If you keep chickens, you know how satisfying it can be to have a breakfast of fresh eggs first thing in the morning. Of course, it can be a bit of a let down when you feed, clean after, and take care of your chickens only to find that they are laying tiny eggs.
So, why your chickens lay small eggs & what to do? Younger chickens tend to lay small eggs, also known as fairy eggs, but your chickens could also be laying small eggs for the following reasons:
- Stress and Reproduction
- Illness and Disease
- Lighting and Season
Read on to find out what goes into making these cute eggs so small and what you can do about it to reverse the effects.
Age: Do Young Chickens Lay Smaller Eggs?
On average, a chicken will lay an egg between 54 and 70 grams. That is the medium size of an egg. Upwards of 73 grams is where you get very large eggs. On occasion, you will notice oddly large and small eggs, but most of the time, this is not something to worry about.
This will vary depending on the age of your chicken. Here’s what you can expect:
- In general, your flock won’t lay any eggs until it is at least 6 months of age.
- Between 6 and 9 months, you are going to have fairy eggs.
- Between 9 months and 3 years is where you will get the most medium to large-sized eggs with most laying chicken giving off consistently sized eggs.
Now, fairy eggs are completely edible and some claim they taste better, but they are noticeably smaller, and if you want to go to market, these aren’t the eggs you should be showcasing.
Do Chickens Lay Bigger Eggs as They Get Older?
Ideally, you want to get very large Grade A eggs every time from each chicken, but this just isn’t the case. Of course, the older your chickens get, the larger their eggs will be.
So you can expect older chickens to lay the very largest eggs, but as chickens get older, they may not produce as many eggs, even if they are bigger.
Some people say that these larger eggs, while they are more nutritious, aren’t as flavor-packed as fairy eggs, so it becomes a matter of personal preference. In any case, both very large eggs and fairy eggs are completely edible and very delicious as long as they aren’t yolk-less, in which case they are still edible just not as tasty.
How Genetics Affect Egg Size
Like most anomalies that occur in nature, genetics is one of the main culprits. The skeletal size of your chicken can determine how large its eggs will be and this is determined mostly by genetics. The logic follows that chickens with larger and longer bones will lay larger eggs, whereas smaller bones chickens will lay small or medium-sized eggs.
You can increase the skeletal size of your flock by feeding them abundantly before 10 weeks of age, something we will go over in more detail in the “Nutrition” section of this article.
Breed of the Chicken Matters
The genetic makeup of your chicken will obviously impact the size of its egg. In other words, if the previous generations laid small eggs then your chicken will likely be the same. Of course, egg size is also determined by the species of chicken.
Bantams, for instance, apart from being rather aggressive, are small in size and lay smaller than average eggs. The same goes for pure breeds, which are believed to lay healthier more nutritious eggs. Which makes sense, if the egg has a yolk and the chicken is fed well, the smaller egg can be more nutrient-dense. Of course, you’re still going to get more protein and fat from a large egg.
What About Hybrid Breeds?
Hybrid chicken breeds are kept for this very reason: people want less aggressive chickens who lay bigger eggs.
A cross-breed between a Rhode Island Red or Light Sussex, for instance, will give off a suitable chicken. There are many benefits to keeping hybrid chickens:
- Almost half as cheap as pure breeds
- The offspring will often be better than either of the parents, also known as Hybrid Vigor, and will lay more eggs throughout the year
- You can purchase them already vaccinated
- Hybrids are healthier than pure breeds
- Hybrids usually lay larger more nutrient-dense eggs
You can avoid getting small fairy eggs for the most part by opting for a hybrid chicken rather than a pure breed, as hybrid chickens will usually lay medium and large-sized eggs.
How Nutrition Affect Egg Size
Nutrition is a large factor contributing to the health of your flock, as well as the size of the eggs they lay. No chicken can be expected to lay consistently large eggs, but you can increase the likelihood by paying close attention to what you are feeding your flock and when.
You should pay particular attention to the cycles of how you feed your chickens. Depending on how old your flock is the distribution of macronutrients varies greatly.
- First 10 Weeks: This is one of the most important stages in your chickens’ development, so the nutrition they get needs to be on point. The main factor you need to consider is protein intake. You want to supply you your pullets with an adequate amount of protein to promote the growth and development of their skeleton, which will directly impact the size of their future eggs. Give your chickens a starter diet for the full 10 weeks, not just 6 or 8.
- After the starter diet: You want to feed your chickens’ growers pellets up until 16 and 18 weeks of age. This will further continue the rate of growth and promote a healthy balance of nutrients for your chickens.
- After 18 weeks: You can begin feeding your flock layers pellets. It’s not recommended that you give them layers pellets before 16 weeks as they need the specific macro-nutrients in growers pellets.
- In the first couple of months of egg production: You want to keep protein levels at around 17% and 20%. This will increase egg size as your flock slowly starts to lay eggs.
- Treats: Don’t feed your chickens too many treats like corn or sunflower seeds. While these are high in protein, they are also very calorie-dense and will promote a layer of fat around the chickens’ belly and abdomen, which will not only limit the number of eggs they lay per year but also the size of the egg. Two or three small handfuls a day is more than enough for five or six chickens but only in the summer.
- Free range: Make sure your chickens have a lot of free space to go around and have plenty of access to grass. Don’t think that this will somehow make them gain or lose weight. The free space and grass are great for your chickens’ overall health and well-being.
- Egg production will plateau: Once your flock has reached maximum egg production and the amount of eggs produced throughout the month has plateaued, nothing you do will lead to major increases in egg size. Of course, you still need to feed them adequately.
- After around 35 or 36 weeks: Lower the amount of protein rations to 14% or 18%. This will help maintain the size of the egg as well as the output and can slowly increase the size until the chicken has completely matured. Still, you can’t always expect Grad A very large eggs all the time. You can just increase the likelihood of it happening.
- Oyster grit: Make sure your chickens also have access to oyster grit, which will provide an adequate amount of calcium and other minerals and micro-nutrients, providing you with strong and healthy eggshells to protect that delicious gold inside.
- Don’t forget water: Your flock needs to have adequate access to clean fresh water. Most of the egg is comprised of water, so you want to make sure your chickens get enough. This is just good nutrition advice in general.
In some very rare circumstances, your chickens could be laying weak and small eggs because of a lack of salt. If you feel like your chickens are getting an adequate amount of food and minerals, you may want to call your local vet to find out what might be wrong.
Stress and Reproduction
Small fairy eggs are nothing to worry about if they happen when your chicken is young or just a handful of times. Of course, if this is something that persists, then you may have a bit of a problem on your hands.
Stress is a large factor that may contribute to both the overall health of your flock and the size of the eggs they lay. In fact, a stressed chicken will often lay yolk-less fairy eggs with very little nutritional value.
Your flock is at its best when your chickens are free-ranging. If you are limited with space, then provide various distractions like vegetation hanging on perches and so on. Here are some of the best practices for reducing stress and creating a positive environment for your flock to live in.
- Keep the area clean. Apart from the fact that your chickens should have adequate space to move around in their living and feeding area needs to be clean. Clean out the perches, dust off vegetation, and shovel out feces.
- Make your flock feel safe. You may have set up a nice area for your flock to live and sleep in with doors, locks, and a fence or gate, but if the chickens don’t actually feel safe, it doesn’t matter how protected from harm they are.
A neighbors dog may be cute and fluffy, but for your chickens’ evolutionary instincts a puppy and wolf are pretty much the same, especially if they bark often. Things like the sound of an overhead airplane, shadow of a hawk, or a car starting up can all stress your chickens and make them feel like they are in a dangerous area. Keep your chickens in open isolated spaces.
- Watch out for problems in the flock. One of the biggest enemies for your chickens are your chickens. Within a flock, conflict can occur. This is more common with aggressive and small chicken species, but even hybrid ones can be violent. This chaotic environment is especially stressful for weaker chickens.
You need to actively observe your chickens to see if they are fighting or attacking one another. Observe their interactions as well as their daily life and make note of any stressors and what areas your chickens tend to avoid and why?
Stress is the silent killer for a reason, and it’s also a large factor that contributes to the size of your eggs. Reproduction is also directly correlated with stress and can affect how your eggs turn out.
If something like nutrition or the environment has disturbed the reproductive cycle of your chicken, then you are likely going to get odd eggs, which will often be small. Moreover, a yolk is formed in a chickens ovary. So if your flock starts to lay eggs before their reproductive system has kicked into gear, so to speak, then you will have a fairy egg with a soft fragile shell.
You shouldn’t be too worried about fairy eggs as long as they occur when your chickens are young. If they persist or occur too early in the chickens lifetime, you should get them looked at by a professional.
Will Illness or Disease Affect Egg Size?
Hybrid hens are usually vaccinated and won’t have any illness that could potentially impact the size of your egg.
Of course, your chickens could still get worms or lice, which will stress out your flock and cause irregular egg sizes and even shapes. It’s common practice to get your chickens checked out for lice or mites every month, especially in the summer. In fact, you can just treat your flock without having to check once every two months or 45 days.
With pure bread chickens, you may have to deal with some illnesses that will not only impact the size of your eggs but also the overall health of your entire flock. As a rule of thumb, you should always buy chickens from trusted sources that have been cross-breeding chickens for may years. Always get your chickens checked out by a vet and vaccinated.
Will Lighting and Season Affect Egg Size?
The last thing that could potentially alter the size of the eggs your chickens lay is lighting and the season in which they start laying eggs.
As mentioned before, the biggest thing that contributes to small and fairy eggs is the age of your chicken. The younger they start laying eggs, the smaller the eggs will be at first. Lighting programs may trick the chickens into thinking it is time to lay eggs, which will accelerate the laying process.
The young chickens will then start laying small eggs. If you want to delay when the chickens start laying eggs, you should provide 10 hours or less of light each day until around 19 weeks of age. At around 10 weeks, you can further decrease the amount of light to decelerated the start of the laying cycle. Still, provide enough windows of light so as not to stress out your flock.
Depending on the season that chickens start laying eggs, you will get fairies. If chickens start laying around summertime because of warm weather conditions you will get smaller eggs than if they were to wait until the winter months when they are around 4 or 5 months old.
Superstitious Reasons For Small Eggs
Chickens laying small and, in some cases, downright tiny eggs isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, in the Middle Ages, they were referred to as “cock” or “witch” eggs because it was believed that they were laid by roosters and that these eggs were the work of the devil. Of course, roosters can’t lay eggs, and well, the devil doesn’t seem the most reasonable explanation for small eggs.
Small eggs later became known as “wind” eggs or the Victorian “fairy” egg because of their miniature size and the fact that many of them don’t have a yolk, which is why some people on the internet refer to them as “fart” eggs.
According to superstition, once you get a fairy egg, you need to throw it over the roof of your house and let it smash on the ground in order to ward off evil. It’s your call, but you may end up smashing the egg on a neighbors head.
What to Do?
For the most part, we went over what you need to do to make sure you get quality, nice sized eggs. Again you can’t always expect to get large eggs, even from a fully developed chicken, so having small eggs and fairy eggs with no yolks when your flock is very young is nothing to worry about!
As long as you feed your chickens adequately, provide the right amount of lighting, and create a stress-free and healthy environment, you should have medium or large eggs as soon as your chickens are in their natural laying cycle. If the small egg size persist and you get fairy eggs consistently call a vet over and get your flock checked out.