Chickens sometimes lay eggs that look nothing like a standard supermarket egg. Some are huge, some are tiny, some are ball-shaped, some are pointy, and some are soft-shelled. There are various reasons for these oddities.
Each hen will have her own ‘quirks’ in terms of egg size and colour. Although most chicken breeds lay light brown eggs, some have eggs with pigmented shells. A hen will produce eggs of the same colour throughout her laying years. The palette ranges from deep browns to light blues and pastel greens, with speckling adding another dimension of prettiness.
Odd shapes and sizes are something quite different, though. They are quirks rather than breed-specific traits.
Why are chicken eggs sometimes bigger or smaller than usual?
A huge egg contains two yolks. In these cases, the hen has doubled up on her usual daily production and has had to produce a giant egg to accommodate the extra mass. These eggs usually have smaller-than-usual yolks, but they look very eye-catching in the poaching or frying pan!
Young birds often produce small eggs, and they will begin laying regular eggs very quickly. Some smaller bantam breeds produce small eggs all the time, of course.
Why are chicken eggs sometimes misshapen?
An oddly-shaped egg can be produced for various reasons. It often takes young hens an egg or two before they settle into their regular pattern. Stress in the chicken coop can lead to misshapen eggs too. This is usually due to a hen having the urge to lay but finding her space in the laying box occupied by another bird.
Misshapen eggs can be elongated, or they may have a thin, pointy end. Sometimes they are rough-looking, with craggy rather than smooth surfaces, or with thicker bands of shell running across their middles. In all these cases, the egg inside is unaffected and is perfectly safe to eat.
A ball-shaped egg is usually a sign of slight calcium deficiency. The round shape requires less calcium than a normal oval egg.
Are oddly-shaped chicken eggs a sign of illness?
Infectious bronchitis can lead to misshapen eggs. An infected hen will stop producing eggs for a few days or will only lay intermittently. The eggs she lays will have thin, wrinkled or rough-shelled eggs, and the white of the egg will be watery. It is also common for the affected eggs to have lighter-coloured shells than usual. The condition is rare, and chickens can be vaccinated against it.
Laryngotracheitis is another illness linked to egg abnormalities, and this, too, can be prevented through vaccination. Any ailment can cause a hen to become stressed, so, in theory, any illness can result in misshapen eggs.
Why do chickens lay freckled eggs?
Some breeds always lay speckled eggs. However, if a hen that typically produces plain eggs lays speckled ones, there are various possible causes. She may have been shocked or stressed in some way while the egg was forming, or she may have developed a quirk in the pigment-producing part of her egg-laying system.
Freckling is often the result of excess calcium production, sometimes associated with the ‘end of season’ laying at the beginning of winter. On some eggs, there is a marbled pattern rather than an area of freckles.
The speckling is usually smooth, but it sometimes manifests as raised blotches of excess calcium. These can be spots or wormlike strands, and they often occur as single spots on an otherwise standard egg. This may be linked to dehydration, so make sure your hens have enough water, and that a timid hen isn’t being bullied away from it all the time.
Why do chicken eggshells sometimes have a white ring?
Viewed from the side, an eggshell with this peculiar oddity has a thick white ring, looking uncannily like an x-ray of the egg that lies beneath. It is usually caused by an interruption in the formation of the eggshell, caused by stress or by a second egg entering the internal production line.
The second egg produced in this process will usually have a flattened side, as it has bumped into the first egg during the early stages of shell formation and has been ‘squashed’ into an odd, flattened shape.
Why are chicken eggs sometimes wrinkled?
A wrinkly eggshell can be a sign of stress or illness, but is usually a hereditary condition. Some older hens begin to lay wrinkly eggs too. The wrinkles are often deep grooves, giving a very misshapen egg and making this perhaps the weirdest of all the egg oddities.
The wrinkles sometimes look like a series of cracks in the shell. This results from an egg cracking during calcium formation, and the cracks are the chicken’s repairs, laying calcium over the cracks. Once again, the underlying cause is usually stress or illness, although sometimes it is simply the result of a second egg ‘crashing into’ the first due to an over-productive system.
