Since I’ve started raising chickens, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people concerning eggs, and I’m guessing most people that raise chickens get similar inquiries. I’m going to dedicate this post to answering the questions I am most frequently asked about my eggs, and addressing a few things that you may find of interest. For those of you that raise chickens, feel free to chime in on this post’s comment section and share additional knowledge, or share answers to questions you frequently receive.
OK, here we go.
Question: Do you need a rooster to gets eggs from a hen?
Answer: No. The eggs will not be fertile, but a pullet or hen can lay eggs without a rooster around.
Question: I cracked open an egg and found a red spot in it. Does this mean the egg was fertile?
Answer: No. The red spot you sometimes find in an egg is something that occasionally occurs when the egg is forming in the oviduct. This is typically called a “meat spot” or “blood spot”, and it is usually a small piece of tissue or speck of blood from the hen. It is harmless and safe to eat. If it grosses you out, just remove it. You will not normally find these spots in store bought eggs because the eggs are screened by high tech equipment that detects these types of things and discarded.
Determining if an egg is fertile can be accomplished by looking at the blastoderm. The blastoderm is a small white spot on the surface of the yolk. You may have noticed this small white spot in store bought eggs. The white spot may look like a white dot and it is easily removed in infertile eggs. If the egg is fertile, there will be an expanded ring around the blastoderm. This is often called a bulls eye, because the ring resembles one. I don’t have a great picture of this, but I do have one that may help you determine the difference:
See that egg in the middle? Notice the spot on it? Maybe you can see it better in this picture:
Notice that it is not a clearly defined white dot? It looks expanded, and you may be able to notice the bulls eye appearance. This is a fertile egg. It is perfectly safe to eat and does not affect the taste.
Question: Why is the yolk in your chicken eggs so much more yellow or orange than store bought eggs?
Answer: Free range chicken eggs typically have very yellow or orange yolks because their diet allows them to ingest many nutrients from various plants that provide carotenoids, which is responsible for the yellow color of yolks. Quality chicken feed will also provide carotenoids that can result in eggs with a deeper yellow or orange color.
Question: I noticed that the egg shell of one of the eggs you gave me is rough and sandy feeling. What’s up with that?
Answer: It’s not unusual for new layers to occasionally lay an egg with a shell that is rough feeling. The rough, sandy stuff on the egg shell is calcium deposits that simply didn’t get smoothed out as the shell was forming. These types of shell do not affect the quality or taste of the egg. Below is a picture of one such shell:
Question: Why are the eggs I get from you so difficult to crack? The shell seems to stick to the something that makes it difficult to get the egg out.
Answer: Beneath the shell of an egg, is the membrane. This membrane is very strong when an egg is very fresh. As the egg ages, the membrane deteriorates. Fresh eggs can be more difficult to crack because the membrane is very strong and the shell tends to cling to it. So take heart – you are getting very fresh eggs!
Question: Does a rooster have to mate with a hen each time before she can lay a fertile egg?
Answer: No. A hen can remain fertile from one mating with a rooster for quite some time, possibly for up to four weeks. This means that there is a good chance that the eggs she lays during that time may be fertile.
The above are the most common questions I am asked concerning my chickens’ eggs. If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to point you to a resource that can provide it.
On a slightly different subject, I found this link from the Mississippi State University Extension Service that does a wonderful job of describing the embryo development in chicken eggs. I found it very interesting and helpful.