How Does this Whole Chicken and Egg Thing Work?

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:

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See that egg in the middle? Notice the spot on it? Maybe you can see it better in this picture:

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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:

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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.

Be Free,
Penny

8 Responses to “How Does this Whole Chicken and Egg Thing Work?”

  1. LizBeth says:

    Penny, thanks! That is so interesting to a former city girl. We are hoping to have chickens next year when we can make a good home for them. At the moment, there is a large gray cat that roams the neighborhood! Liz

  2. Nicole says:

    Hi there! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I stumbled upon it in my quest to figure out this whole homesteading thing. I have zero interest in determining if an egg is fertile or if you’re hubby wears purple underwear (haha) but I am officially addicted to your blog! It may be the ADORABLE puppies, the snuggly chicks (they snuggle…right??) or just your wit and sense of humor but I check your page every day. PLEASE don’t stop writing, I love watching your adventure into homesteading. Best of luck!
    Nicole….23 years old…Columbus, OH

  3. basicliving says:

    LizBeth – you are welcome. And we had some cats hanging around when we first put our chicks in the coop at two weeks old. But, for some reason, we never saw them again once the chickens started free ranging. Go figure!

    Nicole – thanks for the nice post. It was incredibly sweet (your check is in the mail). I’m just having a hard time grasping that you are not interested in whether my hubby wears purple underwear. You were kidding, right? And the chicks are indeed snuggly. I’m not sure they like it, but they are way too tiny to get away with not being snuggly. Or kissable. They get lots of snuggles and kisses.

  4. Trixi says:

    I am so glad you linked to MSU cares. It is a great resource. We use it for everything from chickens, to gardening, to beekeeping. I did not know about the ring in the egg yolk meaning that the egg is fertile. You have taught me something new today. Thank you.

    As for our pigs, I do not think it was more economical to raise them ourselves. However, we have heard that the meat is far superior and we know exactly what went into them and that they had a wonderful life while here on earth. That was our sole purpose and as soon as hubby comes home we will be doing it again.

  5. basicliving says:

    Hi Trixi – I agree. The MSU website rocks! Lots of great info there.

    I know what you mean about knowing exactly what goes into the food you eat. I got so many chickens thinking we would eventually eat a few. There is no way a store bought chicken would cost as much as we’ve put into these chickens! But there’s also no way a store bought chicken could be fed as well and cared for as much as these. As it turns out, these chickens are safe. I’m just too attached to them. Darnit! They know they’ve got me wrapped around their beaks.

  6. Marla says:

    Here’s a question for you;

    we have had our hens for 2 years. They are free-range most of the day, but we lock them in at night to keep them safe from predators. As of the last few weeks some of the egg yolks are tasting strange…almost a slight chemical type flavor. We trade our eggs for milk at a local market and I don’t dare take any in right now because of the strange flavor. Any ideas?

  7. basicliving says:

    Hi Marla – thanks for stopping by. Strange tasting eggs would be frustrating, especially if you are selling/trading them at a market! I really have no specific idea what is causing that odd flavor in your eggs, but, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, it is almost certainly something they are ingesting. Have you recently changed their feed? Added anything to their diet or water? If you feed them kitchen scraps, do they eat food with onion, garlic, or seasonings? Any of these things can cause eggs to taste “off”. If not, it’s likely something they’ve discovered while out foraging as they free-range. If you are able to observe them during the day and check out the places they seem most interested in foraging around, you may discover what it is they are eating that is giving your eggs that particular flavor.

  8. Marla says:

    We are on the same thinking as you, so we decided to not let them forage for a few days and test their eggs again,…. well, same strange taste even when left in their coop. Unless it takes more than 2 days to get something they ingested out of their system.

    We feed very few table scraps and we have not changed their feeds. Nothing is different at all. It’s such a mystery. And and expensive one at that. I can’t sell their eggs and we get about a dozen a day. Hopefully someone else will see this and have the answer….one could hope :-)

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