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My 2 year old asked me if his scrambled eggs had birds inside them. While I know the answer was no, I don't actually know why.
Eggs purchased at the store are typically from commercial flocks in which there are many hens but no roosters so the eggs are never fertilized. If an egg is not fertile (i.e., infertile) there is no possibility of a chick inside.
It is not possible to tell whether or not an egg is fertilized without breaking it open. Once broken open the infertile egg has a small white dot on the yolk (which is the genetic material from the hen). If the egg is fertilized this dot looks more like a minature donut. Some embryo development begins during the 24-28 hours it takes the hen to assemble all the parts of the egg. The clear area in the spot is the very tiny chick embryo.
There are several factors which affect egg production of chickens. Refer to the Factsheet - Why have my hens stopped laying eggs?
It depends on your definition of 'alive' - There is no specific definition of what is alive other than the fact that it is the opposite of dead. Life and death are terms used with organisms such as animals and plants. Since an infertile egg contains only the genetic material from the mother and does not have the potential to become a chick, it is not really an organism and thus would not be considered alive.
There are no sperm sacks in an egg. If an egg is fertilized a single sperm will have merged with the female genetic material to start the embryo. The chalazae are made up of egg white (albumen) that is tightly twisted and functions to position the yolk in the middle of the egg. If the yolk was not positioned in the center it could become adhered to the side of the shell and if an embryo is present it could become malformed or die.
Sperm sacks, or storage areas, are located inside the oviduct of the hen - in the infundibulum and at the junction of the shell gland/uterus and vagina. It is these sperm sacks that allow female birds to continue to produce fertilized eggs for several days after a single mating. For more information on the reproduction system of female birds refer to the factsheet Chicken anatomy and physiology: Female reproductive system.
I have hens and roosters together. I discovered an egg that was still warm so I put it under a heat lamp to try to hatch it. Do you think I'm wasting my time because it is not in an incubator? Do you think it will hatch under a heat lamp or regular light?
If the egg was still warm it is most likely that the hen had just laid it and you found yourself a very fresh egg indeed.
While there is always the possibility, it is very unlikely that an egg heated by a heat lamp or regular light incandescent bulb will hatch. Eggs should be incubated at the correct temperature and humidity to get healthy chicks. It is very hard to regulate temperatures under lamps. If the temperature gets too hot or too cold the embryo will die or become deformed.
Because it takes 24-26 hours for a hen to construct an egg (adding the albumen, shell membranes and shell) and since chickens have only a single ovary and oviduct, hens are only able to lay an egg a day at the most. If you don't collect the eggs at the same time each day you might encounter a situation where one day you collected no eggs and the next two, but the eggs were laid on different days - just one right after an early previous collection and/or right before a late collection.
For more information on the reproduction system of female birds refer to the factsheet Chicken anatomy and physiology: Female reproductive system.
You can definitely eat fertile eggs. Fertile and infertile eggs look very similar and you won't be able to tell the difference without looking closely at them. They also taste the same and contain the same nutrients.
There are some people who will pay a premium price to get fertile eggs for consumption. On the other hand, there are others who will absolutely not eat them since it 'grosses them out.'. It is a personal preference. If you feel that life begins at conception for all animals, then in theory you are eating potential baby chickens when you eat a fertilized egg, but if the egg is not incubated the embryo will never develop into a chicken.
All eggs in the typical grocery store should be infertile unless otherwise indicated.
I saved a wild bird egg from a tree that had been cut down.. I have wrapped it up and placed it in the airing cupboard but I don't know if it is alive or not. It was cold when I first found it but it feels warm now. I want to look after it until it hatches but first I need to know if it will hatch. I hear the incubation period for eggs is 21 days. Is there anyway to tell if it is alive?
It is very unlikely that the egg will hatch and it is not recommended that you even try. Most wild birds are altricial which means that the chicks are under developed when hatched and are completely dependent on their parents for care. It is not like hatching out a chick or duckling which can pretty much take care of themselves shortly after hatch (referred to as a precocial species).
Since many, or most, cavity-nesting bird species lay white eggs it is not possible to tell what species it is unless you saw the mother that laid it. Different species of birds have different incubation periods - the 21 days referred to is for chickens (and a few other species) and is definitely not an across-the-board incubation time.
