Posts Tagged ‘eggs’

Five Fascinating Facts about Eggs

Chicken eggs are a great source of nutrition. But there is much more to know about the humble egg, often considered nature’s perfect food:

  1. When a young hen first starts laying eggs, they may be strange shapes or sizes until the hen adjusts to the laying process. Eggs may be smaller or larger than normal, have soft shells, or even no shells at all. Tiny eggs may have no yolks, while giant eggs may have two or even three yolks.

  2. Chicken eggs are not just white or brown, like the eggs commonly sold in grocery stores. Some breeds lay copper-colored eggs, others light blue eggs, and some even lay green eggs. So Dr. Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham was not so far-fetched after all! Contrary to popular belief, egg color does not affect the taste of the eggs.

  3. Female chicks are born with all the eggs they will eventually lay. These eggs, or ova, look like a cluster of tiny grapes in the bird’s ovary. Only a small number of the existing ova will be laid as eggs.

  4. Hens lay eggs regardless of whether a rooster is present to fertilize them. Laying an egg is equivalent to ovulation. It is not the same as having a baby!

  5. Stressed-out hens are not good layers. Some common sources of stress include extremely hot or cold weather, predators, unfamiliar food, new living quarters, a new chicken in the flock, or loud noises. So tone down the party music near the coop! Your ladies need some peace and quiet while they are engaged in the very important process of laying eggs.

Pan American Development Foundation Fights Hunger… with Chickens

8,000 chickens lead to grassroots relief for hungry Haitians. Read more here. Incidentally, I was invited to participate in a similar endeavor in Haiti earlier this summer. I hope to go sometime!

Incubation: A Word from Martha Boyd (Angelic Organics Learning Center)

For those teachers out there who are weighing the pros and cons of an embryology unit, here is a thoughtful post on incubation.

Also check out my post about how I got started with chickens. An embryology project kicked off my love of chickens, and we did the “window on a chick” thing – cutting an opening in the eggshell to see it develop. This chick died, which made me very sad. If you choose to go the hatching route, you can see the blood vessel networking forming, the heart beating, and the chick developing with effective candling! No need for egg windows!

Chicken-related Word for the Day

† oologize, v.
Forms:  18 oologize,   18 oölogize.
Etymology: <  oology n. + -ize suffix.

N.E.D. (1903) gives the pronunciation as (oˌǫ·lŏdʒəiz) /əʊˈɒlədʒaɪz/.
 Obs. rare.

 1.  trans.To take the eggs from (a bird’s nest).

1870  J. R. Lowell My Study Windows I. 21 The children of a man employed about the place oologized the nest.
 2.  intr.To collect birds’ eggs.

1870  J. R. Lowell My Study Windows I. 22 The red squirrel, I think‥oölogizes, I know he eats cherries.

June 15, 2011: Home to Roost at Whole Foods

Community Class: Urban Chicken Farming

Whole Foods Market – 7245 W. Lake Street, River Forest, IL


Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 p.m.


The word is out. Urbanites can get fresh eggs from their own back yard! Chat with the expert on Chicken Care – Jennifer Murtoff and meet one of her favorite feathered friends. This class will also address favorite cage free egg brands and offer egg-based recipes and snacks. Kids are welcome!

To sign-up, e-mail:

March 19, 2011: Home to Roost at Family Farmed Good Food Expo

Join Us for the Midwest’s Premier Good Food Event

March 17 – 19, 2011 UIC Forum — University of Illinois at Chicago

Good Food, Good Know-How, Good Fun: FamilyFarmed EXPO is a three-day conference, trade show, and food festival for farmers, businesses, the trade, individuals, and families.

Home to Roost will take part in a panel on Saturday, March 19, 2 PM – 3:15:

No Yolk! Chickens in Your Back Yard

Enjoy fresh eggs everyday by raising chickens in your own backyard. Sarah Elizabeth Ippel from the Academy for Global Citizenship will be the moderator of the panel:

  • Martha Boyd, Program Director, Urban Initiative, Angelic Organics Learning Center
  • John Emrich, Backyard Chicken Run
  • Jennifer Murtoff, Urban Chicken Consultant

For other events, see the Family Farmed Expo website.

My First Chickens

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Roll back the years to 1985. I was in fourth grade, Mr. Summers’ science class. We did a project on embryology, lining up rows of white eggs marked + and 0, pointed end slightly downward, in a white styrofoam incubator. I remember peering through the plastic windows, looking at those eggs. Twenty-one days is a long time when you’re only 10 years old.

Mr. Summers taught us how to candle the eggs with a flashlight to determine the viability of the embryo. The phrase “one rotten egg spoils the whole bunch”… oh, wait, that’s the Swedish version… nevertheless, it’s true. Gases escaping from an infertile or unviable egg can ruin the hatch. We pulled those out and threw them away.

We used a scalpel and cut a tiny window in one hard calcium shell, using wax to seal it off with plastic wrap. Blood vessels carried oxygen-rich fluid to a tiny heart, beating a pulse of new life. I liked the egg with the window and candling. How exciting to see something come from nothing, a tiny life form from what would otherwise be breakfast.

The days passed. We turned the eggs. More days passed. And finally one day, there was moisture on the incubator windows. A tiny yellow chick, wet, weak, and weary, had arrived. The rest of the flock soon followed, and before long the little guys were dry, energetic balls of fluff.

Sadly, the one we’d had a window on, whose development we’d watched with curiosity over the last three weeks, didn’t make it. Like Schroedinger’s cat, it seemed the very observation of life in the making destroyed it. My 10-year-old’s heart was sad for that chick and sorry that our curiosity and desire to know more had killed it.

Did we want to take some home? was the question Mr. Summers posed. Of course, yes! My two little chicks landed in a cardboard box behind the chair in the living room. They were soon joined by my friend Sam’s chicks (her parents decided that chickens weren’t a good idea) and a fuzzy buff-colored chick from my Pappy. I’d inspect the box of avian energy several times a day, to which my mother said, “Don’t pester those chicks! You’ll kill them!”

Far from that: After all my high-quality handling, those were some of the tamest white Leghorns on the planet. Personalities became evident, and naming soon followed: Baby, the sweet, docile hen; Jitterbug, the slightly schizo, easily startled hen; Hot Stuff, alpha male; and his subservient sidekick, Little Boy. The buff-colored one, well, she  was just Red Hen.

A life-long fascination (obsession?) with chickens and other fowl followed hard on the heels of those first little fuzzy critters. I soon had my own incubator. I sold chicks at Easter, eggs to the neighbors, boxes of fowl at stock market. Ducks, peafowl, turkeys, quail, golden pheasants, geese, pigeons… The incubator was running almost all summer, and I candled and turned, and turned and candled, enjoying taking part in the process of new life. But I never cut a hole in an egg to watch a chick grow.

The Scoop on Salmonella in Eggs

For those of you who have chickens, you may be asking, “How safe are MY eggs from Salmonella contamination?”

The good news is, they are likely VERY safe.

Salmonella are bacteria that live in human and animal intestinal tracts. The bacteria can pass in fecal matter and so may be found in soil, water, and other matter that has come into contact with fecal matter.

So how do the bacteria get into eggs? There are two ways this might happen:

1) Chicken poop gets on the shell of the egg. The bacteria pass through the pores and proliferate inside the egg.

2) An industrial egg-laying hen whose ovaries are contaminated with salmonella bacteria passes the bacteria along in the egg-formation process.

Solutions are fairly simple.

1) Give your hens adequate space and good living conditions. This includes clean food and water daily. Hens in poor living conditions, like battery-caged layers, are more susceptible to illness (like salmonella) due to overcrowded, stressful living conditions. In your backyard coop, one nest for every four hens is adequate.

2) Keep your nest boxes free of fecal matter. Wood shavings are good for this, because the poop can easily be scooped out in clumps, much like clumping kitty litter.

3) Collect your eggs daily and refrigerate them right away. Industrial eggs have many stops: candling, sizing, packaging, shipping, shipping again, shelf stocking. Along the way temperatures can fluctuate, leading to bacterial growth. Keeping your eggs refrigerated will prevent this.

4) Wash your eggs only when you are ready to use them. When a hen lays an egg, she secretes a wet covering that seals off the pores from pathogens. If you see a freshly laid egg, you will notice that it looks wet and then quickly dries. This is called the cuticle or bloom. Keep this coating intact until you are ready to use the egg. Brush or sand off any foreign material that is on the eggshell.

5) Cook eggs completely. Cooking eggs to 160 degrees will prevent illness.

If your hens are contaminated with salmonella, you will most likely have built up immunity to the particular strain they carry.

Enjoy your fresh eggs!

(Sources: Damerow, Gail. “Backyard Chicken Eggs Are Safe,” and Jansen Matthews, Lisa. “Safe Egg Handling,” both in Backyard Poultry, October/November 2010, 6.)