Why do some chicken eggs have soft shells?
A soft shell is a sign of calcium deficiency or a lack of vitamin D. Low calcium can be prevented by making sure the hens have a high quality feed and don’t gorge on kitchen scraps (which may fill them up so much that they don’t bother eating the layers pellets). Low vitamin D can be prevented by sunlight – not always easy in the colder months of the year!
Other possible causes include heat stress, too much salt or too much spinach. When feeding chickens kitchen scraps, avoid giving them anything that is salted.
The extreme version of the soft-shelled egg is the egg with no shell at all. If a hen lays a shell-less egg, it should be cleaned up at once, as it will soon become rotten in the warm coop.
Weird eggs are usually one-offs, and they are nothing to worry about. If a hen lays an odd egg two days in a row, it is worth looking at possible underlying causes. Diet and stress are the chief culprits.
In terms of culinary uses, don’t worry. With the exception of soft-shelled and shell-less eggs, all these egg oddities are safe to eat.
This entry was posted in Chickens on July 28th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Like all social animals, rabbits have a ‘pecking order’. Young rabbits who have grown up together will figure this out without you even noticing. However, if you are introducing rabbits to each other for the first time, they will have to size each other up and establish which one is going to be dominant in the relationship.
The rabbits will not usually sort out this hierarchy by fighting, but display physical behavior that is the bunny equivalent of two people showing off. They will chase, groom and bow, and one will try to mount the other (a sign of dominance in many mammals).
Why do rabbits groom each other?
On the surface, it may look as if a grooming session is an act of love and friendship. In reality, it is an act of subservience. The bunnies who do the grooming are letting the dominant rabbit know that they accept their place lower down in the social hierarchy. Mutual grooming will sometimes occur, but if a rabbit is licking and grooming another bunny’s ears, eyes and forehead, it means they are acknowledging the dominant rabbit’s place at the top of the pecking order.
The dominant rabbit will often request the grooming by approaching another rabbit and lowering its head. This may look like an act of submission, but it is the exact opposite. The rabbit with the lowered head is saying “here’s my head – get grooming!”
Why do rabbits bow to each other?
A bowing rabbit is asking to be groomed. The dominant bunny will approach its companion head-on, often touching noses. Its ears will be raised, and it will sometimes nudge the other rabbit’s chin to prompt the grooming.
Early in a bunny relationship, before the pecking order has been properly established, the rabbit being bowed to may not take the hint and, instead, will bow back. There will be several bows from each rabbit before the matter is settled, and it may even end in a brief tussle. A rabbit who wants to be groomed tends to insist on it!
Why do rabbits ‘flatten’?
Flattening involves crouching low on the ground, ears down. That latter detail differentiates it from a bow, as the flat ears indicate submissiveness. Rabbits will sometimes perform this action if they feel threatened by another rabbit in the run, and it will usually defuse any potential confrontation straight away.
A dominant rabbit will occasionally approach the ‘flattened’ bunny and lick its forehead. This is an acknowledgement of the submissive gesture, and it means the other bunny can relax.
Why do rabbits chase each other?
Chasing has two meanings. It can be sexual behaviour, with a male chasing a female, or it can be another sign of dominance.
Chasing occurs quite frequently when rabbits are first introduced to each other. When the hierarchy has been sorted out, it becomes far less frequent. However, an un-neutered male will often chase habitually to let the other rabbits know he is the dominant one. Some occasional bullies enjoy chasing, too. Unless one particular rabbit is being repeatedly targeted and is becoming stressed, or any individual is hurt as a result of a vigorous chase, you should simply accept it as part of the pecking order.
Sometimes the chase will manifest as a circling motion, with the dominant rabbit literally running rings around the subservient one. This will often culminate in mounting.
Why do non-mating rabbits mount each other?
