Nutrition and Egg shell Quality

Forum: What is Egg Shell Quality and How to Preserve it?

Published on: 11/29/2010
Author/s : Dr. Ken W. Koelkebeck (University of Illinois)
There are many factors that affect the overall quality of the egg shell, but before discussing these factors, it is important to know what makes up the structure of the egg shell. The egg shell consists of about 94 to 97% calcium carbonate. The other three percent is organic matter and egg shell pigment. There are also as many as 8,000 microscopic pores in the shell itself. The outer coating of th...
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Matheus Ramalho Matheus Ramalho
November 29, 2010
Congratulations on the article about egg shell quality!

But, I have a question. Could you please answer this?

Could the number or the size of the pores of the egg shell be influenced by any factor? And the resistance the breaking, sufficiently related with the calcium and phosphorus ratio, what are the influences on it ?


Student of Ph.D Poultry Nutrition at Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil
November 30, 2010

Very informative article about egg shell quality.

Siti Aisyah A. Talib Siti Aisyah A. Talib
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
November 30, 2010

This article about Egg Shell Quality  helps me a lot.TQ

November 30, 2010
Thanks for the brief informatin provided on body checks which accounts about 0.1-0.2[percent] out of total poduction and about 10[percent] of shell qulity issues. Along with the managemental practices the additional supplementation of nutrients involved in shell formation in a comprehensive manner just before the start of shell formation can help t control 50[percent] of the cases. A commercial product from Neospark with Vitamin D, Ca, Mn, Cu, Zn and HCo3 is available in the name of EgStron/Shell Forte.
November 30, 2010

I think is a good article about Egg Shell Quality. Congratulations

But I would like to know your opinion about recommendation, in aged hens, to add some grams ( 2-3 gr / hen / day ) of calcium carbonate in 3-4 mm particles on top in feed in the afternoon.

And what is your better recomendation ( gr, age, time etc... )

Anticipated Thanks

December 2, 2010

Heartiest congratulations
It is really a good article about Egg Shell Quality, specially a minor thing i.e. Temperature at the time of wash which normally is not followed.
I would like to know what other precautions should be taken in case of Broiler Breeders to maintain good quality eggs , avoid cracked eggs & improve keeping quality .

Arshaq Ramzee Arshaq Ramzee
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
December 3, 2010
A very good and simple papers for under grads.
Dr Jaydip Mulik Dr Jaydip Mulik
Master Of Veterinary Science & Master of Business Administration
December 4, 2010
Dear Sir,

I absolutely agree with the Comments of Dr Chandrashekhar & I am really thankful for

your article which will help the Commercial Layer Farmers to overcome the problem

of Egg breakage.

Thanks & regards,

Dr Jaydip
January 20, 2011

Very excellent article on eggs hell quality and also provides the guide about the egg washing, egg handling, management of layers to prevent from egg shell defects.

February 13, 2011

Congratulations with the simple but comprehensive and clear overview on egg shell quality. From the nutrition side, somebody mentioned already the importance of adequate supply of some minerals (Ca, P, Trace minerals) and vitamins (D3).
More recent research and development work has documented the benificial effects of a special complex of encapsulated calciumbutyrate, on several Egg Shell Parameters (number of broken eggs, haircracks, soft eggs, dirty eggs, breaking strength) but also on inner egg quality (Haugh Units) and performance (laying rate and FCR). Contrarely to other nutritional measures, calciumbutyrate showed to impact more the elasticity of the shell that its thickness. Butyrate is known to improve gut integrity, nutrient (mineral) absorption and calcium- and energy metabolism but also reducing inflammation. The product has since been validated intensively under European and S.E. Asian conditions.

