Thursday, January 31, 2019

Are Eggs All They are Cracked Up to Be?

Everyone who knows me knows that I am the "crazy chicken lady."  I started on my "chicken journey" 5 years ago and I have never looked back.  There is a known fact in the chicken world called "chicken math."  Chicken math is when the bug to keep chickens takes over and you just HAVE to get that one more chicken or breed.

When we moved to our property in the fall of 2007 I just couldn't wait to start our "farm."  I knew we couldn't do it right away but I was busting at the seams to get started.  I never realized it would take 7 (YES SEVEN) years till I would finally get some chickens.  There are a lot of reasons why but that is for another story on another day.  I was so proud to start out with almost free chickens and a cheap little prefab coop (yet another story!!) I found on sale at our local farm store.  Thus began the journey and learning curves!!  My "free" chickens were straight run and free because of a rebate.  I knew what straight run meant (the chicks are not sexed so you don't know if you are getting boys or girls) but did not realize at the time that they are usually picked over by the time you get yours and you pretty much end up with all boys!  Of our first 10 chicks I think 8 of them were boys if I remember correctly!!

So, I started with the modest 10 chicks.  Once they grew and we knew we had mostly boys, it was time to cull (process to eat) the unwanted extra boys.  I rehomed 1 and kept 2 and the others went to what we call "freezer camp" for future meals for our family.  I wanted chickens for meat and for eggs so this was ok but I didn't want to start out that way!  Our next batch of chicks was intentionally purchased as pullets (young female chicks).  I have to say that in the 5 years that we have purchased chicks from our local farm store there has only been one time (and that was in the beginning) when one of the pullets ended up being a cockerel (young male chick).

So now we had two pullets and two cockerels from our initial purchase.  We purchased I think 6 more pullets and then by that fall we purchased some more pullets.  We had to rehome another rooster because they weren't getting along.  I think we had about 12-15 chickens by the end of that first year.  By the next spring I got chick fever again and purchased more and the story goes on.  Now not only do I purchase chicks but I have some hens that go broody (want to hatch chicks) and we hatch some of our own too.  I am currently at 54 chickens right now.  I have 8 roosters and 46 hens. You should only have about 1 rooster per 10 hens but I also have multiple pens.  Two of my roosters are currently locked up separately due to the excess at the moment.  Again, another story for another day.

We still have 2 chickens from our original crew and many from shortly thereafter.  There are quite a few that should be culled but will not be due to them being my son's pets from the beginning.  We keep that down to a minimum these days but it is hard.  You do get so attached to them.  But I must remember, they are also provision for my family.  We got them for eggs and meat, but the occasional pet is just fine by me too.

Speaking of eggs.  Let's wrap this up.  I meant to talk about the eggs and got off track!!  I cracked the eggs in the picture above the other day and it reminded me about some myths and misconceptions about chicken eggs.  Fact: there are only two colors of eggs, white and blue.  All other egg colors are variations of these.  Different chicken breeds lay different color eggs.  Fact:  Brown eggs and white eggs are the same!  The brown egg color is actually "sprayed or painted" on by the hen before it is laid.  The retail industry has you convinced that brown eggs are farm eggs and thus healthier for you.  ALL eggs are farm eggs!!!  Brown eggs are not necessarily healthier or better for you than white eggs.  Nutritional value of an egg is dependent on what the chickens are fed.  Chickens that are free ranged or able to eat more grass and bugs are going to lay eggs that will be healthier for you.  Fact: chickens are omnivores so they eat both plants AND animal products (yes they will even eat chicken!!).  Fact: lighter yolked eggs are not necessarily less nutritious than darker yolks.

Even backyard chicken keepers are proud of their darker yolked "farm fresh" eggs.  The problem is that again, the nutrition of the egg is dependent on what is fed to the chicken.  As you can see from the picture above, yolk color does not always guarantee that one egg is healthier than another.  My flock is all fed the same diet and forage on the same ground, yet look at the difference in yolk color.  Two of the above eggs were such a beautiful deep orange color compared to the paler looking yolk.  It's possible that their bodies processed the food differently or perhaps they foraged for bugs and treats better than the hen who laid the lighter yolk.  You can feed certain food and supplements to cause your yolks to take on rich dark colors, but it does not necessarily mean it is more nutritious.

I hope this clarifies some interesting facts about chickens and their eggs.  Comment below for any additions you have or questions about this subject.  May your day be blessed, and hopefully warmer, in this crazy polar vortex weather we are having lately.

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