It is important to know that in the United States IT IS ILLEGAL TO POSSESS EGGS OF MOST SPECIES OF BIRDS regardless of the circumstances under which they are found. The only birds in the U.S. that do not fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are pigeons, sparrows and starlings, since these are not native to the United States. They are introduced species (and in some cases have become nuisance birds).
Birds have a unique reproductive feature known as 'physiological zero.' Once an egg is laid, the developing embryo remains viable but undeveloped until given the correct incubating temperature. This reproductive trait is important for species of birds that incubate and hatch several eggs at one time but can lay only one egg a day. For example, a broody hen can incubate a dozen or more eggs (depending on the sizes of the hen and eggs). If the first egg she laid was incubated from day one, it would hatch several days earlier than the last egg laid. The hen lays her daily egg and then typically leaves the nest so that the eggs are not receiving additional heat. When she becomes broody she will incubate all the eggs at the same time and all the viable eggs will typically hatch within a few hours of each other. Once the chicks are all dried off the hen can then take them all out to forage for food and water.
Yes. In fact, the eggs you purchase in the grocery store come from hens kept without rooster their entire lives. The best analogy is a woman's monthly cycle - it happens each month whether she is sexually active or not. The same occurs with chickens, but on a more frequent basis than once a month.
Chickens, and birds in general, do not get pregnant like mammals do (including humans). Their reproductive strategy involves laying eggs containing all the nutrients the developing embryo needs to hatch. Conversely, mammals become pregnant and carry their offspring within the womb receiving their required nutrients on an ongoing basis until they are born.
If a mature rooster is placed into a flock of hens, fertile eggs may be produced by the second day after introducing the rooster This is because an egg that is already 'in construction' in the female tract can't be fertilized (fertilization begins before the egg white is added). If the flock has many hens and only one rooster, it may require several days before mating of all hens takes place. It is typically advisable to have one rooster for every 6-8 females (depending on the breed of the chickens) and allow at least 4-7 days before expecting a high level of fertility in the eggs produced.
Female birds contain sperm sacks in their reproductive tracts which can hold sperm received during mating and release them slowly over time. As a result, a hen can produce fertile eggs for several days after a single successful mating. The sperm storage areas are not particular about where the sperm came from so if you have many roosters in a flock it will be hard to know which is the 'father' of any particular offspring.
For more information on the reproduction system of female birds refer to the factsheet Chicken anatomy and physiology: Female reproductive system.
Fertility (the number of fertile eggs produced by a flock) is affected by a number of factors - some affect female fertility and others affect male fertility. You can actually 'milk' a rooster to collect semen and examine it under a microscope to see if it contains active sperm.
Other factors include the type of lighting program and the ratio of males to females. Roosters, as with hens, are long day breeders in that they breed when days are long (more than 12 hours). The optimum ratio of male to females depends are the breed but are typically 1 rooster for every 6-8 females. If there are too many roosters they fight rather than breed the hens.
I discovered that one of my chickens had a secret nest with 10 green eggs. She sits on the nest infrequently. I brought the eggs into the house and tried to candle them. I can use my imagination and say there is a dark disc in each egg, but it is not the same spot on each egg, so it could be just that - my imagination. If they are fertile, how much time should the hen spend on the eggs? She leaves them alone all night and I see her all over the place during the day, not on the nest. They are cold when you pick them up. If they are not going to survive because she is not sitting on them, should I borrow an incubator and give it a try or is it too late (may be a week old)? Are they still fit to eat?
It is not possible to candle un-incubated eggs to see if they are fertile or not. What you may be seeing when you candled your green eggs is the air cell, typically found in the large end of the egg. This is a normal part of all eggs and is not an indication of whether or not it is fertilized or not.
Not all hens will become broody and incubate eggs. You indicated that the eggs were green so I'm assuming you have Ameraucana chickens - which are not always good for natural incubation. She may never go broody.
Once a hen does go broody and starts incubating her eggs she sits on them most of the day, leaving only to get something to eat and drink and to defecate (so she doesn't contaminated the nest). She will wait till she has laid her complete 'clutch' of eggs (the number of eggs she is going to incubate) before she starts incubating them - so they will be cold to the touch. It may not be too late to incubate, depending on the ambient temperature. You could incubate them for a week or two and then try candling them to see if there are any embryos in them. If not, throw them out.
