Some Egg Oddities

I wanted to put together a post of odd eggs that we have gotten over the years.  To understand why mishaps occur in the egg laying process, though, you should first know how normal eggs are laid.

hen reproductive tract

If you have a rooster in your flock, chances are most or all of your hens will lay fertilized eggs (eggs that will produce chicks if properly incubated).  Each egg takes 24-36 hours to form.  After the yolk is released from the ovary it travels through the oviduct.  It is fertilized in the Infundibulum, the albumen (or the egg white) is added in the Magnum, the shell membrane is added in the Isthmus, the shell is added in the Uterus or Shell Gland, and the bloom is added in the Vagina.  Most of this is self-explanatory, but many people have never heard of the egg’s bloom.  This is a clear coating the egg is covered with to seal the pores so bacteria cannot enter the shell.  Air, however, can still go through the pores.  (This is why you can wipe off eggs to be incubated but you should never wash them.)

No Shell

Here’s an egg with only the inner membrane and no shell (also called a rubber egg).  Hens can lay eggs like these at the beginning or end of their laying cycle or if they get scared (usually at night as a result of predators or stormy weather).  You may see these eggs occasionally in your flock.  If your hen lays eggs like this regularly, it may indicate a lack of calcium, phosphorus or salt in the hen’s diet; or an abnormality in the shell gland.


These eggs are normal in every other aspect and can be eated, but are usually torn open by the chicken (or the farmer).  If left out too long they will start to dry out.

No Yolk 

Sometimes a hen will lay a tiny egg (here are 3 that I’ve emptied and saved).


These eggs usually have no yolks are often called wind (or fart) eggs, dwarf eggs or rooster eggs.  Many times an egg without a yolk is one of the hen’s first eggs, laid before her system is working properly.  These eggs also occur when a piece of tissue breaks away from the hen’s reproductive tract and is treated like a yolk as it travels through the oviduct.  When this is the case, a small piece of greyish tissue can usually be seen in the albumen.


Egg with a “Tail”

This egg was such a surprise.  The shell was hard like a normal shell everywhere, except “tail” and where the “tail” met the egg.  That part of the shell wasn’t hard but it wasn’t quite as soft as the membrane of the shell-less egg above, though.  It is thought to be caused by the egg not being hardened enough before being laid.  The soft part of the shell is then elongated as the egg is being passed.


Double Yolk Eggs

Double-yolk eggs occur when 2 yolks are released at the same time, or when they are released close enough together that they become encased in the same membrane and shell.  These eggs can occur at the beginning of a hen’s laying cycle, but some hens are genetically predisposed to lay double yolk eggs on a regular basis.  (It’s similar to fraternal twins running in families.)  In hens that lay these eggs only occasionally, the egg laying cycle is usually interrupted.   Hens generally lay an egg every 24-36 hours but if they skip a day, the next egg that they lay can be a double-yolk egg.  These eggs rarely hatch 2 chicks if incubated.  Multiple factors are at play: each yolk may not be fertilised and if they both are, both chicks may not survive pipping without careful assistance.  Below is a double-yolk duck egg:

double yolk duck egg

double yolk duck egg 2

Leaping Lambs!

I am sitting here going through sections of our website, and I come to my blog drafts page.  Imagine my surprise to find this post that I thought I had published in 2014!

Enjoy these lamb pics while we wait patiently until April when this year’s lambs will be born.


In 2014 we were blessed with 10 healthy lambs!  6 ewe lambs and 4 ram lambs; 3 sets of twins and 4 singles.  Our lambing season began on February 28th and lasted till March 9th (when we had 2 sets of twins born).

Beatrice's Lamb

Coco's Lamb

Esme's Lambs

Fiona's Lamb

Annie's Lamb  Bertha's Lamb  Erin's Lamb

Because of the extreme cold weather that winter and the icy conditions we kept the ewes and lambs in the barn until the ice melted and the youngest lambs were a couple weeks old.

It was great to watch them enjoy their new-found freedom when we finally were able to bring them outside.

They had been outside for a couple weeks and were racing a few times every day.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching them!


Lessons from Across the Fence…

… or {more accurately} through the fence.