Dominance is not automatically based on gender, and a female is just as likely to mount a male as vice versa. It’s a bit like wrestling, where the person who has thrown their opponent to the ground has won that particular round. The rabbit that has been mounted will not always submit after a single mount, and the tables may be turned a few times before the dominance is formally established between the two bunnies.
Once rabbits have settled in together, the mounting will usually end, although some boisterous males seem to persist with the mounting habit. As long as the submissive rabbit accepts this as part of the social setup, it will not lead to further aggression. Occasionally, you might notice the dominant rabbit mounting just to remind the other bunny that they are the boss.
If the submissive rabbit appears to be distressed and is trying to escape, and is being pursued as a result, the animals may have to be separated for a while. Otherwise, it is best to let them resume this behaviour and accept the mounting as a fact of rabbit life.
Introducing new rabbits
New rabbits should be introduced to each other on neutral territory, if possible. If you simply lock a newcomer in an existing rabbit run, it will be bullied by most of the other bunnies, and the dominant one can sometimes inflict injury on the newbie.
If you can take your dominant rabbit with you when choosing the new pet, it will help enormously. You will be able to see how the old rabbit reacts to the new one, and if all is well, they can even travel home together in the same travel crate. This will also help the bonding process, as both rabbits will feel nervous during the journey.
When you get home, let the rabbits settle down together on neutral territory. If all goes well, they can be moved to the run later in the day, with two food bowls. This is the best-case scenario, and it will often be a more drawn-out process getting two bunnies used to each other. You should have a spare run ready for the newbie rabbit, within sight and smell of the established bunny or bunnies.
Let the rabbits in the same enclosure each day for a few hours on neutral territory until they are completely happy together. This may involve several mounting, chasing, grooming and bowing sessions, but the pecking order will be established in the end!
This entry was posted in Pets on July 26th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Chickens are fascinating creatures, and their eyes, even more so. Here are some amazing facts about chickens’ eyes that you may not have heard before!
Chickens Can See More Colours Than Us
Chickens are tetrachromatic. They can see the colours we see in (red, yellow and blue), but whilst we have three types of cones in our retinas, chickens have four, which allows them to see in ultraviolet light. This gives chickens access to a much wider range of colours and shades than humans.
Chickens Have a Third Eyelid!
Believe it or not, chickens actually have a third eyelid, on each eye! The third eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, horizontally draws across the eye which helps clean, moisten, and further protect the eyes from dirt. The nictitating membrane is transparent in appearance which means that chickens still have the ability to see, even when the third eyelid is closed.
They Can Use Each Eye Independently
Chickens are able to use each of their eyes independently, with a 300 degree field of vision (humans only have 180!), meaning that both of their eyes can focus on different tasks at the same time. This is also known as monocular vision, which amazingly already begins even before a chick’s arrival. When the chick is still in its shell, it turns towards the right to absorb any light and the left side of the shell is covered by their body. When the chick then hatches, nearsightedness develops in their right eye, which will allow the chick to search for food, as the left simultaneously develops farsightedness. This is to help the chick look out for any potential predators. You will probably notice this from when chickens tilt their heads when a hawk flies over.
Chickens Have Terrible Vision in The Dark
Night vision definitely isn’t their strong point! Having descended from dinosaurs many millions of years ago, as opposed to being preyed on by them like other species, chickens had no need to learn how to run and hide in the dark. For this reason however, chickens today require protection at night because just like humans, they’re awake during the day and sleep during the night, and are highly susceptible to predators.
Chicks Have Amazing Eyesight From Birth
When chicks first hatch, they surprisingly have remarkable eyesight, in fact a lot better than humans. From the minute they hatch, chicks are able to detect small items such as grains of food and even have spatial awareness. A human baby however, lacks this ability and does not develop such skills until a few months down the line.
Photo by Andrey Tikhonovskiy on Unsplash
Chickens Rarely Move Their Eyeballs
Chicken eyes have a very limited range of motion and lack the ability to remain focused on an object whilst the rest of their body is moving. This is why you’ll often see chickens walking around, bobbing their heads, whilst facing onwards. It is not so much a case of chickens not being able to actually move their eyes at all, but rather their eyes cannot move quickly enough to process the image in front of them. Instead, chickens will tend to turn their heads when they want to gain better eyesight of something.