If it is not too hot out, and the eggs are clean, the eggs could be fit to eat but I would personally not eat them. If you want to eat them I would recommend breaking the egg out separately before using it, just in case it became contaminated by any bacteria found in fecal material that can contaminate eggs.
Eggs stored in a fridge typically have reduced hatchability, especially after several days. Hatching eggs are typically stored at 55°F while most fridges are at 45°F. It doesn't mean that the eggs won't hatch - just that the likelihood is decreased.
This will depend on the temperament of the chicken and whether or not she has gone broody. If the hen is broody, periodically touching the eggs shouldn't be a problem. I have had hens go broody with no eggs. Eggs from a different source can be placed under her and she will normally incubated the eggs with no problem. Broody hens are often used to incubate duck and geese eggs as well as chicken eggs from other hens.
Broodiness is a natural tendency for a hen to sit on her eggs to hatch chicks. Most hens eventually go broody, some breeds more often than others. For example, cochin and silkie chickens are considered champions at going broody while broodiness is rare in leghorns.
Broodiness is hormonally controlled so there really isn't much to do to induce it naturally. The stimulus for broodiness is often a nest full of eggs. However some hens will go broody without this stimulus. To reduce the incidence of broodiness in an egg laying flock, collect eggs daily from nests and hiding places. If a hen shows a desire to stay on a nest for extended periods, don't allow her access to the nest for several days. After a period of time, the broody behavior will cease and she will return to egg production.
Once fertilized, always fertilized. The fertility of the egg doesn't change over time. However, the ability of the egg to hatch does decrease over time. After 3 months it is unlikely that the egg is still viable (i.e., may be fertile but not hatchable).
Hatching eggs are typically only stored for a week or so. Most commercial hatcheries won't bother to incubate eggs that are more than 2 weeks old. The storage conditions (temperature, humidity, ventilation, etc.) for the hatching eggs will have a major influence on the hatchability of the eggs,
You can eat eggs from chickens of any age. Hens typically start laying eggs at 18-20 weeks of age, depending on the breed and the lighting program used during the rearing period. They will continue to lay for several months, increasing production levels quickly, peaking, and then slowly reducing production levels till it reaches a point where it is no longer economical to keep them in production (the value of the feed they eat is more than the value of the eggs laid). This usually occurs around 60-80 weeks of age, depending on the breed and lighting program used.
In commercial operations producers may put their hens through a 'molt' which is forcing them to take a break and stop laying eggs. Today it is referred to as an 'induced rest.' After a few weeks they come back into production at a higher level than before the molt. Alternatively, the older hens can be replaced with new pullets which are just starting their laying cycle. This is an economical choice and not related to the edibility of the eggs.
By six months of age most chickens have taken on the characteristics typical for their sex. Males have long pointed feathers around the neck, shoulder and tail. Their combs and wattles are larger than those of females. The comb is the fleshy material on top of the head and the wattles hang down from the throat. Both sexes have them, but they are bigger in males than females. Males also typically have larger spurs at the back of the foot. By six months of age, if your chicken is a rooster, it should be crowing.
Pair of chickens (male in the background and female in front)
Of course, to complicate things, it is possible for a hen to take on the characteristics of a rooster due to hormonal problems. This can happen when the ovaries of a hen become infected. Hens secrete both female and male hormone. When the ovary is put out of order by an infection it stops secreting female hormone, disrupting the hormone balance. With unusually high levels of the male hormone the hen will start to display secondary sex characteristics (different tackle and hackle feathers, larger spurs, and even crowing). There was a case where the same chicken won champion female one year and champion male the next.
It is very difficult to tell the difference between male and female chicks. Unless a sex-link cross was used to hatch out the chicks, it typically takes a highly trained professional to sex very young chicks using vent sexing techniques first developed by the Japanese.
The best way to sex chickens in a backyard flock is to watch them grow. As they develop, sex-specific changes occur.
While a number of old wives tales exist about sexing chicks, these methods are no better than simply flipping a coin - overall you'll be 50% accurate.
I have a small flock of chickens. Just over three weeks ago a hen was showing broody behavior. Over the weeks I observed her she stayed on the egg most of the time only coming out once to eat/drink. However, she was sitting on only one egg. For the last two days she stopped sitting on the egg. I cracked the egg and there was a little chick inside! Why did she stop sitting on the eggs? Can hens tell whether or not the baby is alive or not, or did she lose interest?
The broodiness of chickens is affected by the hen's hormones. Sometimes things go wrong and the hen stops sitting on eggs she was previously incubating. When the embryo is young it is hard for the hen to tell if it is alive or not, but once it gets older the embryos make noise that the hen can hear. In fact, embryos in the eggs next to them have also been shown to hear their 'siblings.'
I have a small flock with a single hen and rooster. The hen has definitely been mated by the rooster. She started to lay eggs and since we wanted chicks we left the eggs in the nest. After 17 days and 17 eggs she started sitting on the eggs full time. It was very cold/snowy for the first week she was laying eggs. She gets off once a day for a stretch and to get food and water. I didn't make a note of the date she started laying the eggs but I am sure it must be nearly three weeks. I do not know if the eggs are fertile. Will she continue to sit on the eggs for many weeks if they do not hatch. If so, how long should I leave them before removing the eggs?
If the eggs are infertile, or the embryos have died for whatever reason, some hens will remain on nest well past the 21 days of incubation. Most will eventually give up. If it is past 25 days of actual incubation time and the hen is still on the nest, I would recommend candling the eggs to see if there are any viable embryos inside. If not, throw the eggs out.
Depending on how long the hens have been laying, you can do a physical examination to see which of the hens are laying - but remember, they may all be laying, just not at a high enough rate to get 2-3 eggs/ day from your three hens. Refer to the factsheet Evaluating egg laying hens for suggestions on how to evaluate the level of egg production for individual hens.
Several factors could be involved - anything from genetics, management, health, to nutrition. Refer to the factsheet Why have my hens stopped laying eggs? for some suggestions.
It is not typical to have an egg without a yolk but it can happen. Sometimes a little piece of the oviduct wall is sloughed off and stimulates egg formation as it passes down the oviduct so the hen adds albumen, shell membranes and a shell and the 'egg' is laid without a yolk. Since the female genetic material is on the surface of the yolk, and the yolk provides the nutrients for the developing embryo, a chicken that always lay eggs without a yolk would not be able to reproduce.
We have hens and roosters. We separated the hens and roosters to give the hens a break since they were losing a lot of the feathers on their back. After a week one of the hens is sitting on her eggs. Are these eggs fertile?
Hens can lay fertile eggs for several days after a mating. They have sperm storage sacks in their oviduct. The sperm are released slowly over time so that eggs laid days (and sometimes week) after a mating are still fertile.
The other consideration - if she started sitting on HER eggs after a week, when was the first egg laid. If she has more than 7 eggs, other hens may be laying eggs in the same nest.
My young hen is about 9-10 months of age. She just started laying eggs and has laid a total of 5 eggs so far. She ate one or two and the rest were not completely formed. Is this normal for a first time layer?
It sounds like your hen is suffering from a calcium deficiency and is thus not able to create a strong shell (which is made up of calcium carbonate). You should check and see what see is being fed. It is important that she is receiving a laying hen diet with sufficient calcium. You can try adding oyster shell to her feed to increase calcium consumption. Chickens do have a 'calcium appetite' and if you provide oyster shell in a separate feeder they will typically eat what they need.
Egg eating can be a problem in some flocks. It is sometimes started because of a nutrient deficiency but it can also start for no apparent reason.
For some chickens it becomes a habit. Chickens are attracted to shiny objects and if an egg gets broken they will start pecking at it and eventually eat it. Once some hens get a taste of eggs they start breaking eggs to eat them. It can be a hard habit to break.
Make sure the hens are receiving a balanced diet and collect the eggs more frequently. Some people have had success with putting fake eggs (such as golf balls) in the nests to discourage egg eating, but it doesn't always work.
There are some cities that allow 'urban poultry' while others strictly ban it. Others ban roosters but allow home owners to keep a few hens. You need to check with your local administration. For additional information on urban poultry, click here.
There is no safe way to de-crow roosters. Years ago a few vets use to de-crow roosters with a surgical procedure but since the 'voice box' of chickens (syrinx - see diagram to the left) is part of the respiratory system, mortality was very high (typically at least 50% even for experienced surgeons). It is not a procedure routinely done by vets today.
Castrating roosters is not a viable option either. The male reproductive organs are located within the body cavity of the rooster. They are along the back and very close to the kidneys. Trying to remove them would be extremely difficult and most likely fatal. They do castrate young male chickens (in the production of capons) but this is done at a very young age when the males are still chicks (and the testes are relatively small).
