I have often equated the time spent waiting for my chicken to lay her first egg to the time spent waiting to go into labor with a child. When I first got chickens, I was on egg watch the second they turned 5 months old. “Any day now” I kept telling curious friends and family. And when that day finally came, it was like a mini Christmas morning and the present was an egg. A small one. But I didn't care. I scrambled it up immediately and ate it in two bites. And it was well worth the wait.
As I have mentioned before, hens usually start laying eggs around 5 months of age. So start looking for the signs! First eggs are sometimes small and may be weird looking. Personally, I have never seen a weird first egg, but I have heard of other owners that have had their first eggs come out misshapen. Just be patient – your chicken will get good at egg laying with practice. Remember, your chicken will lay one egg every 25 hours, give or take. So, if you have a lot of hens, you will have eggs coming out of your ears! Have your hens started laying? Go get those eggs!
Collecting the Eggs!
My 3 year old daughter's favorite job is to “go check for eggs.” She asks to do this many times during the day and is usually thrilled when she finds some. She insists on carrying only one inside. We have only had 2 egg casualties so far – knock on wood.
So, how often should you collect eggs? My kids look all of the time for eggs, so they are collected throughout the day. However, if you don't have little ones to do the fetching for you, just make sure you have them in the house by the end of the day. This ensures their freshness and also reduces the risk of breakage, since more eggs will be laid on top of the eggs that are already there!
Once you have it inside, if it is clean, just pop it in the fridge. I keep mine in my fridge's egg container. If it is dirty, usually a quick wipe with a dry paper towel will do the trick. If it is REALLY dirty, go ahead and rinse it off, dry it, and put it in the fridge. Be sure to eat this one first because rinsing the egg washes away the natural bloom present on the egg shell that preserves freshness and keeps out bacteria! Try not to rinse your eggs unless you absolutely must. The bloom is a good thing, you should keep it. Eggs stored in the fridge, bloom in tact, should last about 5 weeks. Our eggs never see 5 weeks, we eat them too fast. If you find yourself totally inundated with eggs, you can freeze them! Just crack them, whip them up, and store them in a freezer safe container and you can enjoy some scrambled eggs down the road. However, my most favorite thing to do with surplus eggs is to share them with my neighbors. They have to listen to my hens cluck and be happy, why shouldn't they get to enjoy some eggs from time to time?
To ensure that your eggs always remain safe to eat, your first line of defense is a clean coop. Keeping clean litter in the nest boxes will make sure your eggs stay nice and clean. Also, don't wait too long to collect them and get them into your fridge. What if you have a cracked egg? In the past, I have always thrown these away. Just to be safe. However, I just learned that if the membrane is still in tact, the egg is safe to eat. Just make sure it gets in the fridge and it is eaten soon. If you have a leaking egg, toss it. Don't cry too hard, she will lay another one for you tomorrow.
All About the Eggs!
Really! This is why you have hens! For their delicious eggs! When I was researching backyard chickens, I kept reading that home grown eggs taste SO much better than their conventional counterpart. My husband totally doubted this. An egg is an egg, he insisted. It's true, our eggs taste like eggs. Just egg-ier, if you can imagine. After some time of having fresh eggs, we found ourselves needing to buy some eggs at the store. After that, my husband admitted that he is officially an “egg snob.” Our yolks are a vibrant orange and they are so creamy! They are robust, too! I can roll a yolk around in my fingers and it won't break. The whites are firm and gelatinous, never runny or watery. They make the best poached eggs!
If you find your stash of eggs getting bigger and are unsure which ones are the oldest, there is a simple test you can do! Place the eggs in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will lay “flat” at the bottom of the bowl. An egg that is about a week old will have the big end of the egg start to lift up off of the bottom. An egg that is 2 to 3 weeks old will stand up, and an old egg will float. As eggs age, the air cell in the egg expands which will cause them to float. This isn't totally scientific, but it is simple test you can do. Obviously, if your eggs smell rotten, please throw them away.
I have found a few strange eggs that wouldn't pass quality control at the egg manufacturer, that is for sure! My most favorite abnormality was really more of a bonus – the double yolk! In my 4 years having hens, I have only gotten one of those. It usually happens in young hens who are still maturing into their egg laying role. And by the way, that egg was HUGE! That poor hen.
I have had malformed eggs.
I have had discolored eggs. The hen that laid the following egg normally lays dark brown eggs. This was an interesting surprise. (No, that is not blood at the top. It is the dark brown color I mentioned.)
And I have had multiple jelly eggs – eggs without a shell. I took the following video a few years ago with my flipcam. Unfortunately the flip locked focus on the fridge behind my hand, so the egg is out of focus. But you will get the idea of what a jelly egg looks like.
Another abnormality is blood spots. These happen when tissue is released with a yolk. These don't happen too often and are most likely seen in aging hens. I mentioned the double yolkers already. There can also be “no yolkers.” This typically happens in young hens that are just beginning to lay. I don't know about you, but I would feel totally gypped if I happened to find one of those eggs!
Now that you know all about your chicken's eggs, stop reading and go have breakfast!! And then thank your pet. Because I am sure none of your other pets can give you breakfast.
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