The Curious Case of Little Girl

20140718_182607Little Girl is my problem hen, and has been for quite some time.  She’s a pathetic layer, she’s absolutely vicious to the other chickens when they try to roost near her, and she’s the annual winter feather picker that ruins the other two hens feathers every year.  She’s not gentle with people, she’s gone broody for months in the past, she doesn’t have a sweet voice like Bossy, and the few eggs she lays are prone to being malformed, yolkless, and sometimes shell-less.

She’s also the one who laid the infamous creepy ‘egg’, which was not an egg, rather, my chicken laid a yolk in a bloody membrane.  You can see how that’s possible by looking at The Chicken Chicks’s excellent picture of a chickens reproductive system, which show the ovi and the vascular membrane that contains them.  Little Girl was a poor layer before this event, and a poor layer after- but, at least she was still laying, even if sporadically.

This year, however, we’ve seriously only gotten a handful of eggs from her.  In fact, I’d venture to say she laid more eggs while she was indoors being isolated from the other hens (to save them further feather-picking damage during our long winter) than she has in the spring/summer altogether.  I haven’t seen an egg from her in months.

I’ve asked other chicken keepers if they’ve had a hen who lays yolkless eggs as much as Little Girl does; nobody that I encounter has had a chicken lay yolkless eggs as much as her.  I’ve asked the backyard chicken community on Reddit about her, and received no new information.  I’ve looked on chicken keeping sites and reviewed every ‘weird egg’ analysis I can find to see if anyone has any insight on her consistently yolkless eggs- I’ve turned up nothing except people warning me to get ready for her to die any day now from egg yolk peritonitis or some other awful internal issue.

strange chicken eggs
Normal eggs from Bossy and Dumptruck on top; Little Girl’s eggs below.

Yolkless eggs, also known as “dwarf”, “wind”, “witch”, “cock”, or “fart” eggs, are often attributed to a new layer or a hen at the end of her laying life.  If Little Girl was younger or older, I wouldn’t be alarmed.  That’s why I’ve dismissed it for some time- as a younger hen, I assumed she was just working out the kinks in her egg laying cycle.  Since she also had the fun (read: not) habit of going broody for at least a solid month in the summer, any no-yolk eggs after were also chalked up to getting back on track with the laying cycle.  Eventually, she’d lay a few eggs with a yolk… until this year.  The last ‘normal’ egg from her was at the tail end of winter- everything from there on out has been yolkless, and infrequent.  Little Girl should be cranking eggs out like the other two hens at this point in her life, and it’s baffling that she’s not.  If you check out the picture above, you’ll notice she’s got an interesting “body check” mark that occurs on most of the slightly bigger eggs- it looks like someone cut the top of the egg off and glued it back on like a cap.

All summer she’s eaten normally, doing all her usual chickeny things, though she skipped being broody this year.  Just no eggs, except a few shell-less ones that seemed to ‘sneak up’ on her and slip out while she was in the yard or on the roost.  Every day I’ve expected to come outside and find her dead or ill due to internal laying or some other chicken malady. Every day she’s come thundering over looking for treats, seemingly healthy as can be.

Except today.  Today, LG was not feeling it.  She’s listless, withdrawn, pale.  All the bad signs that make me take immediate notice.  Since it’s closing in on fall, this could be the start of a molt- Bossy is just finishing hers (she started extremely early this year), so the timing doesn’t seem too off.  But, coupled with her lifetime of weird eggs and a full summer of not laying, I’m preparing myself for the worst.  I just hope I’m wrong, like I’ve been for the past 2 years now.

Update:  Little Girl died 6/21/15.  In above post, she was entering a molt.  She enjoyed another winter indoors to prevent her from ripping out the feathers of the other chickens (as much as we could), she laid a few more yolkless eggs, and passed in the early hours of 6/21.