Some of the questions people always ask us are: Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs? How can you tell if an egg is fertile? Do fertilized eggs taste different? Is there a baby chicken in there? How do they lay jumbo eggs and different colored eggs? Do brown eggs taste different from white eggs?
Wow, that’s a lot of questions. Let’s see if we can answer some of them today.
Does a hen need a rooster to lay an egg? No, she does not. If you would like to raise chickens for eggs you absolutely do not need a rooster. They are good protection for the flock however, and necessary only if you want to hatch baby chicks.
How can you tell if an egg is fertile? From the outside you can’t. If you don’t have a rooster then you will never have fertilized eggs. One of our groups of hens, about 25 or so, has one rooster. We find a few fertilized and a few not when we collect their eggs. When you crack open the egg a fertilized egg will have a bullseye as you can see in the picture below.
(photo credit: Les Farms)
If the egg is fertilized does that mean there is a baby chick in there? No, it does not. It means the egg could develop into a chick under the right conditions. If the egg is incubated at 85 degrees or the broody hen sits on it an embryo will begin to develop. Once incubation has begun you can candle the egg and check for development. This process takes a while, 18-24 hours. You are not going to have development if you gather your eggs daily and don’t let your broodies (want to be mommies) sit on them. If you are unsure how long an egg has been out, such as if you find a few in an odd place instead of the nesting box you can candle the egg and see if anything is going on in there. I like to err on the side of safety and gather often. My dogs get to eat eggs that still look okay if I have doubts about eating them.
Do eggs of different colors taste different? Does a fertilized eggs taste different from a non fertilized egg? No. There is no difference in taste at all. Chickens lay eggs of various colors according to breed. Color can vary slightly among the same breed. As far as its nutritional value, there is no difference there either. If you want to get the most nutritious egg get the freshest eggs available. The older the eggs are the more protein content is lost. Farm fresh is always best.
How do you get them to lay jumbo eggs? I don’t. Just like different breeds lay different colors they also lay different sizes. Our Ameracaunas lay a small to medium blue egg. Our production reds and Rhode Island Reds lay a large and sometimes XL or jumbo brown egg. Our bantams lay a pee wee sized cream colored egg! It just depends on the breed. Our chickens are not given any artificial light to make them lay more or bigger eggs. We let nature do its thing. Factory farms, where the hens are kept in tiny cages and roosters are unwanted and killed at birth, force the hens to go through a molt and withhold food to increase egg size after the molt. They use artificial light year round to produce more eggs. The hens bodies never get to rest. This is another blog for another day and not how we operate.
Hopefully I’ve answered some questions. Feel free to leave any other questions you might have in the comments and I will find an answer for you!