A lot of people expressed surprise at the idea of shell-less eggs. Since getting chickens, I have learned a LOT about How Eggs Are Made. And that the process isn’t nearly as error-proof as you might think if, like me, you’d spent your life eating store-bought eggs.
Most of the shell-less eggs get stepped on and ruptured before I can collect them. But I finally caught one in time to show you!
Think of an egg as being built on an assembly line. At one end of the assembly line, the ovaries drop an ovum onto the conveyor belt. The ovum turns into the yolk, and is the “seed” around which the egg is built.
As it moves down the conveyor belt, it gets a layer of egg white, some little white bungee cords called chalazae, two layers of membrane (an inner and an outer – the air space is in the gap between these two membranes), and finally the shell.
When a chicken is young, its conveyor belt doesn’t work very well. Sometimes it runs too fast, and an egg shoots right past a step. (That’s how we get shell-less eggs – it zips right past the “add shell” station.) Sometimes it runs slowly, or even stops for a few days. And sometimes – very rarely – it will actually run in reverse!
Reversals of the conveyor belt are how most of the REALLY weird eggs get made. For example, the egg-in-an-egg phenomenon, which recently took the internet by storm. An egg-in-an-egg happens when an egg gets all the way to the final step – then the conveyor belt reverses it all the way back to the beginning. More often an egg only goes back one or two steps before proceeding forwards again.
One of my favorite Weird Egg references – because it has lots of gross pictures – is at Brown Egg Blue Egg.