Double-Yolk Eggs Could Mean Trouble

Earlier this week, we thought we had a broody hen already occupying our most popular nest box in a largest flock. 20170414_174255Splotchy had set up camp and was sending out her broody sounding warnings anytime another hen came around. She is the only EasterEgger hen in the flock and lays a nice blue egg, and she is also the hen who sneaked hatching three fuzzballs late last summer. She’s relatively young – just coming into lay last spring, so we thought she’s just going to be one of those broody-every-time-you-blink kind of hens. Since we are in no short supply of chickens right now and anything she might hatch would be a real barnyard mix, we were not real interested in letting her continue.

Shortly after the discovery, we could hear a very loud egg song coming from the coop. Mama Mo mentioned to Papa Mo that Splotchy was already broody for this season, to which he inquired if that was her making all the noise (he rarely hears the egg song since he’s typically left for work when the hens get moving for the day). We discussed since she was broody she shouldn’t be laying and went about our work repairing another chicken hutch.

Later in the afternoon, Mama Mo noticed she was out of the nest box and used that opportunity to collect any eggs before Splotchy had the chance to hatch anything. Surprise! There was a gigantic blue egg in the box! No wonder she was camped out in there for so long and making so much noise! Not surprisingly, it was a double-yolk egg that most likely resulted mainly from upset to the coop arrangement for that folk.

This mostly young flock was overwintered in a storage-building-turned-barn, and we are trying to finish it out as a permanent coop. Unfortunately, many of the young pullets have already started laying for the first time, and we are scrambling (no pun intended) to get nest boxes and such prepared for them, resulting in lots of confusion and disruption to regular laying right now.

Now, we tell this story to explain about double-yolk eggs. Many people think they are cool and some even brag that their hen lays double-yolk eggs all the time. We feel that, not only from the hen’s perspective (have you heard them yelling when laying those giant eggs??) but from a healthy chicken perspective, it could possibly not be such a good thing. And here is why: it means the hen’s reproductive tract could be stressed &/or injured.

An egg is produced when ovum/yolk is released into the oviduct to go through the cycle of forming the egg that is laid. About an hour+/- after an egg is laid, another mature yolk is released to start its cycle which takes approximately 25 hours to complete. The entire egg production cycle is a finely tuned process that can occasionally experience a “glitch”. If there is a glitch in the cycle, multiple things can result, such as more than one yolk being released causing a double-yolk egg to develop. This particular glitch in the egg production cycle is typically the result of hormonal change or imbalance as young hens are beginning to lay eggs or as an older hen’s typical egg production cycle slows down. It can also be hereditary, and some cultures in other countries breed for this trait.

The double-yolk phenomenon is typically harmless and produces perfectly edible eggs, but it does usually mean an extra-large egg which increases the risk of egg binding, vent prolapse (part of the oviduct protrudes from the vent) , or peritonitis (infection caused by yolks falling out of the reproductive tract). All of these can lead to death through injury &/or infection.

If your hen consistently produces abnormally large double-yolk eggs, she should be watched closely for any complications that could result from stressing or injuring the reproductive tract. Some hens that produce double-yolk eggs do so with normal size eggs (we suspect these are the hereditary cases) and are at far less risk of developing any complications.

Here are multiple articles discussing double-yolk eggs, egg production, and other associated problems:



 

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Do you keep a running egg inventory?

We have multiple coops on our “mini” farm – 6 large coops and 3 smaller hutches to be exact! As part of our farm records, we began keeping a running inventory of eggs this past year. Knowing which coops are producing best can be advantageous in many ways. Good egg production indicates which layers are in best condition for performing at top levels. Most importantly, a drop in egg production can indicate many things that need to be addressed – notably illness or other problems like improper nutrition, an egg-eating problem, or even an egg-eating predator visiting your coops. When things on the farm get busy, it can be easy to not notice a drop in egg production in time to address an issue before it becomes a larger problem. Keeping an egg inventory is an easy way to prevent this. We simply created a monthly chart in MS Word, and we log how many eggs are collected from each coop every evening.

Unfortunately, collecting eggs from nine different sets of nesting boxes and remembering which came from which proved to be a daunting task. We likely had a few errors in our inventory counts. Since we are planning to focus primarily on egg production in 2018, we are hoping to establish a better method of organized egg collection. Mama Mo has searched for a basket or rigid bag with multiple compartments to be labeled for each coop, but apparently, that is not a common item for anyone. However, there may be an unusual solution to our dilemma.

Wash Boss by Bucket Boss

Mama Mo found an item called a Wash Boss – it’s an organizer that straps onto a 5-gallon bucket. The six pockets should be large enough to hold multiple eggs, and since it’s made for getting wet, cleaning should be easy. Of course, that still leaves us a few compartments short to be able to collect from all the coops, so we plan to also use another item called a Super Stacker (below) that fits inside the bucket.

Super Stacker by Bucket Boss

They are made to stack inside the bucket, but our plan is to put our custom herbal nest box mix in the bucket and put the divider on top. This way we can also refresh nest boxes as we go, if needed. Nothing beats consolidating chores!

We have all of our coops named, so it will be easy to label each compartment and know exactly which eggs came from which coops, especially when spring arrives and everyone is in full egg production mode. When we get it all put together and test it out, we’ll post about the pros and cons of our little “innovation”.

Do you date your eggs?

We do not refrigerate the farm fresh eggs, so at times – especially in spring – we have cartons and cartons of eggs sitting on the counters. To reduce the risk of accidentally sending old eggs to extended family or friends, we date our eggs each night after collecting them. Reusing cartons and consolidating eggs into fewer cartons cannot be done if you date the cartons, which means each individual egg must be dated. We started dating with a charcoal pencil which was easy enough, but when you collect 2-3 dozen, or more, eggs a night that can be quit time-consuming. Mama Mo began searching for alternatives…

20160907_230332
Simple office item makes poultry farming so much easier!

An easy and inexpensive solution was found through Amazon! A regular office date stamp with the year slot set to blank works great. We were concerned with stamping ink on the eggs, so we found an edible ink* to use and ensure food safety. The ink was a little pricey ($20 for a 4 oz bottle), but it lasts a long time in the un-inked pad that we bought. We’ve only re-inked it about 3 times in 1 1/2 years.  The stamp and pad were well under $10, so we spent less than $30.00 to tremendously speed up evening chores. You can have 2-3 dozen eggs individually dated in less than 5 minutes. Well worth it! Plus, the ink does not smudge or wipe off like the charcoal pencil did. In fact, we wash our eggs with lukewarm water right before use, and unless we scrub, it doesn’t even wash off then.

*Unfortunately, that particular ink is no longer available on Amazon, but there are numerous other edible inks for around the same price or maybe less.