Hen Health Q&A, June 1, 2022

We get occasional hen health questions like this:


I’m hoping you can provide a little advice. One of our six three-year-old chickens has been laying eggs that are so soft they break immediately, sometimes the shell is just a shriveled-up little blob, and once or twice I didn’t see any shell at all, just an egg. At any rate, it’s a mess we have to clean up.  We do know which one it is, and she seems fine otherwise. I’ve read stuff online about soft shells and calcium, etc., but nothing specifically like this. They get oyster shells and ground-up eggshells, and none of the others seem to be having any problems. Is there anything we can do specifically to treat her?


Glad to hear the others are ok!  There could be several things going on, such as an infection of the shell gland and oviduct (salpingitis), or a failure of this bird to absorb or metabolize calcium (could be congenital, or due to lack of light, failure to get to the feeder {bullying?} or other abnormality), or sometimes can be a manifestation of Infectious Bronchitis or of an adenovirus (Egg Drop Syndrome).

Please review your nest box hygiene and management, just in case it’s salpingitis. If you decide to euthanize the bird, we can do a necropsy for you to try to figure out what went wrong.  To learn how to submit samples and to learn more about the lab, please visit University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory website.

Also, don’t forget we are still concerned about avian flu: keep your flock separated from wild birds! Please keep your flock inside until later in the summer, and please use special care to keep your birds biosecure.

Thank You!

— Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM Ph.D., University of Maine Associate Professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Director of the UMaine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.