We brought Camille and her 2-week old ram lamb home in May 2009.  After weaning, we sold Camille’s lamb “Cameron” to Christine E. in NJ to be the herdsire for her flock.  He produced beautiful offspring, but in 2012 Christine decided not to breed her sheep.  It turns out Cameron had other ideas…


Here’s Christine’s story:

We had Cameron and 13 ewes.  We decided not to breed, so in May 2012 we separated Cameron from the ewes in a connecting pasture separated by 4×4 mesh sheep fence.  On January 16, 2013, I noticed that one of the two-year old ewes was bagging up.  We were not set-up for lambing (had disassembled lambing pens), so we put her in my horse trailer.  Within 48 hours, she delivered 2 lambs.
After that, I got down on my knees to study all of the ewes as they walked around in the pasture.  The ewes were of course very woolly, so it was difficult to tell for sure as they all looked fat and the only way to really get an idea if they were pregnant was to see if they were bagging up.  As they are on 5 acres, it was impossible to catch each one to get a hands-on check of them.
I noticed another ewe bagged up, brought her to the horse trailer, and she had a lamb.
christine lamb 1
I thought that was it.  2 days later, I went out to the pasture to feed, and I noticed all of the sheep were laying outside of the shelter even though it was windy.  It made me suspicious, so instead of just throwing hay over the fence, I went inside and walked to the shelter.  There was a ewe and a lamb.  All of the sheep stayed outside (I’m guessing) to make sure they didn’t step on the lamb.  My horse trailer was not safe for any more ewes, so we put her in my old chicken coop.
I then noticed that my 11-year-old ewe was bagging up and even though she was fat around her stomach, I could feel her spine and ribs.  I brought her up to the coop so I could grain her.  About two weeks later, she had twins.
Another ewe was bagging up.  I had to put her in the horse trailer because we were running out of room in the coop.  We set up an outside pen so the sheep could go in and out of the trailer.  That ewe had a lamb but it was weak and I was afraid to leave it in with so many sheep (afraid it would get trampled), so we made it a bottle baby.
christine lamb 2
It was snowing one morning, and I went out to the sheep pasture, and found a lamb laying in the snow with mama nowhere to be found.  My second bottle baby.
In total, we had 8 lambs born to 6 ewes.  One of the first set of twins died because the mother rejected him.  I kept him in with the mother, holding her and forcing her to let him nurse and supplementing him with a bottle.  One morning, I found him dead.  It looked like his neck was broken.  Either his mother or the other ewe must have stepped on him or shoved him against the wall when he tried to nurse.  He was almost 2 weeks old, so it was very sad.
The first lambs were born on January 18 and the last on February 11.
christine lamb 3
Besides losing the one lamb, my only regret is that I didn’t get to see Cameron breeding the ewes through the fence!
I’ve heard of rams breeding ewes through a fence… but this is the first time I heard of one breeding 6 ewes through a fence!  Now I know why some breeders have “Abstinence Alleys” (space between fences so sheep cannot have direct contact)!  I am so thankful to Christine for letting me share her story.  I hope she doesn’t mind how long it’s taken me to post it!

Just when We Thought We were Finished…

… we had more lambs!

Remember that 1980s film For Keeps?  I felt like I was in the scene where Molly Ringwald announces, “I’m pregnant.  Can you pass the turnips?” when I went out to feed the sheep last Tuesday morning.

Coco was laying in the middle of the field next to a lamb.  I wondered why she was mothering a lamb when she didn’t have any.  As I got closer I realized it was her lamb!  I went right over to Fiona and felt for an udder … it was full!  I immediately brought Coco and her lamb into a lambing jug and put Fiona in the jug next to her.

Coco’s little ram lamb weighed 7 lbs and has turned out to be just as loud as his mama.

Coco lamb

The next morning I thought I saw a lamb on the baby monitor so we checked the barn before leaving for school.  Fiona had 2 lambs next to her and I checked Coco’s stall to make sure her lamb didn’t squeeze through into her jug!  Nope … she had twins!  After bringing Noah to school I went back to the barn and checked on the lambs.  The ram lamb (darker color) weighed 7.25 lbs and the ewe lamb weighed 5.25 lbs.  She’s the smallest (live) lamb we’ve had born here!

Fiona twins

When we crotched the ewes in early February we didn’t think our lambs were pregnant, but we were wrong!  Wondering how we missed it? With 2 months to go in their 1st pregnancies, they weren’t very big yet.  Also, first-timers’ udders don’t get swell too much prior to lambing.

Our shearer came out the day after Fiona had her lambs (Thursday) so everyone was able to be shorn.  {If you shear before lambing, most shearers recommend shearing 3-4 weeks before the due date so there is no chance for injury to the unborn lamb(s).}  The day after shearing, we moved all the ewes and lambs to our big stall to get used to being in a large group again.  The weather turned colder over the weekend, so we kept the flock in the barn until Sunday so the smallest lambs didn’t get too cold.

Here’s a short video I took of the ewes and lambs on Sunday.  They were so happy to be outside!

Our lambing season is now finished.  Really.  We don’t have any ewes that don’t already have lambs.  Now to watch the lambs grow!

Typical Lamb Photo Shoot

Have you ever tried to photograph 2 specific lambs out of the 8 that you have?  Especially 8 super friendly and curious lambs?  No?  Well, it goes something like this:

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

tunis lambs

And here’s a short video for you:

I did finally get the shot I was after:

Bertha's Twins

All it took was patience … and a lot of maneuvering.