Abdou Gad Abdallah Abdou Gad Abdallah
Animal Nutritionist
March 15, 2011

Thank you Dr. Ken for this interesting technical article about Egg Shell Quality. Regarding the cause of body checked cracked eggs, this phenomenon is primarily due external factors that affect hen to be scared or moved suddenly during the time the calcium is being classified on eggshell such as rowdiness, or noisiness. Therefore, this type of eggshell cracked is very low in eggs produced in free range or back yard hens. Other thing also would like to comment on it is that eggshell quality problem increases as hen ages. In fact the deterioration in eggshell quality in older hens is not due to lower utilization of Ca since research has proven that amount of Ca deposit on the shell (g Ca/hen/day) remain constant as hen ages. However, as hen ages egg gets bigger with no farther increase in Ca deposited on the shell resulting in thinner shell and greater number of breakages.

Nadir Alloui Nadir Alloui
Veterinary Doctor
March 15, 2011

Thank you for the good article about Egg Shell Quality. Today the problem for consumers is: How to recognize in the market, the good quality of eggs?

March 15, 2011

Thank you Dear Dr. Ken W. Koelkebeck. Interesting article about Egg Shell Quality.
Can I have more information about the causes which affect the spent time of egg in the uterus?

Best Regards

Philippe Gossart Philippe Gossart
March 22, 2011

An old, easy, very practical technic to control the egg shell quality is also the Egg Specific Gravity (Mr Harms/ Florida Univ)
The fall of the ESG is closely related to the egg shell quality.
1,083 or 1,085 at the beginning of laying
1,08 around 45 to 50 weeks the point of balance
1,078 around 60 weeks
1,075 around 70 weeks
1,073 around 80 weeks
ESG is a right marker of the egg shell quality.
The target will be to control it & to maintain the higher possible level.

The US technic to Wash eggs is not used in Europe and in a lot of other countries. disreputable? A good way to contamine all the eggs ? etc…here are the questions.
The original physiologic protection seems more efficient.

Yes, I would like to confirm the way of butyrate, but rather sodium butyrate than calcium.
There is already an excess of calcium in the laying hen diet. It is not necessary to overdo it
Sodium butyrate is widely better than calcium because sodium butyrate has a strong osmotic & electrolytic effect on the mucus cell.
The osmotic relation is strictly with Sodium, never with Calcium.
That’s all. Ph.G

April 19, 2011

I would like to comment on the post from Mr. Abdou Gad Abdallah. You write that “as hen ages egg gets bigger with no further increase in Ca deposited on the shell resulting in thinner shell and greater number of breakages”. I would like to comment on this, as I am not sure the problem is that straight forward. For instance, Curtis et al. (2005) report that during a 1 year cycle, while percentage of albumen and yolk vary greatly with age, egg shell percentage is rather stable (from 10.3 to 9.0% of total weight).

My point is that egg size is certainly NOT THE ONLY parameter which influences shell quality. We all agree that older birds will have more shell problems. But is it really due to egg size? As reported in a trial conducted by Bennet (2004), egg weight contributed to only 5% of the increased number of thin shelled eggs between 36 and 66 weeks of age. As the hens grow older, eggs of all sizes become thin shelled. When investigating shell quality problems, it is often necessary to have a broader perspective. For example, as the author of the paper posted here mentions, “older flocks produce more body checked eggs”. Since body checked eggs have weaker shells (not thinner), that may be one of the reasons why older birds have more eggs with shell problems. Bennet also mentions that bigger eggs build up momentum as they roll out of the cage. This momentum makes them more likely to crack than smaller eggs of similar shell quality.

Egg shell quality has to be approached as a multi factorial issue. Besides health problems, management, and environmental conditions (for instance heat stress), we believe that fine-tuning of nutrition can play a role in dealing with this situation. As hens get older their digestive system is certainly less efficient. For instance, absorption of nutrients (especially minerals) is impaired as hens get older, in particular after 40-45 weeks of age. Use of sodium butyrate, which helps in development and maintenance of healthy villi, can counteract this decrease in absorption.

A solution combining sodium butyrate with other important ingredients, including vitamins and organic trace minerals such as copper or zinc, is available and has been widely tested in various parts of the world. We observe that parameters such as laying rate, FCR and mortality are improved. Also, egg quality (shell and albumen) is usually better, with higher values for the Haugh units. Our latest data indicates that when using this combination, it is possible to reduce the protein level of the diet and produce eggs at a cheaper costs while maintaining a similar quality.

