Right after the “no shell” egg, we had two tiny eggs. It’s not too unusual to see these, but two of them within a week is pretty unusual. The brown one is from a Rhode Island Red, and the green one is from an Araucana. For comparison, there is a normal sized egg next to the small ones.
Anyone who has raised chickens for a while has certainly seen some strange eggs laid by the hens. I have seen a small egg inside of a large egg, double yolk eggs, long thin shaped eggs, and probably others that I can’t think of at the moment. The most common “strange egg” that I have seen is the “egg with no shell”. These literally have no shell, but they do have the tough leathery skin that lines the inside of a normal egg shell. They have a pale translucent appearance. They begin to shrink fairly quickly as the water evaporates through that leathery skin. Since it is the inside that is shrinking while the outer skin remains the same size, it soon loses it’s round egg shape.
Keep in mind that this same evaporation and shrinking also occurs in regular eggs since the shell is porous. That is why you can approximate the age of an egg by seeing if it floats or sinks in a glass of water. As the egg ages, it loses water and air is pulled in through the shell to displace the lost water. That is the air sac that is at the end of an egg. The older the egg is, the more water is lost; air is pulled into the egg causing it to float rather than sink.
We were having a constant problem with eggs being broken and eaten, and with very dirty eggs. Cleaning the eggs was taking a significant amount of time, and it was a nasty, smelly job. We needed roll-away nest boxes. There are a number of different designs that can be bought or built. I looked at several different ones before deciding that plastic storage boxes would make an ideal material to start with.
These nest boxes are made from 18 gallon storage boxes that I bought in a 3-pack from Lowes. I used a knife and a saw to cut out the large hole in the front. The only important measurement (other than being sized for your chickens) is that the bottom edge of the hole allows a short piece of 2×4 to be attached to it.
The partition that separates the nest section from the egg section is made of scrap plywood or press board. I just used up some scrap pieces. The edges of the partition have pieces of 2×2 screwed in place to allow for screws to attach it to the sides of the plastic box. The dimensions will vary according to the plastic box used, but my partitions were 14 1/4″ across the top, 12 1/2″ across the bottom, and 11 1/2″ high. The bottom was approximately 2 1/4″ from the top of the fake grass.
The bottom is lined with “fake grass”. This is not the standard indoor/outdoor carpet, but a sturdier material designed to be used as a plastic grass substitute. It was purchased by the foot from Lowes. Although it works well, I found that the hens were much happier with it when I added a very thin layer of hay on top. It was a very thin layer of hay – just enough to make it look like hay rather than plastic. If you put too much hay in, the eggs will not roll out very well.
The nest boxes sit on some boards that form a platform for them. The slope is provided by adding a 2×4, turned on its side under the front.
I will probably end up trimming the fake grass to eliminate places for spiders and other bugs to take up residence. Other than that, I am well satisfied with the design. The eggs are all clean and easy to gather. I either lift the top, or just reach under the partition. Since we started using these nest boxes, we have not had a single broken egg, and all of them are much cleaner than with the old nest boxes.
Chicken snakes always seem to eventually show up when you have chickens. I usually like having them around since they are also known as rat snakes for a good reason. The trick is to gather the eggs regularly so they feed on rats and not on your eggs. If they get an egg or two every now and then, that’s OK with me. It’s part of the entertainment value of having chickens.
These were taken several years ago in my first chicken coop.
Once the snake has found the eggs, nothing seems to disturb his meal. I set up a camera and tripod and took a whole series of photos, and he completely ignored me. The process actually takes quite a while. Smaller snakes will circle the egg and then use their body to push against to force the egg into his mouth; larger snakes simply grab it and swallow. The egg eventually works its way down several inches until suddenly it breaks. You can actually hear the egg breaking as the lump flattens out. A bit creepy, perhaps, but fascinating nevertheless.
The white “egg” in the photos is plastic. Snakes are never fooled.