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Help! Chicken Laid Egg Without Shell – 5 Reasons

So your chicken laid an egg with no shell. f you thought an egg without a shell looks like the one you crack into a frying pan, you’d be right…and also wrong! Unbeknown to most non-chicken owners, hens occasionally produce extraordinary, perfectly formed eggs that lack one defining characteristic – an outer shell.

The unfamiliar, rubbery-looking, translucent shell-less egg quickly becomes a show-and-tell item in most families. While this can occasionally be a once-off occurrence which is a curiosity item from the coop, finding more than one or two over a short period warrants further investigation as it could signal a problem.

So what does it mean when a chicken lays an egg without a shell? Let’s investigate

chicken laid egg without shell

Why Do Chickens Lay Eggs With No Shells?

When chickens lay eggs without a shell most people immediately assume that shell-less eggs are caused by a calcium deficiency. We all know how essential it is to provide laying hens with sufficient calcium to produce hard shells.

While lack of calcium is one possible cause, it turns out there are quite a few other reasons your chicken laid an egg without a shell. The occasional membrane-covered, shell-less egg in your coop can be pretty normal in some conditions.

If only one hen in your flock produces an occasional shell-less egg, it indicates that the cause is related to that individual. If more than one chicken is laying soft-shelled eggs, it may be a diet, environmental or disease-related issue.

Let’s go through five possible reasons why a chicken sometimes produces an egg without a shell.

1. chicken laid egg without shell: Age Of The Hen

Young hens and granny hens are at different ends of their egg production cycles. Pullets coming into lay may produce a few practice eggs (first egg) before their bodies get into the swing of things, which may include a couple of shell-less eggs. You may even find a perfectly formed cute teeny-tiny fairy egg as they perfect its laying rhythm!

On the flip side of youth, hens nearing the end of their laying cycle may also start producing egg anomalies like shell-less eggs. The natural decline in egg production and quality is why commercial hens are usually only kept in production for a maximum of 80 weeks before they are referred to as ‘spent’ hens.

In a backyard situation, older, well cared for hens can continue to enjoy their lives and will lay, albeit less frequently, if they are provided with a balanced diet. It is a good idea to ensure that your older girls have access to extra oyster shell.

2. chicken laying egg with no shell: Environmental Factors

An egg takes approximately 20 hours from start to finish to produce, so any stress or disturbances that occur during that time can result in weird and wonderful oddities in your laying boxes. Most poultry owners know that chickens can be total drama queens!

A hen that is disturbed may leap out of its box and prematurely lay an egg before it is ready to be expelled. However, other stressors like having predators prowling around the coop at night or being low on the pecking order can also result in chicken egg quality issues.

3. You Need a Balanced Diet To stop soft shell on chicken eggs

Laying hens need enough nutrients to support their bodies and produce perfect eggs. If they are not getting enough of what they need, one of these two things will suffer.

Even though you may love sharing your table scraps or homemade feed mixes with your flock, layer feed quality is essential to ensure that chickens receive enough of all the elements they need. Balanced laying feeds are formulated to contain enough calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and Vitamin D3 that hens require. That does not mean you need to deprive your chickens of their treat bucket from the kitchen, and you must always supplement their feed with plenty of fresh greens, but their staple diet must be a boring old balanced laying mix.

Providing additional freely available oyster shells in the form of grit, especially for your older hens, is also beneficial. Another cost-saving tip to provide extra calcium to your chicken food is to save the eggshells from your kitchen eggs. Once you have a stockpile, toast them on a baking tray in the oven until they are brittle and crisp, then roll them into a mash with a rolling pin. Voila, you will have a calcium-rich mash to add to your hen’s feed.

This method must never be used exclusively as a calcium source because if the hens were calcium deficient to begin with, their egg shells wouldn’t have been great quality. Note: Never feed your chickens egg products that still resemble eggs, as it can encourage undesirable egg-eating behavior.

4. Heat Stress

Chickens do not enjoy being hot. They become stressed and unhappy, and that can result in eggs being produced without shells. Research has shown that hens exposed to temperatures above 85F are more likely to produce shell-less or thin-shelled eggs than in cooler weather.

Of course, you can’t control the weather, but providing plenty of shade, cool water, and even some cooling snacks like watermelon and cucumbers can help to keep your feathered friends more comfortable. Also, check that there is enough ventilation in the laying boxes inside the coop on hot days. Shade, water, and snacks must be distributed so that even low-ranking chickens in your coop can get a share of the summer treats.

5. Disease

If the weather isn’t too hot, your hens are receiving balanced nutrition, and you have more than one hen producing shell-less eggs, it is time to consider avian diseases as a possible cause. This can be tricky to diagnose as several conditions may result in thin-shelled or entirely shell-less eggs.

Some of the possible culprits may be:

·     Egg drop syndrome ’76 – This viral condition is slightly more challenging to spot because, unlike most of the diseases listed, it is characterized by a notable absence of visible illness. So affected chickens can appear totally healthy but lay thin-shelled, pale, or shell-less eggs. This is caused by the shell gland being affected which causes a defective shell gland.

·     Avian influenza – This is a serious viral infection with a high mortality rate. One of the symptoms is a drop in egg production, with quality being affected during the gradual progression of the disease.

·     Infectious bronchitis – This disease is fairly easy to spot as chickens will display respiratory distress. Infectious bronchitis is the avian equivalent of coronavirus – but don’t worry, it only affects birds! As the name implies, the virus is extremely contagious, so immediately isolate any birds you suspect may have this infectious condition.

·     Newcastle disease (NDV) – If you own chickens, you have probably heard of Newcastle disease virus (NDV). It can be confused with Infectious bronchitis as affected chickens display respiratory issues but may also have other symptoms like diarrhea and depression. Vaccines to prevent NDV are available.

Can You Eat An Egg With No Shell?

Many shell-less eggs look absolutely perfect inside, so you may be wondering if it is safe to eat. The answer is yes and no, but more no than yes. You will be able to see the yolk and albumin all floating about inside the thin translucent rubbery coating. The actual egg itself is perfectly edible.

The yes of the answer is that there is nothing inherently wrong with shell-less eggs in terms of nutritional value. The hiccup comes because there was no outer protective shell coating on the egg to protect it from bacteria and nasties that could have contaminated it. It is a better idea to scramble the shell-less egg and feed it to the chickens as a treat rather than eating it yourself.

Soft Shell Eggs or Shell-less eggs? How to tell the difference

Below is a comparison of the two. Soft shells will still have the egg look and be firmer to the touch whereas shell-less eggs are white and transparent as they are just covered with the membrane.


A transparent egg in your chicken coop may be completely normal, or it can be a symptom of a more serious condition like an inadequate diet or disease. If my chicken laid an egg without a shell I would take note of the frequency of shell-less eggs being laid; if it is recurrent over a short period, possible causes must be investigated and addressed. 

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