Rachel Hurd Anger
If you have a small flock, you know immediately when something’s not quite normal. And it sure doesn’t take much to shock you when your hens produce something that looks like it came from a bird you didn’t know you had, though that’s not to say that something is wrong either.
Our hens’ little bodies and hormones are working overtime to produce an egg every 25 hours, on average, so sometimes an egg isn’t perfect, or sometimes it’s a perfect disaster—like an egg with no shell. In fact, most egg anomalies are fun, and just another science lesson from nature. Most of the time, an odd egg isn’t a concern, as long as it’s not a frequent occurrence: Regularly occurring anomalies could signal a mineral deficiency, too much of a particular vitamin, or a health problem.
One of my pullets lays very pale brown eggs, and she’s just surprised me with a miniature egg, about half the size of her regular eggs. In my five years of keeping chickens, I’ve never seen an egg like it, but my hunch is that it could be a fairy egg.
Fairy eggs are eggs that are missing the yolk. If I crack it open and find only egg white, it’s a fairy egg. These are also sometimes called wind eggs, rooster eggs or witch eggs, among others. These are probably regional names, but “fairy” is my favorite because it’s about as cute as this teeny-tiny egg.
Fairy eggs are more commonly laid by pullets, though older hens can lay them, too. Even though pullets begin laying as they begin tomature, that doesn’t mean full maturity has been reached—think of it as chicken puberty. As a newly laying pullet is maturing, her hormones and her reproductive system are trying to work together as best they can, churning out eggs rather suddenly, and sometimes missing a beat (or doubling it).
If it is indeed a fairy egg, whichever chicken laid it was signaled to start forming the egg white (albumen) before a yolk (ovum) was released from the ovary. The egg white moved alone along the oviduct where a membrane was added that would become the shell. However, it’s also possible that the egg isn’t a fairy egg at all. The egg could be a perfectly normal egg with a teeny-tiny yolk, but I won’t know until I crack it open.
The little egg weighs a mere 1 ounce., a full quarter of an ounce smaller than what the USDA considers the lowest peewee weight. The photo of the 1-ounce egg next to a jumbo egg weighing 2¾ ounces, and the USDA’s smallest egg designation are the best evidence I have of what I might find (or not find) inside the shell.
Will I find a yolk missing? Let’s crack it open and find out.
Have you ever found a fairy egg or something else strange in the nest box? What’s your favorite egg anomaly?