Their Eyes Have a Double Cone Structure
The retina of the eye is composed of rods and cones, the rods being to detect light-sensitive motion, and cones to see colour. As we found out earlier, chickens have more types of cones than us, hence why they are able to enter a fourth dimension of colour, which us humans can’t. A double cone retina structure means that a chicken’s eyes are more sensitive to movement. This is advantageous to chickens as it gives them a greater ability to detect motion, which is helpful when it comes to spotting a perceived threat.
Chicken Eyes Make Up 10% of Their Head Mass
That’s quite a lot, considering our eyes only make up for approximately 1% of our head mass! Although it may look humorous, there’s actually a good reason behind it. Having such large eyes helps chickens to see larger and clearer images as they are produced.
Chickens Can Sense Light Through Their Pineal Gland
Light reaches chickens through either their eyes, skulls, or skin, which activates the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland, also sometimes referred to as ‘the third eye’, is something else that makes chicken vision oh so interesting. A pineal gland helps chickens to sense daylight, or the lack of, even if they are unable to see with their eyes. This means that even a blind chicken is able to detect lighting or seasonal change!
They Have the Ability to Recognise up to One Hundred Different Faces
They say that elephants never forget but apparently chickens don’t either! Chickens are able to recognize up to one hundred faces, be it other chickens, humans or any other species. They can also amazingly decipher between their positive and negative encounters.
After a few interesting facts, we’re sure that you’ll now know a whole lot more about the amazing subject of chickens’ eyes, that’ll be bound to get you wondering just what’s really going on through the eyes of your chickens!
This entry was posted in Chickens on July 21st, 2021 by alisa.deluca
During their moult, chickens shed their old feathers and grow new ones. They usually stop laying eggs at this time, or reduce their laying rate, and this gives them time to rest and prepare themselves for the next laying season.
Moulting occurs every year, sometimes twice, and it can kick in at any time; although in the UK, most hens moult in late summer. Occasionally, an early moult can be brought on by stress. The process varies in length, but is usually complete after four weeks. In some cases, it can be three months or more before the new coat of feathers is complete.
When Do Chickens Moult?
Young chickens frequently moult as they shed their baby feathers and grow adult ones. The first moult occurs before they are six weeks old, and there is a second moult before nine weeks and a third at 12–13 weeks. The last of these ‘chick moults’ occurs between 20 and 22 weeks, at which point the bird is an adult and is laying eggs. She will moult once or twice every year.
How Do You Know if Your Chicken is Moulting?
Chickens will lose occasional feathers at any time of year, and that’s nothing to worry about. These are the obvious signs of moulting:
- A Messy appearance, with bald spots
- A dull-looking comb and wattles
- A sudden stop to egg production, or a reduction in the usual number of eggs
- An increased appetite, with a hunger for protein (the hen may fight other birds away from food scraps or scratch frantically for bugs and worms)
The moult usually starts at the chicken’s head, and travels via the breast and legs to the tail. By the time the tail is bare, the head feathers have started to regrow.
If a hen is losing feathers and doesn’t grow new ones, there may be a problem with feather mites or some other illness. Watch out for any unusual behaviour in your hens – listlessness or a hunched posture, for example, are signs of an underlying problem. If you are in any doubt about your chickens’ health, speak to your vet.
Similarly, if the laying cycle is severely interrupted and the hen is not laying several days after the end of the moult, contact your vet.
What to give chickens to help with moulting
Moulting is not an illness, so there is no treatment required as such. However, changes to the birds’ usual diet help them through the moult. Their taste for protein will increase during this time, as new feathers need lots of it. Indeed, feather growth will eat up all the usual protein you give your hens.