April 19, 2011

ovulation occurs after 10 min,first egg is expeled and the next one enters shell gland after 5hrs of ovulation.calcium is deposited in 2 phases,ist phase calcium crystals begin to form and second phase 90%calcium is deposited on shell @200mg calcium\ the egg shell quality depends upon the amount of calcium present in the digestive system for shell formation.when insufficient ,the calcium from the bone reserve is used and poor egg shell quality is shell quality depends upon the amt of calcium present in the gizzard at lights on.this is the basic,now how to encouragegood shell quality,1]-encourage
max feed during last 6 hrs of day,2]provide70% cal 4mm size to encourageretention in gizzard[night storage],3]provision of oyster grit,4]avoid heat stress as it delays ovipositionand poor shell quality.5]proper mangement of respiratiory virus..6]nutrition.
the article is to basic in literature but informative

April 19, 2011

Thank you Dr. Ken really it was simple and useful article about Egg Shell Quality. I would like to comment on diseases affected gut and prevent the absoposion of digesta such as cococidiosis. Also .the shelf live of the egg within the stander conditions
My thanks to Dr Abdou ,Mathieu, Philippeand Nitin for their deep and useful commitments

Luc Goethals Luc Goethals
April 19, 2011

Interesting article about Egg Shell Quality. Very high appreciation for the imput from Dr. Philippe Gossart and Mr. Mathieu Cortyl. Dr. Gossart has been one of the pioneers in Europe on sodium butyrate and no doubt he is very knowlegeable about this salt. It is very right that SODIUM has a stronger osmotic (and electrolytic) effect than calcium. Maybe this may explain the signficantly higher incidence of dirty eggs with sodium salts than with calcium salts. With calciumbutyrate we always measure significant less dirty eggs and dryer litter moisture than with sodiumbutyrate. Re-enforcing monovalent minerals (salts) indeed may strengthen the egg shell, one of the valid options Mr. Cortyl mentions as well. Otherwise it is also very clear from Mr. Cortyl his comment that the major effect of butyrate is not linked to the cation (whether sodium or calcium), but from the anion (villi and mucosa integrity).
Likewise Dr. Gossart has pioneered on sodiumbutyrate 20 years ago, we have done similar ground breaking work with other butyrate salts especially with a specially coated calcium butyrate salt inbedded in two specific carriers (patented process). Results in laying and breeding hens but also in broilers have been striking so far and always outperformed the traditional sodiumbutyrate products on several parameters. Obviously Dr. Gossart seems not to have knowledge of, experience with, or access to those data, allthough they have been confirmed by some 40 trials already in research bodies like IRTA (Spain), INRA (France), CCL and Schothorst (Netherlands), ILVO (Belgium), institutes and universities in Germany, Poland, Czeck Republic, Croatia etc. Many have been published already or communicated in congresses. Bringing more calcium to the diet in an organic form is of course no objection, since this has always been positive : it allows to lower mineral sources (less appetising limestone for example). Organic calcium has higher nutritional value than anorganic calcium.
We very much appreciate Dr. Gossart knowledge and experience with sodiumbutyrate, but are happy to invite Philippe to brief him correctly about this special type of calciumbutyrate. Welcome ! L.G.

