. We had one hen that would lay doube-yolkers (once laid a triple yolker) but also laid very thin-shelled eggs and in later years we would find broken eggs or eggs with just the membrane and no shell. THis was despite us feeding dried and crushed eggshell back to the hens.

    It's a good habit to get into, to dry your eggshells and feed them back to the hens.

    What we do, is we have a small metal tray which we keep in the oven. When we use an egg, we put the shell on the oven tray. When the oven is in use we remove the tray but when we turn the oven OFF, we put the tray in the oven and residual heat dries the shells well. If you try to crush the shells before drying them out, they will form a gluey mess because egg-white takes a while to dry out and is like glue if it's at all moist.

    We put the crushed shells into either the food hopper, or spread over the deep litter of the chookhouse floor. Our chooks have an earth floor covered with plastic netting (allows earthworms through but not digging foxes). We have four courses of loose-laid bricks and sitting on top of the brick wall is a timer frame wrapped in chicken wire. The cavity inside the brick wall is filled with straw or grass clippings, all vegetable scraps go here. We keep it as dry as possible, and it doesn't smell if it's left dry. It also keeps the chooks warm in winter. We have a fibreglass sheet roof over it all.

    So if we choose to toss ground eggshells into the chookhouse on the floor, the chooks eat what they get to and anything else adds to the compost and helps 'sweeten' the soil, like adding garden lime. To get access to the best stuff for the garden, we can either dig it out from the top, or occasionally when the brick wall begins to collapse we knock out a few bricks, dig out from there (reduces the pressure, anyway) then re-build the brick wall hole to fill it back in until next time.

    Back to the eggs and shells - yes, chooks do well if you give them extra calcium. Depending on what you're feeding them, they should be getting enough calcium in their diet but a bit more never hurtsd. Crushed oyster shell would be the same composition chemically - calcium carbonate. But why go out and get oyster shell if your chooks are providing you with their own calcium carbonate?

    A normal egg is surrounded first by a thin leathery membrane (it is a semi-permeable membrane, like onion skin is) and then a layer of calcium carbonate is laid down over the top. If a chook has a faulty shell gland then they may not lay down the calcium carbonate layer, and you get this odd thing that feels like it's been wrapped in tough paper. The egg inside is perfectly usable as with any other egg, but they don't keep well because it is far more permeable and will go off much sooner (assuming you could leave it that long). Don't try to boil it, but you could open it and poach or fry it. Or use it in any other conventional way. My dad used to feed those ones to the dogs, because it saved him the trouble of carrying them up to the house and then having to find a way to store them safely without them getting so easily broken.

    If the other hens are laying eggs with good, firm shells, then you could hae a hen with a problem. Keep an eye on what she lays, keep feeding shells back to them but if you're not getting anything useful from her, you may need to "reconsider her role in the flock" - a euphemism for Sunday chicken roast.

    Or do what we did - keep her on as a pet. Not sound farming practice, but it keeps the kids happy.

  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    To grind shells - once they're dry, they crush really easily. I happen to have an old mortar and pestle, but the mortar got broken so now I use a plastic bucket. You could use anything to crush them - any glass bottle that would fit inside the plastic container you're putting the shells in, would do it well enough. Crushing shells is something we only do when the container is getting a bit too full, but it is very satisfying.

    YOu juststick something solid and heavy into the container of shells, and go crunch. Over and over, until the bits are like grit.

    But it does sound to me like you have a chook who has a problem just of her own. She may recover, or she may not. Time will tell but meantime, if you can quickly collect anything she lays, you need to prevent the chooks discovering how tasy eggs are or they will learn to break perfectly good eggs and you won't get any.

  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thanks Marg. She's only laid the one and she was roosting when it happened (I think) because it was broken on the floor under her perch. No egg from her so far today. I'm hoping it was just a firt-egg glitch and that her body figures out what to do with subsequent eggs.

    We all had a good chuckle at the one good-layer. Her egg today was more than double the size of her first egg which came last week! Probably qualifies as a large or extra-large. :)
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The first eggs are usually misshapen and/or smaller, often a lot smaller. A pullet egg often contains little or no yolk. So if your young hen is laying large eggs, they are not likely to get smaller later on. Only larger.

    If you're dealing with eggs of a very different size to the ones you usually use in recipes, I get around it by weighing the ehole eggs. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 x 60g eggs, that's 120g of egg I need. My bantams migh have laid eggs from 40g to 50g, so I would move eggs around on the scales until I had 120g of egg. It could be made up of 3 x 40g eggs, or 1 x 50g and 2 x 35g. If I went a bit over or a bit under, I had to change my expectations accordingly, as to how the recpe would turn out. A custard or mousse, for example, would be a bit firmer with more egg.

    Whan baking bread in my bread machine, I add an egg to boost the protein, but I add it with the liquid. I need 370 ml of liquid, which of course weighs 370 g (1 ml weighs 1 g) so I put the bread pan on my scales, break in the egg then top the liquid up until the scales read 370 g. That way the size of my egg doesn't matter, I automatically adjust.

    Hope that helps.

  9. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Oh wow. Measuring eggs. With a food scale? Waaay too complex for me! :p I'm a total "eyeballer" when it comes to stuff like that. Maybe that's why I don't bake much. Requires too much precision in measuring. Too much like chemistry -- which I BOMBED. Along with Algebra. (Biology and geometry were much easier for me. I'm not a very linear thinker...)

    If the egg looks too ginormous, I'll just scramble or fry it! :D HA!
  10. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Wait till you get that first double yoke egg and the kids go

    Chicken is fine...just go buy a bag of oyster shells to feed the lil varmints. How many fine feathered friends do you have? We used to get about 20 from the 4 H people...10 for each of the younger two boys who raised them. I cant tell you how many eggs we ended up having to give Even with 4 of us eating them constantly, there were just too many eggs! When they get going with the laying...its like one egg a day or one egg every other day.
  11. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Wow, 20 chickens! No, we live in suburbia and probably aren't even supposed to have more than one or two... but we have four. I figure we'll give them (the eggs) away to neighbors if there get to be too many. Or I'll start baking again (yikes!)...

    If we lived on a bigger lot, I'd love to have more animals. I think animal husbandry would suit me just fine -- my husband's an animal, so I figure I'm a natural. (snarf! :laugh:)
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Anyone wanting recipes using eggs, just let me know. I can heartily recommend gnocchi, or home-made pasta using just plain (all-purpose) flour and egg. And maybe a bit of salt. Nothing else. You add flour until the ball of dough is not sticky. Roll it out, adding more flour as you need to, to 'mop up' the stickiness. then roll it out really thinly, cut it, throw it into boiling water and it cooks really fast, within a couple of minutes. Home-made pasta is really good for a hungry, growing family. It's one of my gourmet poverty food recipes. So is gnocchi.

    As for measuring eggs - easy peasy, with good digital kitchen scales. I just put a bowl on the scales, press "tare" which zeroes whatever is on the scales, then put in eggs swapping back and forth until I get the readout I want.

    As for animal husbandry, my husband studied it at school, used to practice animal husbandry a lot, until they caught him at it.

    (just kidding)