To add extra protein to the chickens’ diets, give them a feed that is at least 18% protein. It’s best not to give them cooked meats and dairy, as these are very fatty, and all dairy is hard for chickens to digest. Cooked eggs and fish are good protein sources, and if your hens have access to bugs and worms, all the better. Many chicken keepers feed their birds mealworms during the moult, and these are perfect, being high in protein and low in fat. Cooked peas, lentils and beans are good protein sources, too.
To ensure general health and a robust immune system, add some apple cider vinegar to the hens’ water to boost their digestion too. Otherwise, simply continue with the healthy feeding regime, and make sure their diet has plenty of vitamins and minerals.
What to do when your chickens are moulting?
Do not handle your chickens during the moult, and resist the temptation to cover their balding bodies with chicken pullovers or jackets! The hens’ skins are tender and itchy during the moult, as hundreds of pin-feathers are pushing through. Handling them or dressing them up will only add to their irritability!
To ease the hens through their annual feather makeover, make sure they are in a stress-free environment. New birds should not be introduced during the moult, and coop renovations or changes to your henhouse setup should be put on hold until the new feathers are all in place.
Wild chickens were happily moulting for millions of years before we first domesticated them, so this is one of those cases where it is best to let nature take its course. With a little dietary help from their human friends!
This entry was posted in Chickens on July 12th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
World’s heaviest chicken
The heaviest chicken breed, White Sully, was developed on a farm in California. It’s a hybrid breed of large Rhode Island Reds and other heavy breeds. The largest chicken ever recorded was a rooster called Weirdo, and he weighed just over 10kg (22 lb). It is said that he was so aggressive that he killed two cats during his lifetime and seriously hurt a dog that came too close to his territory.
World’s oldest chicken
The current world record holder is Muffy, a Red Quill Muffed American Game hen, who died at the age of 22 in Maryland, USA. One of the more famous old chickens was a Red Pyle chicken called Matilda from Alabama, USA. She was the first hen to receive the title of World’s Oldest Living Chicken from Guinness World Records, and lived for 16 years. Veterinarians said it was likely she lived for so long because she was kept in her owners’ house as a pet, and never laid an egg in her life.
World’s heaviest egg
The heaviest egg ever recorded was laid by a White Leghorn chicken in New Jersey, USA in 1956. It weighed 454g (16 oz), and had both a double yolk and a double shell.
World’s biggest egg
The heaviest egg was however not the biggest egg ever found. Tony Barbouti in Eastwood, Sussex, once found an egg in his coop measuring 23cm (9.1 in) in diameter. It only weighed just over 161g, but certainly gave Barbouti a shock! He later said that the hen was noticeably shocked after having produced the egg, and she walked a bit funny for a few days, but recovered completely.
World’s longest flight
Chickens are not known for their ability to fly. In fact many mean that they can’t technically fly, but only jump high and flap their wings to stay in the air. The longest flight of a chicken that has been recorded is 13 seconds. A different record for the longest distance flown is just under 92m (301 ft). Pretty impressive for a supposedly flightless bird!
World’s most prolific layer
A Prof. Harold V. Bieller conducted experiments with chickens in the late 1970s at the College of Agriculture, University of Missouri. The highest rate of egg-laying he found was by a White Leghorn in 1979. She laid a whopping 371 eggs in 364 days!
World’s most prolific mother hen
Northern Irish farmer John Dolan has got two hens that have made it into the Guinness Book of Records. His hen Sally entered by having two sets of chicks in just 55 days, the latest of which produced 11 live chicks from 12 eggs. Chickens normally stay with their young for at least three months, but Sally started laying again after only 21 days. John’s other record breaking chicken Marmalade made it into the Book of Records by hatching a remarkable 107 chicks in two years!
This entry was posted in Chickens on July 6th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
It is a common myth that dogs only see in black and white. This is not the case, although their colour vision is limited compared to humans’.
The average person can see ‘all the colours of the rainbow’, from red to violet. However, dogs don’t have the same light receptors in their eyes as we do, and to them the rainbow is missing the red half of the spectrum. They can, however, see the yellows and blues. Indeed, a rainbow, to a dog’s eyes, is a series of yellows and blues of different shades.
