Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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Eggs are a big part of owning chickens. They come in different colors and sizes and may have some imperfections. It's important to collect them each day and to know proper handling and storing techniques.

Collect fertile or nonfertile eggs for eating at least twice a day or more if possible, and store them immediately in the coolest part of your refrigerator, not in a refrigerator door. Fertilized eggs can start developing at 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each chicken breed has specific egg color characteristics. Some of your hens may lay eggs that have speckles or freckles or slightly different color tones, helping you distinguish one chicken's eggs from another's.

A fertile egg doesn't taste any different from a nonfertile egg. An egg's taste comes directly from what the hen eats. Fertile eggs don't have any additional health benefits over nonfertile eggs.

Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. Hens need a rooster if you want fertilized eggs for eating and/or the capability of hatching eggs. Eggs will not be fertile unless there is a rooster kept in a flock, or a rooster is given access to a particular hen(s) for breeding purposes.

One rooster to twelve hens is a good rooster to hen ratio in a flock. Roosters have the ability to mate numerous times with several hens a day. Rooster's sperm can be stored and remain viral in a hen's oviduct pouches capable of fertilizing eggs for up to 10 to 14 days.

Eggs from young hens are tiny but perfectly good. As hens mature, their eggs get larger and larger until they're the standard size that their particular breed lays. The table lists some egg abnormalities, particularly prone to pullets (young hens) beginning to lay. With time, hens usually work out these egg glitches on their own.

Some Common Egg Imperfections
Name Description Cause
Blood spot A blood spot in egg Piece of blood vessel broke when egg was being formed, but before shell was added. Sometimes it can be lack of vitamin A in the hen's diet, or it can be hereditary. Eggs look unappealing, but are good and fine to eat.
Double yolk Two yolks in one egg Two mature yolks dropped from ovary at the same time. Egg is fine and good to eat, even prized.
Shell-less egg An egg covered only by membranes Malfunction of hen's egg-laying mechanism. Egg was rushed through the process prematurely. Can be from beginning laying pullets, stress, or vitamin D deficiency. Do not eat.
Wrinkled egg Outside shell is ridged or wrinkled Hen was roughly handled or two eggs being formed in oviduct at the same time rubbing close to each other. Egg is fine to eat.
Yolkless egg No yolk within egg Can be from beginning laying pullets. Something triggered oviduct other than a yolk to start the egg process. Do not eat.

When in doubt about an egg, do not eat it. Be cautious of eggs that are cracked, smelly, or extremely dirty.

About This Article

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Bonnie Jo Manion has been featured in national garden magazines with her gardens, organic practices, chickens, and designs. Follow Bonnie at Rob Ludlow is the owner of, a top source on chicken raising, and the coauthor of Raising Chickens For Dummies.

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