So in the wild what happens to all these unfertilized eggs if nobody is collecting them? It'd be interesting to just stumble on a truly wild colony of chickens and see what happens to all their eggs and how big a group they'd eventually become if they hatch so quickly. In their natural habitat did chickens just form colonies and hang out in the same area all year since they couldn't really fly anywhere?
Typically wild birds only lay eggs during the breeding season, with the intention to incubate and hatch offspring. The only true wild colony of chickens is the Jungle Fowl in Asia. These chickens are the ancestors of our present day chicken breeds. They only lay 10-12 eggs a year. It was only through genetic selection over many decades that we know have chickens that lay so many eggs in a year.
Interestingly, however, there is a group of chickens living on Key West in Florida that are considered to be feral (a feral animal is one that has escaped from domestication and returned, partly or wholly, to its wild state). There are reportedly 2,000 of these chickens on the island. They roost in the bushes. Mother hens guide they chicks across busy streets and they scurry around outdoor cafes.
For more on the feral, gypsy chickens of Key West click here.
I have a small group of Araucana hens but they have been with a mix of roosters, including a Barred Plymouth Rock. I want to breed true Araucanas. How long do I have to separate the Plymouth Rock rooster from the hens before incubating the eggs to ensure the offspring will be Araucana pure?
Hens can lay fertile eggs for several months after they have mated with a rooster, but the percent of eggs laid that will be fertile decreases dramatically after a couple of weeks. A few sperm have been known to be viable for several months after a mating, though they are rare. This is possible since the hens have sperm storage sacks in their reproductive tract that slowly releases the sperm from a mating over time. With the addition of a new sperm source (i.e., the Araucana rooster rather than the Barred Plymouth Rock) the remaining sperm from the Plymouth Rock will be out numbered by the sperm from the Araucana rooster so 99% of the offspring should be from the new rooster - but you still might get the occasional chick fathered by the Plymouth Rock, but the odds go down dramatically over time.
Chickens and other birds use internal fertilization. That is, the hen and rooster mate, and then the hen produces eggs. Once an egg has been laid, it can not be fertilized. It either already contains an embryo or it doesn't. Hens will lay eggs whether they are mated with a rooster or not. For more information see the factsheet on the anatomy and physiology of reproductive system of the female chicken.
The chick's survival will depend on how close to hatching it was before you cracked the egg. If it would have hatched on its own in a day or two it has a higher likelihood of hatching. If the crack broke any blood vessels the embryo could bleed to death, which is the main reason it is not recommended that you help chicks out of the shell when it is time for them to hatch.
If the embryo was not that far along it will most likely die. The shell is important for controlling the passage of oxygen, carbon dioxide and moisture. Cracks will change the normal balance. In addition, the shell acts as a barrier to keep bacteria and other pathogens out of the egg. Again, the cracked shell breaks down this barrier and makes the embryo more open to infection.
Hens are hatched with the total number of ova (the genetic material of the female found on the surface of the yolk) they will ever have, just as humans are. Males regularly produce new sperm, but the number gametes of the female are fixed at hatch.
Hens can lay for several years and the number of years will depend on the management and nutrition of the hens over those years. Breed also is a factor. The higher the rate of production in the first year or two, the less years she is likely to lay eggs. I have seen hens in backyard flocks lay eggs for 3-5 years but I don't believe there has been any research into how long they can lay before they go start 'menopause'. The oldest living chicken (at least documented) is about 13-14 years - although she is a hen, she doesn't lay eggs. She is used in a magic show and gets routine 'physicals.'
Will two chickens that have never seen each other before mate when housed together? I have two grown hens and borrowed a rooster from a friend so I can get eggs to incubate but I don't know if I'm wasting my time?
While some mammalian females (especially rabbits) can be very picky about their choice of mate, that is not the case with chickens. Typically a rooster will try and mate with any hen available - whether they are 'acquainted' or not. The rooster may have to chase the female around for awhile before getting the deed done though.
I have eight mature hens. When I went out to collect eggs there was an egg in the middle of all the others that was 1 1/4 inches long. It looked pretty much like all the rest of them. Is it common for chickens to lay really small eggs like this, or could something else have gotten in there and laid it?
