Eggs are a pretty incredible food and if you’ve got hens on your homestead you probably collect many of them every day. But what’s the difference between this egg and that, and what makes them so nutritious? Like your chickens, eggs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and no two are exactly alike.
Different breeds of hens lay different colored egg shells, ranging from chocolate brown up to pastel blues and greens, even pinkish. The color of an egg shell is determined by the hen’s genetics, and all eggs actually start out white inside the chicken. The production of an egg takes about 26 hours from start to finish, and the tinting of the shell usually takes place late in the process, when a pigment is deposited on the egg to color it.
If you want colored eggs you should be looking at specific breeds of chickens for these purposes. For example, Leghorns lay white eggs. Ameraucana, Araucana, and Easter Eggers all lay green or blueish eggs. Most farmyard hen varieties, such as Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks, lay a pale brown egg, but some breeds such as Marans lay a very deep brown egg.
A common misconception is that the different colored eggs taste different. There might be a psychological effect of eating green eggs, but the only thing which will change the taste of the egg is the diet of the hen.
The important color of an egg is the shade of yellow of the yolk. A healthy chicken will produce eggs with a deep, rich orange yolk. Egg yolk color is affected by the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, meats, and carotenoids in the egg. Surprised about meats? Chickens are not vegetarian animals naturally, and some of their favorite foods are worms, grubs, and even small rodents. Carotenoids are the natural pigments found in many fruits and vegetables that are also staples of a good chicken diet. A healthy egg has an orange yolk, and it will hold it’s color when mixed in a recipe and taste more rich and vital.
It will take about 6 months for a hen to start laying eggs, and they will do so for about 6 years, with varying dependability. When a chicken is ready to lay her egg she will find a quiet, dark spot (hopefully your nesting box) and settle down for a few minutes before laying. Have you ever noticed your chickens calling and cackling after an egg is laid? In the wild, the rest of the flock might wander away while the hen was laying, and cackling helps her find her way back to her friends.
One of the most common misconceptions about chickens is that hens need a rooster in order to lay. Hens do not need a rooster around, or other hens for that matter. A chicken has a certain amount of eggs she will lay in her lifetime which she will produce no matter her companionship.
If you do have a rooster on your farm you might find that your hen lays fertilized eggs sometimes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a fertilized egg, and the development of the embryo never begins if you refrigerate your eggs. Just make sure that you gather your eggs daily to avoid the chick starting to develop.
The health benefits of eggs are innumerable and let’s not forget that they make a delicious breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. Eggs will help you lose weight, be heart healthy, prevent cancers, and get an abundance of your daily vitamins. It stands to reason that the egg of a happy, healthy chicken with a good diet is even better for you.