Maheswar Rath Maheswar Rath
BVSc &AH,MVSc &AH,poultry science, Ph.D. Poultry science
April 19, 2011
dear sir, i just notice the debate to have good shell quality leading to economical value.Most of the points the author dr ken has projected nicely but what is really expected from a bird weighing 1.3-1.4kg body wt at 19-20wk of age with final weight at 72-80wk as 1.6kg . I my openion the crack eggs, mis-shaped eggs,fine cracks , shell less eggs, etc have some mangemental cause which we have to control as far as possible. chicken has wounderful ability developed through genetic selections from many generations to produce 320-330 eggs within the peirod of 52-54wks of time which need critical balance of environment to cope up with the task for the bird. white leghorn has proved to be best number egg laying bird with white shell with least nutritional cost as compared to colored layers.All over world we see new concepts are growing to target the shell quality also.some say shell grits are important to be retained in gizard for longer duration, some say X -additives are helpful, some say organic tracemineral are optimum, some quantify the micro minerals requirements etc. Yes every thing is ok. which are given as per exprience and results through experiments. But i would say Let us offer the best food quality with corn and soya base diet with 3.6-4%cal.0.45%ph,tracemineral Fe,Cu,Zn,Mn, etc at good recomended levels, vit premix- vitA15000IU,3000ICU-D3,vitE at 40-50mg/kg of feed etc with Bcompex at recommended levels. Quality of corn,Soya and other ingradients is highly essential freed from mycotoxins. If the litter pit is wet we have to worry how to control the GIT and we have to identify who is disturbing the GIT. circulation of air at optimum level and quality drinking water free from salts and bacteria are real challange. If i have 1lakh birds in cage mostly the bird's genotypes are replica of each bird due to selection conditions.Thus let us try to have ASM-frist egg at right age not much below 18wk of age and let us have the peak at the lowest age possible like 24 wk .Uniformity in body wt and desired ASM only possible when uniforminty in management of each cage/bird are posible . However all over world layer farmers are successful and doing best and getting best performance either in close housing or opening housing .One important challange to us is now how to initiate liquide egg bussiness with all sophestications and safty rather than concentrating shell quality. It is more imprtant to have more egg per bird with acceptable egg wt.An average layer with optimum mangement do her task.Now we have to locate our variations stimulating points while doing shed management. I am sure Genetics of bird is the key of our success in egg bussiness i am hopeful if we get 350 egg in 380day by 72wks then the this bird need still special care and health care in future.
Lastly, one question would be -are we exploiting the layer using least cost and expecting more benefit?
Biological barriers always indicate some threshold values. Let us organise our market for more profitability with reference to cost of production and let us allow our layer to do her job at 85%anual lay HH with least damaged egg until we reach new biological heights.
Thanks for reading >m rath
April 20, 2011
Dear Luc,

Thank you for your comments… please allow me to also reply.

First, please do not make me say what I did not say. You write “it is also very clear from Mr. Cortyl his comment that the major effect of butyrate is not linked to the cation (whether sodium or calcium), but from the anion (villi and mucosa integrity).” I never wrote this. I mentioned about the effect of sodium butyrate indeed, and it seems we all agree it brings important benefits at the gut level.

On the contrary, you appear to strongly believe that the cation is of outmost importance. If I understand correctly your comments, the debate should be: sodium or calcium as cation? Since you mention about “a specially coated calcium butyrate salt” I did a quick search on the internet and found that the product you describe contains 11% calcium and is recommended at 0.5 kg per MT of feed. That means the organic calcium in feed will be 55 grams per MT or 0.0055%. When a layer diet has around 3.5 to 4% calcium, I am wondering how this amount of organic calcium can make a difference?

As for the significantly wetter litter, or the higher number of dirty eggs that should be found when using sodium butyrate, I do not agree. We have good feedback from layer or broiler farms using sodium butyrate based additives, and one of their comments is that litter is drier or eggs cleaner than when they did not use the product. As you certainly know, in today’s layer farms, prevalence of dirty eggs is affected mainly by the incidence of cracked eggs (besides the availability of enough nest boxes and the frequency of egg collection), because eggs with weak shells tend to crack easily, causing newly laid eggs to be dirty. So, in my opinion, if we observe cleaner eggs it is not due to the cation itself, but rather due to the better gut health and improved nutrient absorption, leading to stronger shell, as discussed before.

I personally don’t have experience of results obtained with calcium butyrate, so I would be quite interested to get the references of the papers you mention, especially those where you observed significant less dirty eggs and dryer litter moisture when comparing calcium butyrate with sodium butyrate.

My apologies to the rest of the readers for spending a bit of time on those details, but I feel this is important.

Thank you and best regards.
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