CHICKEN EGGS: Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about chicken eggs
Chicken eggs are one of the world’s most popular and useful foods. Eggs dominate the kitchen, used in everything from baking to frying to sprucing up last night’s leftovers. But how much do you really know about the humble egg?  This post will cover all things egg, from nutritional value to how to tell what color egg your hen is likely to lay, and if you raise chickens, to give tips on caring for your hens to get top quality eggs.

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How Often Can a Chicken Lay an Egg?

eggs in hand with chickens in back
Determining how many eggs you’re likely to get can help you to plan how many chickens you need to have enough eggs for your family.
How does a chicken produce an egg? A few factors come into play when determining how many eggs hens will lay
  • Breed of the chicken
  • Age of the chicken
  • Amount of light 
Read our related article, How Does a Chicken Lay an Egg? Learn all about egg-making in this guide!

Breed Affects Egg Laying

On average, most hens will lay around 6 eggs a week. Roughly 1 every 25 hours or so. However, this depends on the breed, with some taking longer than others. 

What Chicken Lays the Largest Egg?

There are many breeds that lay large and extra-large chicken eggs, but the two breeds that lay the biggest eggs include the New Hampshires and Jersey Giants. These chickens will always produce large and extra-large brown eggs.

They Peak Early

The bird’s age also determines how many eggs a hen will produce. Hens hit their egg-laying stride in the first 2 years of their life but can produce for between 5 and 10 years.

Lighting Needs

Hens need between 12 and 14 hours of light to produce eggs. If you have chickens of your own, you will notice a drop in production in the fall, around the time they molt. You can compensate for this by adding a lightbulb to your coop.

Where Does the Egg Come Out of the Chicken?

Female chickens push an egg out of an area called their cloaca. The cloaca is an opening that leads to the vent of the hen which is where the reproductive and excretory tracts meet.

What Does an Egg-Bound Chicken Look Like?

An egg-bound chicken is a chicken that’s having difficulty pushing or passing an egg through its cloaca. This is a bit of cause for concern as it can be very uncomfortable for the chicken and they may need assistance. With that being said, an egg-bound chicken will look weak. Their legs might not look stable or able to hold the chicken’s weight. They will be out of breath and seem quite lethargic. Also, you may notice that it’s been over 26 hours since the chicken last laid an egg. Here are some other signs to look out for that may indicate an egg-bound chicken:
  • Penguin walking
  • Tail pumping
  • Shaking
  • Frequent sitting or lethargy
  • Not eating
  • Shaking or shivering

How to Help an Egg-Bound Chicken

You want to make sure your hen is actually egg-bound, which might require you to feel for an egg by doing an internal exam on your hen. Once you’re sure there is an egg, then you can begin the next steps.
  • Start by giving the hen a bit of a warm bath and letting her bottom soak in the water for at least 10 minutes. This will help the hen to relax and hopefully pass the egg.
  • You can also lubricate your hen’s vent so that it is a bit easier to pass the egg.
If the hen hasn’t passed the egg after a few hours then repeat the bath and continue with more lubricant. Move the hen to a dark and quiet space so that she can relax and focus on passing the gg.

How Do I Know What Color My Eggs Will Be?

group of brown eggs
If you didn’t know, eggs come in all colors such as brown, tan, green, blue, and some multicolored ones!
Egg color is based mainly on the hen’s genetics, and here are the things you can use to predict the color. 
  • Breed of the hen
  • Chicken ears
  • The bird’s age

Breed Matters

The most significant indicator of what color a chicken’s eggs will be is the breed of the chicken. Certain types of birds will lay a particular color egg. For example, a White Leghorn will lay white eggs, and a Road Island Red will lay a brown egg

Chicken Ears!

Did you know that chickens have earlobes? You can use a bird’s earlobe to predict the color of the eggs it produces pretty accurately.  Lighter earlobes will produce white eggs, while darker earlobes will likely produce colored eggs.  Read our related article, Do Chickens Have Ears? for a fascinating look into chicken ears!

Age and Shade

While the age of a hen won’t change the basic color of an egg, it will affect how light or dark that coloring will be. The bird might start producing lighter-colored eggs as it gets older.