The ‘missing’ reds and oranges will appear to dogs as the various shades of light brown labelled ‘tan’. The greens in grass, trees and other plants are also tan to a dog. That bright red ball lying in the lush green grass may be very clear to you, but to your pet dog, the ball and the grass are both brown. Buy your dog a yellow or blue toy, however, and it will be as visible to your dog as it is to you.
Luckily for dogs, they rely on their sense of smell more than sight, so locating that ball in the grass won’t be so tricky, no matter what colour the toy is.
Do dogs see colours in their beds and toys?
As long as you don’t decorate your dog’s crate, Fido Nook or other cosy corner with reds, oranges and greens (which will all appear brown to a dog), they will appreciate a splash of colour. There’s nothing wrong with shades of tan either!
There is no evidence, either, that a dog prefers a blue or yellow ball to a red or green one. They will, however, be likelier to lose track of a light brown ball in the light brown grass.
How do we know dogs can’t see certain colours?
In the earliest research into animal vision, dogs were taught to choose a disc that was a different colour from the others by touching the odd-one-out with their noses. If they chose the right one, they were given a treat – always a great incentive, as any dog owner knows! Sometimes, however, even the most well-trained dogs struggled to identify the odd-one-out. This told the researchers that the dogs were unable to distinguish between certain colours. When the discs were all red, apart from one green one, all the dogs could see were light browns!
Scientists are also able to use electroretinography to measure how animals’ eyes react to light. It was soon confirmed that key ‘cone cells’ responsible for registering colour in human brains were absent in dogs. Humans have three types of cone receptor, while dogs only have two.
Do dogs have good eyesight?
It may come as a surprise to many people that dogs, in addition to their poorer colour vision, cannot see as clearly as humans. Beyond a certain distance, everything becomes blurry for them. They have a genetic short-sightedness that prevents them from seeing distant objects clearly. The degree of short-sightedness varies between dog breeds, and it comes as no surprise to learn that so-called ‘sight hounds’ such as the Afghan Hound, Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound and Whippet have better eyesight than Chihuahuas, Pugs and Bulldogs.
However, dogs’ eyesight comes into its own at dawn and dusk, when they can see just as well as they do in the daytime. Like cats, they have retinas that function well in poor light. The shape of their eyes’ light receptor cells and a reflective tissue layer at the back of the eye combine to create this low-light supervision.
And yes, that reflective layer is why dogs’ (and cats’) eyes always have a ‘red eye’ effect in photographs, and in car headlights. No wolf pack in a horror film would be complete without those glowing eyes!
Dogs also have a broader field of vision than humans, as their eyes are more on the side of the head than ours. This enables them to take in details that we would either miss or would be half-glimpsed things seen ‘in the corner of the eye’.
Why do dogs see less colour than humans?
Dogs evolved as hunters, just like modern wolves. On the one hand, this might make you assume that fantastic vision would be essential, as it is, say, in a bird of prey. However, the difference between a dog and an eagle is that the dog evolved to hunt at night, or at dawn and dusk. A hunter doesn’t need full-colour vision at night, as colours simply disappear when the sun goes down. The key skill is to detect motion and to see things vividly in the half-light. In these respects, dogs’ eyes excel, and their eyes are super-sensitive to movement.
Humans, in contrast, evolved as daytime hunters, and that’s why we have better colour vision. At night, our eyes are hopeless without some kind of artificial light. At dawn and dusk, our brains have great difficulty identifying moving objects with certainty. That’s why ghosts, goblins and other supposedly supernatural sightings occur at these times of day – they are a function of our brain trying to busk in the half-light!
Human vision, then, contains more colour than a dog’s. However, we are certainly not top dogs when it comes to colour vision in the wider animal world. Many insects, including bees and butterflies, as well as many fish and crustaceans, have far more light receptors than we do and can see far more colours in the rainbow and the world around them.
But a dog’s vision is still perfect – for a dog!
This entry was posted in Dogs on July 5th, 2021 by alisa.deluca