Hens, and Roosters, and Eggs...Oh My
Spring is coming and the hens are laying. On our farm we have free range hens. Legit free range. They have 7 acres to do what they want. They have 3 custom coops that have been made for t
hem, but do they use them? No. They don't. Instead they have taken over one of the overhead doors in the barn. They also have custom nesting boxes which they occasionally use. But we regularly find "easter eggs" in lots of different places. Those eggs usually go to the pigs. They love it. I think they have a secret language with the hens asking them to lay outside the nesting boxes.
We currently have about 15 hens and 2 roosters. Contrary to popular portrayal, roosters do not just crow in the morning, they do it ALL DAY LONG! They also try to fertilize eggs throughout the day, if you know what I mean. Naturally we get lots of questions about how this all works. These are the top 5:
How many eggs do they lay? Hens generally lay about 5 eggs per week in the spring and summer. In the fall and winter the days get shorter and the hens reduce how much they produce. Some farmers use artificial lights to stimulate laying in those months. We just eat less eggs in the cold months. Nutrition also plays into production. Our hens free range all the bugs they can find and they also get an organic feed supplement. We keep our used egg shells and grind them up to feed back to the hens for extra calcium and grit.
Will I find a partially developed chicken in my egg? If you don't have any roosters none of the eggs will be fertilized. If you have roosters there is a chance that the eggs will be fertilized. If the eggs are collected every day you won't ever know. For a fertilized egg to develop it needs to be kept warm and turned regularly. When a hen does this naturally its called "brooding." Incubators can also be used. If an egg has been in an incubator for 21 days and does not hatch, or you cannot see a developing chicken when you shine a flashlight in it (also known as candling), it was not fertilized. These eggs go to the pigs.
Is it safe to leave your eggs at room temperature? We don't refrigerate our eggs. When the hen lays her eggs, they have a natural protective coating to keep bacteria out. If the eggs get wet the coating is compromised and the eggs need to be refrigerated. To determine if your eggs are still good do this trick:
1. Place egg in a tall glass of water
2. if the egg sinks, it is fresh
3. if it stand on end, it needs to be used soon
4 If it floats, its bad.
What's the difference between chickens that lay eggs and chickens you eat? Chickens for meat are generally bred to grow very quickly. It takes hens about 6 months to start laying. This is way past the life expectancy of most meat breeds. There are some dual breeds that make good meat and lay eggs. Layers that have stopped laying and are processed to eat are usually called stew birds. This is because the meat is tougher and benefits from long, slow, moist cooking like a stew.
Is there a difference between white shells and brown shells? Nope. The inside is the same. We have a range of white to dark brown and a few green and blue ones. They are all delicious.