Wondering why you're not getting so many eggs from your hens? Have you noticed a gradual loss of pigmentation in the shells? Are you getting eggs without shells? If you answered yes to any of these you may be dealing with a condition known as Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS).
Egg Drop Syndrome is a viral disease that affects laying hens. It can lead to a significant decrease in egg production and causes egg quality to decline, seen as eggs that are thin-shelled or soft-shelled.
EDS is transmitted between chickens through direct contact with infected birds or exposure to contaminated materials in the environment, such as feed or equipment. Infected hens can also pass it to their chicks. The virus is in the shell gland of the egg so it’s shed onto the egg but also into the vent during egg laying and from there onto feces. It’s also spread by wild birds so if your flock is free-ranging it’s tough to keep out.
The key symptom of EDS is a sudden drop in egg production. Affected hens may lay misshapen or shell-less eggs, or eggs may have thin, rough, or abnormal shells. Infected hens may also have respiratory issues, decreased appetite, and depression although they often show no symptoms.
Progress is usually seen as a decline from the usual egg, through pigment loss in the shells, to shell-less eggs. The egg production often doesn’t actually stop but the eggs are so structurally unsound – without a shell – that they are eaten or just lost in the materials in the nesting box.
There’s no specific treatment for EDS. The hen will usually start laying again in a few weeks. The aim is to prevent the virus spreading so focus on isolating the hen from her flock mates and thoroughly clean everything that comes into contact with her eggs or feces.
Even if she’s showing no other symptoms, she has a virus and should be supported with good feed and fresh water.
EDS is not the only reason your hen may not be laying and we’ll look at other causes in later articles.