Soft Shell Eggs:
The failure of a hen to surround the egg with a hard shell has been ascribed to two causes. Either the bird did not receive a sufficient amount of lime or calcium or she is suffering from tumours or malformation of the glands which secrete the material for the egg shell. The egg may be surrounded by a skin only and may be laid in this condition. Such an egg is often dropped on the cage floor instead of to the nest, because the hen has no control over holding an egg without a shell. Soft shell eggs frequently cause egg binding, the muscles not being able to grasp the egg in order to expel it. If mild heat or warm (not hot) steam treatment does not help, the egg must be punctured carefully by a vet or a person who really knows what he/she is doing. Some eggs are surrounded by a very thin shell which soon breaks during incubation. Prevention consists in feeding birds plenty of grit rich in calcium or cuttlebone and an abundant amount of greens all year round. Constitutional or anatomical defects causing soft shell eggs are incurable.
There are a number of different cause for infertile eggs. The male may be sterile or the hen may have laid too early, before fertilization took place. A very common cause is a loose perch. A perch which rotates or is unsteady will interfere with the mating act. Sometimes the first clutch of eggs is sterile but the second clutch is fertile. If both clutches are infertile, the pair should be separated, rested, and then given different mates. It will then become clear which bird is at fault If eggs in many different nests are found sterile, the fault does not lie with the individual birds, but with the feeding. This deficiency may either be a temporary one or may have caused permanent damage to the reproductive organs. Birds raised on a poor diet are worthless as breeders. An unfortunately frequent occurrence is that all nests have fertile eggs at the beginning of the breeding season, but toward the end almost all nests show clear eggs. The fault here, in most cases, lies in the diet. The natural reserves of the breeding bird are exhausted. The seeds should immediately be given attention. Other causes for sterility are un-favorable conditions causing ill health, such as colds, infectious diseases, over-breeding, injudicious treatment with sulfa drugs, too long hours of artificial light, wrong management, etc. Breeding operations should be stopped for the season. In budgies it is not necessary to pluck the feathers near the vent. The feeding of wheat germ oil is not as effective in birds as it in mammals. When seeds are beginning to become stale, vitamin E may be diminished and a part of the seeds may be treated with wheat germ oil, allowed to stand overnight, then mixed with twice the quantity of cod-liver oil treated seeds. Wheat germ oil and cod-liver oil should not be mixed. Lack of vitamin A, protein, fatty acids, riboflavin, biotin, and the amino acid tryptophane have been found to be factors in producing sterility. Many breeders feeding an all-around good diet, never add wheat germ oil and do not complain about sterility in their birds. During incubation of a clutch of eggs, one egg is often pushed aside. This egg, in most cases, is an empty or clear one. Guesses have been made as to why the hen pushes an empty egg to the side, even if the clutch is small and she could easily cover it along with the good eggs. One suggestion is that an empty egg cools its surroundings. Eggs containing growing embryos give off some heat, while an empty egg does not.
Eggs will break when the shell is too thin. Something may frighten setting hens into leaving the nest so abruptly as to cause egg breakage. An egg dropped in a flight cage with other birds around will often be pecked at. In the poultry yard egg-eating by the birds is well known. Mineral and protein deficiencies have been blamed. Broken eggs are said to start the habit. As a preventive it is recommended that enough lime be fed to avert the appearance of soft shell and thin shell eggs.
Dead In Shell:
There are many different causes of death of embryos in the egg. If embryos of our cage birds were not so small, we could examine them for possible causes. Deformities are often present. Such impairment of growth may be due to deficiencies in the yolk which nourishes the embryo or to hereditary factors. Certain beak deformities have been found to be inherited. The embryo may be in the wrong position within the egg. Cooling of eggs is less often the cause than assumed. Normal embryos can stand much cooling before being injured. Milling around of eggs by young of the previous clutch is a common cause for the failure of eggs to hatch. Too much moisture in the air prevents the egg from breathing normally. An atmosphere which is too dry will dry out the egg and toughen the membrane within the shell and the hatching chick will not be able to pierce it. The homeland of our budgies, Australia, is a dry continent and it is perhaps not surprising that these birds do not prosper in an atmosphere which is too humid. If the hen feels the eggs need moistening, she will dampen her breast feathers on wet greens if such are supplied in her cage.
Eggs which show caked droppings of the birds on the shell will usually hatch. It is better not to wash them since the shell may break, or the washing may remove a natural coating on the shell which prevents germs from entering the egg. At times, however, the caked droppings are so thick that the young bird inside cannot break the shell with its egg-tooth. When the eggs are so heavily coated with droppings that the pores are sealed and bacteria can enter, the young bird may die long before hatching. Gentle washing in lukewarm water may be tried, but it is better to check on care and feeding of the parents to find the cause for the sticky droppings. Nests should be quite dry. An alert breeder who spots an egg with a live chick inside trying to hatch, may often successfully save the birds life by gently breaking the shell if he senses a problem. Some breeders refuse to help the chicks out assuming their must be something wrong with them. We have helped some out at times and found them to grow into healthy birds. Sometimes pulling a little bit of the shell off with tweezers is all that is required and the bird can do the rest.
For eggs stained by blood read the Reproductive System article and scroll down to Egg Abnormalities.
For egg binding read this article.
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