It is extremely unlikely that a wild bird came and laid in a nest being used by chickens. It is more likely that a chicken in the flock laid the small egg. It is possible for a chicken to lay very small (and very large) eggs. Small eggs can result from one of two things:
- They could be 'pullet' eggs which are eggs that young females chickens lay when they first start laying eggs, especially if they are underweight when they are light-stimulated to lay eggs.
- Sometimes a piece of the lining of the oviduct is shed and the hen makes an egg around that material. It will turn out to be a very small egg, and yolk-less.
I I have this adorable bantam hen and I would like to breed her but the only male I have is a rooster that is a lot bigger than she is. Is it possible to breed them or would the eggs be two big for her to lay and killer her?
Although the size of the offspring may be bigger, the size of the egg laid is related to the breed of the hen and is not affected by the breed of the rooster. In mammals the size of the offspring is also affected by the genetic contributions of both sexes. In a case where a larger than normal offspring in produced the female may have trouble carrying and delivering it.
The main difficulty in mating chickens with very large differences in size is the difficulty involved in the mating act itself. In addition, if the genetics of the offspring result in the production of a large embryo in a small egg, the egg may not have the nutrients required to allow the embryo to fully develop into a chick and hatch.
If an air cell in a goose egg is broken does that mean it won't hatch right? We had some eggs that had the air cells broken but we put them in the incubator anyway and they haven't started to smell after 4 days.
It is unlikely that the goslings will be able to hatch properly without an intact air cell in the correct location in the egg. The developing embryo must be in a certain position to hatch properly. Prior to pipping thru the shell their beaks, which are under the left wing, break into the air cell. This is when the embryo starts to breath and is technically now a gosling rather than an embryo. As the carbon dioxide levels build up in the air cell the gosling is stimulated to break out of the shell.
The eggs don't typically smell unless they go rotten, which requires bacterial or fungal contamination. If the shell is intact, at the end of the incubation period you just end up with an egg with a very watery yolk and albumen since their structure has been adversely affect by the heat. If, at the end of the incubation period you have a very light weight egg, handle it with care because it is rotten and may 'explode' and contaminated the person handling the egg.
Does the temperature in the incubator determine the sex of a chicken? Last spring we incubated some eggs and ended up with a bunch of roosters. We turned the temperature down to about 99°F and ended up with mostly hens and a few roosters.
The effect of temperature on the sex of the offspring is related to reptile eggs (such as alligators) and not for birds.
The sex of a bird is determined genetically and is set before the egg is even laid. Unlike mammals, however, it is the female bird that determines the sex of the offspring and not the male. In mammals the male is heterozygous (XY) and the female homozygous (XX) so that the male is the only parent with the Y gene which will result in a male offspring. In birds the female is heterozygous (ZW) and the male is homozygous (ZZ) so that the female determines the sex of the offspring.
While the sex of the chick is determined before the egg is laid, research has shown that male and female embryos may differ in their sensitivity to suboptimal conditions during embryo development. As a result, the ratio of males and females that actually hatch can vary depending on incubation conditions. This is because the ratio of males and females that do not hatch is affected not because the sex of the embryos was changed by the temperature (as happens with some reptiles).
Genetics of sex determination in mammals versus birds
(e.g., humans, cows, etc.)
Male = XY
Female = XX
Males determine the sex of the offspring
Male = ZZ
Female = ZW
Females determine the sex of the offspring
We just hatched out some chicks and one of them has something hanging from it's rear. It is like a small, stringy dark yellow type of thing. It is hanging from its rear and is stuck to the shell. The chick's body is completely free from the shell, but that stringy thing is still connected to it. He keeps trying to kick it off of him but the shell just keeps dragging along. What is it? Is it okay to remove it?
The inside of the shell has remnants of blood vessels and different embryonic sacs. Sometimes pieces of material get stuck to the chick when it hatches, and if not removed it can get dried on. If it is still attached to the shell you can remove the shell half of the attachment. The rest will eventually dry up and fall off.
I cracked open a hard cooked egg last evening and found a circular pattern in the yolk that continued through the entire yolk. The circle pattern alternated between a normal looking cooked yolk and a darker yellow almost uncooked looking yolk. There were two circles of each of the yolk colors. When we cut the yolk in half the pattern ran through the entire yolk. The egg was from a free-ranging chicken flock. What is this?