My Chicken Laid an Egg, Now What?

Having your chicken lay eggs is a very exciting thing, but it’s important to care for them properly once they’ve been laid. We’ll point you in the right direction with some steps to do if your chicken has laid an egg.
  • Gather eggs carefully and safely while trying not to disturb chickens
  • Wipe off any debris
  • Store them in the fridge or on the counter

Do I Have to Collect Eggs Every Day?

Getting out and collecting eggs every day, once in the morning and again after lunch, is recommended. Not all hens will lay at the same time. Be sure to bring a basket or a container that won’t damage the eggs! Collecting eggs early and often will also help minimize the number of eggs broken. Chickens eat nearly anything that looks edible, even broken eggs, so you want to get that cleaned up before they pick up that bad habit!

Do I Need to Wash Farm Fresh Eggs?

Unless the egg is visibly dirty, you shouldn’t have to wash them. A good way to prevent dirty eggs is to keep the hen’s straw fresh and free from gunk. If you do find eggs covered in poop, you can just run them under water being sure to give them a little scrub while being very gentle. NOTE: if you wash an egg in water, you will have likely removed a protective layer called the bloom and will now need to keep the eggs in the refrigerator.

How Do You Store Freshly Laid Eggs?

The cleaning process used on store-bought eggs removes the bloom and means they should always be kept in the refrigerator. Fresh eggs from your coop can be left out on the counter for up to 2 weeks! Both fresh farm eggs and store-bought eggs can be refrigerated for about 3 months.

Why Did My Chicken Lay a Soft Egg?

There are a few reasons that your chicken may lay a soft egg. One of the main reasons is their diet. Not eating enough calcium can affect egg production, especially because the shell is made from calcium, so it’s important to get enough of it in order to construct the shell. Here are a few other reasons that your hen may be laying soft eggs:
  • The eggs aren’t fully developed
  • The hen is sick
  • stress

How Are Eggs Fertilized?

First off, it’s important to note that chickens will lay eggs regardless of if they’re fertilized or not. With that being said, for the eggs to be fertilized the hen must mate with a rooster, so if this does not happen, then they don’t have the potential to hatch (if that’s your goal). Keep in mind that fertilized eggs are edible as well as they haven’t been incubated to grow a chick. Read our related article, How is a Chicken Egg Fertilized? for a closer look at the reproductive cycle of chickens!

Do I Need a Rooster for My Hens to Lay Eggs?

group of eggs
Laying eggs is natural for a hen no matter if they are fertilized or not, so you’ll still have delicious eggs no matter what.
Eggs can be laid by hens even if you don’t have a rooster. Roosters are only required for fertilized eggs, not for the process of creating unfertilized eggs In fact, if you plan on keeping backyard chickens, check your local laws and city ordinances – you might not be allowed to have a rooster! Read our related article, How Do Chickens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster? for more on this topic!

Can Store Bought Eggs Hatch?

Much to the disappointment of children worldwide, the eggs you buy at the local supermarket cannot be hatched into chicks. This is because they have been washed and stored at a cold temperature which does not allow them to develop.  Baby chicks need incubation in order to grow and hatch.

How Can You Tell if a Chicken Egg is Fertilized?

You can check to see if a chick is alive inside an egg through a process called candling After 8 to 10 days of incubation, you can take an egg into a dark room and shine a bright light through it. Try not to use a light that gets too hot! It could kill the embryo.  If you see a dark spot surrounded by blood vessels at the large end of the egg, then congratulations! You have a chick on the way! Just be sure not to keep the egg out of the warmth of the incubator for long. 
  • Embryos that didn’t make it will appear as a ring or a dark spot that looks stuck to the inside of the shell. 
  • Eggs that are not fertilized or haven’t been incubated will let the light shine through brightly, so check those eggs!

How to Tell if a Chicken Egg is Fertile With Water

Another popular method of checking to see if your eggs are fertile is by putting them in water. Although this method is debatable on whether or not it’s accurate, and it doesn’t let you check the development process, there’s no harm in trying it out. Put the egg in a bowl of lukewarm water for this test and if the egg sinks, then it’s said to be fertile, but if it floats then it’s infertile. Read our related article on How to Candle a Chicken Egg With a Flashlight. Candling is easy! Here are the steps.

How to Incubate a Chicken Egg

Eggs in a basket
Incubation is required for fertilized eggs to develop into chicks. If an egg is not incubated by the hen or incubator, the egg will not grow.
Incubating a fertilized chicken egg requires special equipment, assuming you aren’t a chicken yourself. The process is rather involved, but here is some basic information:
  • It takes around 20-21 days for an egg to hatch
  • Specific conditions must be maintained such as temperatures of 99.5 degrees, the humidity of 50% until the 18th day
  • Eggs must be turned by a turner or by hand many times a day to ensure even and proper warmth and growth.

How Long Does it Take to Hatch a Chicken Egg?

It does not take long for a fertilized egg to hatch, less than a month, in fact! Generally speaking, a chicken’s egg will hatch in about 21 days, depending on the breed of the bird. When selecting eggs, be sure that:
  • The eggs are not cracked
  • The eggs are clean
  • The eggs are full size and not abnormally shaped

How Long Does it Take to Hatch a Chicken Egg Without an Incubator?

It takes 21 days to hatch a chicken egg without an incubator, as well. This is in the event that you’re using a broody chicken or a homemade incubator to do the process. If you aren’t using any incubator at all then your eggs will not have a chance at hatching. So, how do you hatch a chicken egg without an incubator? Read this article to find out!

No Cracks Allowed!

Cracked eggs should not be used in an incubator. The loss of complete protection the shell offers makes it possible for harmful bacteria to enter the egg and unlikely that any chick would grow in those circumstances.

Use Clean Eggs

When selecting the eggs, be sure to choose clean eggs. DO NOT wash eggs you plan to incubate for chicks. Washing a fertilized egg could wash away the natural protective layer and invite bacteria and disease to enter the egg.  

Maintaining the Environment

You will need some equipment if you plan on incubating eggs on your own. There are different kinds of incubators out there, from homemade ones to expensive commercial incubators, to everything in between. They all do the same thing:
  • Maintain temperature
  • Maintain humidity
  • Provide ventilation
  • Candle to check development

Keep the Eggs Warm

Keeping eggs at the proper temperature is vital to the survival and proper development of the embryo. The Incubator should be set at 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Ensure Proper Humidity

Proper humidity is just as important as proper temperature. 50% humidity should be maintained for the first 18 days. Bump it up to around 70% after that. 

Let the Eggs Breathe

While it’s not much at the start, the embryo does produce carbon dioxide. An incubator should provide proper ventilation, especially in the later stages when the egg needs large amounts of oxygen. 

Turn, Turn, Turn

Mother hens are constantly turning their eggs, and you should, too. This evenly distributes warmth and prevents the chick from getting stuck to the shell membrane. You should turn them at least 5 times a day. This video goes into detail on incubating and hatching chicks:

FAQs

Is it Safe to Eat Eggs From Backyard Chickens?

Yes. Eating eggs from backyard chickens is safe and delicious, but they should always be properly cooked and never eaten raw. 

How Many Chickens Should You Start With?

If you’re looking to get around a dozen eggs a week, you should look at getting 2 or 3 birds You can calculate exactly how many you need by checking out our guide: How Many Chickens Should I Get for Eggs?

What Breed of Chicken Lays the Most Eggs?

The White Leghorn edges out the competition by laying around 300 eggs annually, but most breeds will lay 250 eggs yearly

What Happens if You Don’t Collect Chicken Eggs?

Not collecting eggs left in the coop can negatively affect the quality of the egg.  If it’s too hot outside, the egg could become unsafe to eat, too cold, and the egg could freeze and crack, exposing it to bacteria and might encourage the birds to eat them. 

How Often Should a Chicken Coop Be Cleaned?

Along with feeding and watering your chickens daily, you should replace the bedding straw weekly. You should do a deep clean of the coop at least twice a year

Conclusion

The chicken egg is a staple in households around the world for a reason. They are nutritious, delicious, and fairly easy to come by, whether you buy them from a store or get them out of your backyard.  Raising your own chickens for eggs can be a rewarding experience so give it a shot, you may never go back to the store for eggs ever again.

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