What really do you know about eggs other than they make a delicious breakfast? Well, Falco's Heritage Farm and Capper's Farmer are here to answer all your egg-related questions!
Production of an egg typically takes about 11-1/2 days. Typically, enough hormone is released to develop only one ova and one yolk. Young, first laying hens or old hens can develop more than one ova and yolk, which results in a double yolk or other eggy anomaly. On average, your chicken, duck or turkey hen needs to receive about 14 hours of light in a day in order to trigger the right hormones to start egg production. Once your hen receives this light, the next step consumes the most time. Once the hormones are released the ova ripens and yolk development occurs which takes about 9 days. Once the ova and yolk are developed, producing an egg takes about 24-1/2 hours. The egg white forms around the egg yolk, membranes are added to protect the egg and then the porous shell is formed around the yolk and white and lastly the bloom and tint is applied. A hen can only produce one egg per day, no more than that.
Egg shells are really cool things. The egg shell has millions of pores to help a baby bird breathe while it is developing. The hen produces a bloom, or coating, protecting and covering the shell, essentially blocking the pores so that bacteria cannot get into the egg before enough eggs are laid and before the baby bird begins to breathe. This means that if you do not wash your eggs (and are raising your own hens) the bloom will keep your egg fresh for a long time. An interesting little side-note on a particular breed of chicken, the Maran breed of chicken has never produced an egg with salmonella. Why, you may ask? The pores of a Maran shell are so small and they have fewer pores, that presumably bacteria cannot penetrate. If you do need to clean your eggs, you can replace the bloom by rubbing the shell with mineral oil and storing the eggs in a cool area, such as a cellar. Home-raised eggs do not have to be refrigerated, but greater care should be given if you do not refrigerate.
You have to be careful of age, heat and air when keeping your eggs fresh for eating. As an egg ages, the natural bloom breaks down and air passes through the shell and begins to break down the egg white. This is good for meringues, but is bad for a sunny side up fried egg. Heat breaks down the bloom faster, allowing bacteria to penetrate the shell, creating a bacteria incubator. This is bad news. Sometimes our hens lay eggs where they are not supposed to and thus you may find one of these bacteria bombs somewhere hidden in the bedding. Be careful, because they will explode with a pop and a smell you never wish to smell. Air is the biggest factor which influences the quality of an egg. Air ages and can provide a vehicle for the penetration of nasties, so take care if you keep your eggs longer than 25 days.
How many eggs your hen produces and the color of the egg is determined by species and breed of bird. Chickens can lay white, blue, green, brown, and chocolate colored egg shells. Chickens can lay 1-7 eggs per week according to breed, diet, light and season. Chickens do not like to lay when it is too cold or too hot. There are breeds of chickens which lay well in the winter like the Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Speckled Sussex and Barred Rocks. Ducks can produce white, blue, green, brown and even black eggs! Ducks are more likely to lay 1-5 eggs per week according to breed, diet, light and season. Ducks do not like heat during egg production and are more likely to lay in the cooler months of Spring, Fall and Winter, regardless of the limited light. Certain duck breeds lay better than others such as Khaki Campbells, Indian Runner and the Golden 300. Turkeys tend to follow seasons closely and start laying in February and can continue to lay through the fall depending on breed.
Last but not least, is it worth it to raise your own hens for eggs? Well, that is up to you. It is important to note that hens in well-tended flocks produce eggs which are nutritionally superior. They have:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene