Why do eggs vary in size, color, shape, etc.? What is the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture raised? How many eggs should my chickens be laying? Lisa Steele, Maine Master Gardener and chicken expert, answers these great questions for us in a fantastic Facebook Live! Watch her knowledge-filled Facebook Live video below:
How Long & How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
- Good layers will lay about 5-6 eggs a week (about one egg every 26 hours) during the spring/summer when the days are longer, and they will normally lay the eggs in the morning.
- The Australorp holds the record for the most eggs laid in a year which was around 365 eggs.
- Chickens tend to lay eggs during the spring/summer when the days are long. Most stop laying eggs when it is winter/fall since the days are shorter.
- You can put lights in your coop during the fall/winter to artificially stimulate your chicken into laying eggs.
- Chickens need about 14-16 hours of light per day to be able to lay an egg.
- Chicks that are born in the springtime could be a good layer the following winter.
- Most chickens are good layers for 2-3 years, then their productivity decreases by about 20% each year after that.
Why Are Chicken Eggs Different Colors?
- All eggs start out white. The shells are made out of calcium carbonate, so the chickens should have a steady supply of this mineral in their diet.
- As the egg travels down the oviduct, a pigment starts to form a color on the egg, and the color fully depends on the individual breed of the chicken.
- Blue eggs: Typically come from Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Cream Legbars, Isbars, Easter Eggers. The inside of the shell is also blue.
- Brown Eggs: White on the inside, brown on the outside.
- Green Eggs: Typically come from Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers. First, a blue pigment is formed on the shell then a brown as it travels further down the oviduct, creating a green colored egg when it is laid.
6 Tips For Getting the Best Tasting, Longest Lasting Eggs:
- The taste of an egg depends fully on your chickens’ diet. An egg laid by a chicken that eats grass, herbs, edible flowers, chicken scraps, etc., will be more flavorful than an egg laid by a chicken that only eats chicken feed.
- Yolks from a good chicken egg are a beautiful orange color.
- When harvesting your eggs, keep them unwashed until you are ready to eat them. When an egg is laid, it is covered in an invisible coating called the “bloom,” which protects the inner egg from bacteria. Egg shells have thousands of pores on the outside, and if you remove the “bloom,” the chances of the bacteria reaching the inside of the egg rise.
- When washing the egg, use warm water (at least 20 degrees warmer than the egg) and only use your fingers to clean the exterior of the shell. Soaking eggs in warm water puts the egg at risk of bacteria getting inside the shell.
- Eggs do not need to be refrigerated if you are going to eat them in a timely manner. One day left in room temperature is equal to one week in the fridge.
- Store your eggs with the pointy side down. The yolk is in the middle, and there is an air sack on the rounded end of an egg. If bacteria has made its way inside the egg, it will most likely be trapped in the air sack. If the air sack is at the bottom of the egg, it has a higher chance of rising up and contaminating the yolk and the rest of the egg.
Store-Bought Eggs vs Backyard Chicken Eggs:
- Chickens that are raised for commercial egg-laying are typically of the Leghorn breed. They can be fed less food but still produce a high quantity of eggs, making it very cheap to raise them.
- Chickens used for commercial egg-laying are not allowed to be given hormones or antibiotics. Therefore, store-bought cartons that advertise “no hormones” or “antibiotic-free” are just a marketing ploy.
- If a store-bought carton of eggs is labeled as “organic,” it simply means that the chicken was fed only organic feed. This does not mean the chicken was treated any better. They are still kept in small spaces, with their beaks and talons clipped.
- If a carton of eggs is labeled as “cage-free,” it only means the chicken was able to roam around a warehouse laying their eggs wherever, instead of being trapped inside of a small cage. This is misleading because the warehouse is unsanitary. The chicken is walking around in poop, laying its eggs in poop, and they are possibly eating other chickens that have died within the cage-free warehouse setting.
- The best egg to buy in a store is “pasture-raised.” The chickens are required to spend a certain amount of hours roaming around a pasture each day, which creates a more natural environment.
- When buying eggs in a store, look for a three digit code on the side of the carton. If it reads “001,” then you know the eggs were laid on the first day of January. If it reads “365,” then you know the eggs were laid on December 31st. You want to buy the carton with the code that represents the day closest to the day that you are buying the eggs. A general rule of thumb when buying store-bought eggs: the higher the code, the better.
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About the Author:
Lisa Steele is an author, 5th generation chicken keeper and Master Gardener who tends to her flocks and gardens on a small farm in Maine. The founder of Fresh Eggs Daily (www.fresheggsdaily.com) she shares natural chicken keeping and gardening tips as well as recipes using eggs fresh from her coop and produce fresh from the garden on her website.