Many people know that when trees grow they leave rings that can be counted to tell how old the tree is - one ring for each year. A similar situation occurs with egg yolks - each day that they put down the yolk you get a ring. The nature of each ring depends on the feed that the hen ate that day. When the diet is the same every day the rings normally go unnoticed. If you add different feed colors every day, you will get more obviously colored rings. If the chickens are free-ranging the hen most likely got different levels of xanthophyll pigment each day, probably from differences in plant consumption for day to day.
Typically it is not a good idea to help a hatching chicken out of the egg. Iif the embryo is not properly developed you may break a blood vessel causing the chick to bleed to death. If the chick is sufficiently developed, it is typically the weaker chicks that can't get out on their own - so commercially they are not helped. For the small flock, however, this is more feasible. If a chick is not properly positioned in the shell it may not be able to hatch out - helping such chicks is often not a problem.
I live in a cold climate and I got a heat lamp for my egg-laying chickens to stay warm. I keep the light on all the time so that I know for sure they are staying warm when they need it. I bought a red light as I was told white light can damage the eyes of the chickens. Is this true?
A heat lamp for adult chickens is usually only needed when it gets really cold or when the housing is not well insulated. Red heating lamps are typically better - it is not that the white light will damage the eyes of the chickens but that it may adversely affect their egg production. The laying of eggs is affected by day length (number of hours of light per day - from either natural or artificial sources). With a white heating lamp they have 24 hours of light per day (assuming that the lamp is left on over night, the coldest part of the day) which can disrupt their egg production.
Why would a chicken waste so much energy producing an egg that isn't fertilized? It must be a drain on resources to lose this otherwise highly nutritional material. Is this a product of domestication? Do any/all wild birds regularly lay unfertilized eggs?
Egg laying chickens were genetically selected for high levels of egg production - it is not something they would be doing to this extent in the wild where they would only lay eggs during the breeding season.
A hen doesn't know whether an egg is fertile or not - it is the same process to make an egg in either case. Wild birds will be stimulated to lay eggs during the breeding season and some will lay eggs whether they are fertile or not. Such females would not have offspring so female birds unable to find a mate tend to get weeded out through natural selection.
I have a Rhode Island Red chicken and she has been laying about eight months but now her eggs have this white sandy type stuff on them and it is almost like clumps on the shell. What is this? What do I do about it?
Calcium deposits on egg shells are not that uncommon. The 'pimples' (calcium deposits) are distortions to the shell. The hens may have an infection affecting their reproductive system. Infection is not the only cause, however, because the same condition also occurs in disease-free flocks. The defect may be partly hereditary. Age of the hens is also a factor. With increasing age there is an increase in the likelihood of calcium deposits.Your hens are not that old though so age should not be a big factor.
It is a common practice in many backyard flocks to recycle egg shells by feeding them back to the hens as a calcium source. However, it is very important to dry the shells completely first - otherwise the hens get a taste of the egg content and may start eating eggs. Once a flock starts eating eggs it is very hard to break them of the habit.
EcoCycle.org recommend that whole eggs NOT be composted though the shells are okay (egg shells are high in calcium and good for the soil). There appear to be three possible reason for this recommendation.
- The eggs tend to attract unwanted attention from animals (mice, skunks, buzzards, and even bears). Biting insects will also lay their eggs in this type of compost, which leads to more flies and bites.
- The bacteria that do most of the work in a compost pile are aerobic bacteria, but the bacteria that thrive on meat scraps and other high protein sources are anaerobic. Aerobic bacteria require oxygen to digest waste. They oxidize carbon compounds and generate heat as a by-product of their growth and reproduction. This heat accelerates the activity of other bacteria. On the other hand, anaerobic bacteria grow quickly without fresh air. They break down proteins to generate energy, but do not produce much heat.
- The by-products from the break down of eggs can make a compost stink.
While it is not recommend that whole eggs be composted in the typical manner, there are composters specially designed to handle such materials. If you compost whole raw eggs it is best to break them up otherwise gas pressure builds up while they decompose and they can cause little, very stinky explosions when you touch them with a garden fork.
Check out the YouTube.com video showing a man opening a large egg with a second egg inside it (click here).
As you can see from the video, such a thing can happen. An egg inside an egg occurs when a complete egg is pushed back up the oviduct (instead of getting laid) and a second one forms around it. The reasons for this are not well understood. See an explanation of this phenomenon in the New Scientist video on YouTube.com.