Saturday, August 11, 2012

Little Jewels

While chatting with a friend the other day, it was asked about the difference in chicken eggs.  The brown shelled eggs sold at the market are frequently higher in price and touted as being more healthy.  The shell of an egg has nothing to do with how healthy the content.  Put simply: what goes in is what comes out.  
Little Miss and Goldie
Think about it.  When you eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sunshine and exercise, and are able to relax among your friends, you feel better and are more productive.  Chickens are no different.  Most laying chickens live rather sad lives, confined to small cages where they receive food and water in exchange for producing a certain number of eggs.  When the egg production slows down, they are culled and replaced with younger birds. 

For those folks that only purchase eggs or chicken meat marked 'Free range', all I can say is buyer beware.  The USDA standard for free range merely states that a bird needs to have access to the outdoors.  This unfortunately doesn't mean that she is roaming a lush pasture with her little chickeny friends.  The picture on the carton may show wide open spaces, however her reality may be only to have a 6x6 foot concete yard to share with 100 of her fellow layers. 

Our girls have lots of room to roam with plenty of chicken snacks, sweet grass and clover, plus a wholesome feed available to them to ensure a balanced diet.  As a suppliment and special treat, the gals also receive cucumbers and other vegetables from the garden, tomato bits, and even a bit of watermelon from time-to-time. 

So why do some chickens lay white eggs and others lay colored shelled eggs?  Good question.  If you were to look at a hen's anatomy, all of her eggs start out the same and are pretty goopy as they form in her ovaduct (egg producing tract).  Toward the end of the tract, the shell forms around the egg and yolk, with some liquid to cushion and bathe the developing chick.  This shell is white.  As the egg is laid, an oily secretion coats the shell to protect it from bacteria yet allow the developing chick to breathe.  This secretion is what gives the shell its color.

The general rule of thumb is, if your chicken has red or dark colored earlobs she will lay colored eggs.  If she has white earlobs she will lay white eggs.  Now here's where I wish my camera could pick up the soft and subtle colors of an Americauna egg.  The photo doesn't do these lovely jewels their due.  Missy's eggs are a soft turquoise color.  Each girl produces a different shade ranging from pinks and blues to minty greens.  I can look at the color and tell you, who it is from. 

They taste no different from any other egg but because they are produced from calm, healthy, happy hens are more nutrious than those produced by those sad birds at the egg laying factory.  Something to keep in mind the next time you reach for a dozen.

Hidden treasures

No comments: