Wow. Every now and then while gathering the eggs I score a WHOPPER!
I am asked a lot of questions about the chooks and eggs. It’s amazing how fascinated folk are about the whole egg laying process. So here are a few facts.
I wish I could know which hens are laying the ‘well over 110gm’ eggs, so I could give them some extra calcium and a little empathy!!
Egg size is dependent on breed, age, and weight of the hen. Larger chicken breeds tend to lay larger eggs; bantam breeds lay small eggs. Older hens tend to lay larger eggs than younger hens.
In my flock, Welsummers consistently lay the largest eggs; Silver Spangled Hamburgh, although sporadic, the most prolific; Australorpe the most reliable; Arucana the prettiest and Dark Barred Rocks while beautiful and indispensable hens, are the laziest layers. With fourteen heritage breeds, I guess you could describe me as a chook fancier. And I think I know my eggs too.
The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs. Those handsome Barred Rocks give me pinky brown finely speckled eggs- not many, or often, but enough that they may stay……
Shell color is only “skin deep”– the eggs inside are the same as eggs of other colors.
The shell color intensity of eggs laid by one hen can vary from time to time, with an occasional darker or lighter eggshell.
While most eggs have a slight sheen to the shell, some breeds or individual hens tend to lay eggs with a chalkier texture.
A normal fresh egg has a yellow yolk, a layer of thick albumen (egg white) surrounding the yolk, and a thinner layer of albumen surrounding that.
At opposite sides of the yolk are two chalazae, short white twisted strands of albumen that anchor the yolk to the white.
The only reason a rooster would be required with a flock of hens is to fertilize eggs. As a side job, a good rooster also serves as a watchman, warning his hens of predators and other dangers. He also seeks out food for his harem.
Even with a virile rooster in residence, not all eggs will be fertile.
A large chalaza does not indicate embryo development. Every egg yolk has a white disc called a blastoderm. It is usually visible but may be very pale. In an infertile egg, the blastoderm is solid white. In a fertile egg, the disc has a faint or distinct ring that makes it look like a disc or bulls-eye.
Fertile eggs are completely edible. In fact, some people consider fertile eggs more nutritious than infertile eggs, but scientific research does not confirm this.
Fresh fertile eggs collected daily will not have embryos in them. Embryos do not begin to develop unless the eggs are in a favorable warm environment under a broody hen or in an artificial incubator.
The yolk of a chicken egg may be any shade from pale yellow to orange, depending on what the hen has eaten. The color is usually consistent if hens are fed only one type of feed, but foraging hens and those fed kitchen scraps will often produce a variety of yolk colors.
The egg yolk or egg white may have red or brown specks in it. These “blood spots” and “meat spots” are harmless bits of tissue. If they look unappealing, the spots can be removed with a spoon or knife before cooking.
An eggshell has a protective coating that prevents bacteria from entering the egg. To retain this coating, eggs should not be washed until just before use.
Some eggs are soiled with blood from minor tissue damage or mud or poo from the nest box. This can be wiped off carefully; the shell should be thoroughly dried.
If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should be discarded.
Chooks are a great interest and can contribute a lot to a family budget bottom line and nutrition.
It would be fantastic if everyone could keep a few chooks in the backyard; but if you can't have your own hens then do some research, visit the farmers market, ask around and seek out fresh pastured hens eggs- give the supermarkets the flick and support local small farms.