Thanks to our eggstra special relationship with Omlet we are delighted to bring you all you ever wanted to know about the amazing egg.
The almighty egg has to be one of the most versatile and fascinating objects ever to have landed on earth. Arriving before the chicken and sometime after the dinosaur it has survived wars, earthquakes and floods of biblical proportions, but how? The answer is simple, the egg is in fact, a master of disguise. It learnt early-on to hide itself inside chickens coming out once a day to have a look around. So there you have it, Omlet has cleared up a question that has been bothering people for centuries, it was obvious really!
Below you can also find the answer to the question "does a chicken need a cockerel to lay eggs?", how to check if an egg is fresh and some fun things to do with eggs.
Chickens are amazing! When your hens are laying well, they will produce a new egg every 25.5 hours. This is a very short time to create something as complex, as perfect and as tasty as an egg.
An egg is made from the inside out. The yolk is made first, and then wrapped in a layer of egg white, before being neatly and beautifully packaged up in an egg shell.
The beginning of an egg is the tiny ova which takes a week to grow into a proper egg yolk. If you cut a boiled egg in half and look at the yolk, the dark rings were layers made during the day and the light layers during the hours of darkness. Strange but true!
When the yolk is ready it is released along the oviduct. The first part of the oviduct is where the egg white (albumen) is added. The egg white mainly consists of protein, water and minerals.
Then the egg carries on along the oviduct where it grows two connecting strands at the top and the bottom called chalaza, which anchor the yolk to the shell keeping it in the centre of the egg.
The next stage is for the shell membranes to form around the white. After this the egg continues down into the uterus where the shell is added. The shell is made from calcium carbonate, which is also found in marble and chalk. The shell is a great bit of design, it is on average only 0.3mm thick but it is incredibly strong.
The colour of the shell depends on the breed of chicken and on the individual chicken itself. Some chickens lay dark brown eggs like the Barnevelder and the Araucana lays a blue egg, but the colour of the shell doesn't affect the taste.
Chickens lay quite happily without the amorous intentions of a handsome red wattled male, such as old Perky here.
Should you have a cockerel, you can be sure he will do his best to fertilise the eggs. If a chicken is broody she will then sit on these eggs for 21 days (the incubation period) and with a bit of luck these eggs will hatch and produce more chickens.
The eggs a chicken lays without the help of a cockerel are not fertilised and will therefore never hatch.
The yolk colour is highly dependent on the diet of your birds. For instance, if they eat a lot of green acorns the egg yolks will take on a greenish tinge. Paprika on the other hand will make the yolks redder. For a deep yellow yolk you should make sure your birds are eating their greens. Broccoli, spinach, grass and brussel sprouts work a treat (be warned sprouts can have the same gaseous effect on chickens as for humans.)
This occurs because two eggs join together at the point they separate from the ovaries, or alternatively because of a yolk essentially losing its way during the formation process. When it finds its way again it can get incorporated into another egg.
Without cracking it, you can do a simple test by putting the egg in a bowl of water:
If it sinks, it is fresh.
If it stands upright, it is a few days old.
If it floats, it is rotten.
You should store the eggs broad end up pointy end down, in a cool place. It is not necessary to keep them in the fridge except in very hot weather. Stored like this they should keep for up to three weeks. If in any doubt just do the test described above.
Normally, a chicken lays the same shaped egg each time, varying only in size as the bird gets older. The shape is determined by a number of factors, from the amount of white produced to the chicken's internal muscles.
However, sometimes dark forces are at work and a chicken lays eggs that are so fantastic that even Omlet can't tell you where they come from. Unlike the rest, we are not afraid to show you these eggs and although they are different they are just as good. Remember, as it was for Mozart it is for eggs - a fine line between madness and genius.
If you carefully note which chicken is laying an egg and study the shape carefully, you will grow to recognise which of your chickens layed which egg.
Blood Spot: This is an egg with a small amount of blood in it. They may look worrying but are still edible! The spots are caused by the breakage of a blood vessel in the ovary, possibly caused by a fright to the chicken.
Watery whites: You may notice if you fry your eggs that the white is more watery than you expected. This increases as the bird gets older, but can be affected by hot weather, so in hot weather make sure that you collect your eggs regularly for firm whites!
Pullets need to be close to point o f lay before they even think about laying an egg! Point of lay for commercial hybrids like brown shavers or hyline browns is around 22 weeks of age (later in winter and earlier in summer). How long this takes depends on the time of year and the individual chicken. Heritage breeds take longer to mature and longer to come into the lay.
Once they are laying though, they may not always produce eggs like clockwork, the reasons could be:
When your chickens moult their egg production will drop and most likely stop.
If your birds have had a fright this can result in no eggs for a while.
Moving birds to a new home or new house can cause a drop in production.
Egg production is the first thing affected by dehydration. Make sure your birds have plentiful clean water.
Mites in the hen house sucking the blood of your birds and making them anemic.
If you are letting your chickens roam about in the garden they may have made a nest under a bush or in a corner somewhere. Follow your chicken discreetly to find the nest, sneaky but necessary!
The age old riddle of 'which came first, the chicken or the egg' is believed to have been cracked by a team of scientists in 2010. The eggsperts believe the answer is the chicken. The researchers found that for an egg to be made it must have developed in the ovaries of a chicken which means there had to be a chicken before an egg. So that's that one solved!
Now here's the technical bit: A specific protein in the ovaries of chickens, called ovocledidin-17, is responsible for converting calcium carbonate into calcite crystals. These calcite crystals make up the shell of the egg and allow the egg to be laid.
For more info on the humble egg click here.
Chickens really are the simplest and most rewarding animals to rear, but to reassure you, here are 7 reasons why you should keep chickens.