|A day's worth of eggs from the farm. Our Ameraucana's |
blue egg and a tiny "wind egg" are in the center.
As we waited for our little peeps to arrive last April, I busied myself with reading everything I could about raising chickens. I did a lot of research on breeds; we had Rhode Island Reds in the past and wanted chickens that were more docile. We settled on Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Plymouth Barred Rocks, Black Australorps, and Speckled Sussex. Two of them have stood out as favorites and often seek out attention from their human family: Kooky, a Sussex who enjoys perching on our shoulders, and Rainbow Girl, a brown Ameraucana who "coos" when she's pet.
I've developed a good knowledge of chicken-keeping... as well as some amusing (and sometimes completely useless) facts!
1. Egg shell color is not related to feather color; instead, the color of a hen's earlobes is often related to her egg color. Eggs (and earlobes!) come in all shades of brown from light beige through dark chocolate-brown, white, and even pink. However, the exception to the rule are Ameraucana hens who lay blue-green eggs and Araucana hens who lay blue eggs. Brown-egg-layers may also lay speckled eggs.
|Some unique eggs from our flock: (clockwise from top)|
egg with white calcium spots, blue Ameraucana egg,
two speckled eggs from Speckled Sussex
2. Eggs take approximately 25 hours to develop inside a hen before being laid. Eggs start off with white shells and, right before being laid, brown pigment will be deposited on the shell by brown-layers. Depending on age and breed, hens can lay fewer than 100 eggs per year while others may lay over 300. Each hen produces eggs with a shape unique to her; some are more circular while other are more oval.
3. If hens don't get enough calcium in their diets, their eggs' shells can become thin and break easily. Calcium can even be pulled from their bones to make the eggshells. Oyster-shell supplements can be fed free-choice in a small container and hens will take what they need. Other conditions may also lead to thin shells.
4. Young hens who are just beginning to lay can sometimes produce strange-looking eggs as a result of their systems adjusting. Extra-extra-large double-yolkers and tiny, yolk-less "wind" eggs are fine to eat (and a fun conversation piece). It's also possible for a hen to lay a shell-less egg.
|The girls and their gentleman-friend, Fabio, enjoying an |
autumn day in their outside run.
6. Fresh eggs are difficult to peel after hard-boiling. Thank you to Lisa @ FreshEggsDaily for this tip on making hard-cooked eggs: Steam for 20 minutes and then plunge into ice water. They will peel easily!
7. Hens who are allowed to forage on plant materials and insects lay more nutritious eggs with much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, vitamins A, D, and E, and lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat. (We have a fenced outdoor run for our chickens so pasture is limited, but we give them greens, vegetables, and fruits daily to compensate.) All eggs are high in protein, amino acids, folic acid, zinc, and choline. Also, research has shown that, while eggs contain some cholesterol, eggs do not raise cholesterol levels in humans.
8. Egg shells may look solid, but are actually porous. Washing a dirty egg in warm water will draw the bacteria in through the shell.
9. Fresh eggs have a small airspace, firm yolks, and a gelatinous, cloudy white. As eggs age, the airspace grows larger and the yolk and white become watery. If placed in a bowl of water, fresh eggs will sink and older eggs will float due to the size of their airspace. Eggs can be stored for four weeks in the refrigerator (in a closed container to prevent drying out), up to six weeks in a cool, non-refrigerated place, or frozen in ice cube trays. Other (and probably less-appealing) preservation methods include oiling, pickling, and "water-glass".)
10. Broody hens will sit on eggs in a nest for three weeks, until they hatch. During this time, she will move off the nest for less than a half-hour a day and rotate her eggs every fifteen minutes!
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