You don’t need a rooster to get hen eggs. That is a common misconception. Hens will lay eggs whether there is a rooster around or not. The need for a rooster is only if you want fertilized eggs. And you can eat the eggs whether they are fertilized or not, they will taste exactly the same. Store bought eggs generally are not fertilized. Farm fresh hen eggs may be either unfertilized or fertilized. The thing to keep in mind if they are fertilized is to make sure the development has not gone too far by placing the eggs in a refrigerator within a few hours from being laid. Otherwise, you may crack open an egg to find an embryo that has started to develop. Although balut (eggs with partially developed chicks inside) is a delicacy is some Asian countries.
Your First Time?
If you’ve never had farm fresh eggs or eggs from backyard chickens before and are only used to store bought, there are some things to be prepared for.
-First, your hen eggs can be a little dirty. Store bought eggs are pristinely washed. So, a quick wash under lukewarm water should take care of that.
-The size of the hen eggs will vary somewhat from egg to egg, especially while the hens are still young. And when young hens lay their first few eggs, it’s not unusual to get some pretty interestingly shaped eggs as well.
-Generally, the shell tends to be a bit harder when cracking open. That inside shell lining is also a bit tougher. And so the shell will stick to the egg a bit more when trying to peel a hard-boiled egg.
-As for the inside color, the yolk is generally brighter and deeper yellow, and sometimes even orange from the much higher levels of beta carotene. There can also sometimes be tinted streaks of greenish, gray color in the white part of the egg (this usually has to do with what the hen ate).
-If the hen eggs are fertilized, there may be a small red dot inside the yolk that looks like a droplet of blood. This is perfectly normal and completely fine to eat, although it can be somewhat startling the first time you crack open one of these eggs.
-A quick wash with lukewarm water is recommended before placing hen eggs from your backyard chickens in the refrigerator. Do not use cold water for the initial wash, as the egg shell will contract under cold water and dirt particles (and possibly even chicken feces) can then get trapped within the pores of the eggshells.
-Place hen eggs in the refrigerator promptly upon collecting. It’s best not to let hen eggs sit out for too long. Generally it’s recommended not to keep refrigerated eggs longer than a month or so. But recent studies have shown that properly refrigerated eggs can last up to 6 months or more.
-If an egg smells bad or is clearly spoiled upon cracking open, it’s best to promptly discard or compost the egg. Besides smell, you can also test for egg freshness by placing your hen eggs in a bowl filled with water. If any of the hen eggs float, that indicates they are old and likely spoiled.
-It’s never recommended to eat raw eggs, including those from your own backyard chickens. Always be sure to thoroughly cook eggs before eating.
Other Interesting Facts of Hen Eggs
-Typically, a hen will never lay more than one egg per day. But they do tend to lay eggs in cycles with laying a bit later each day until the end of the series, when they will then tend to take a day or two off.
-The rooster does not need to mate with the hen each time for every egg to be fertilized. Even when the rooster is removed from the hen, she will still produce fertilized eggs for up to a week or so.
-White and brown are not the only natural colors of egg shells. There are breeds of chickens that lay blue, green, cream and pink colored eggs as well.
-For brown egg layers, generally the color of the hen eggs will lighten as the hen ages.
-If a hen does not get enough calcium in her diet, the egg shells will be thin and soft. Supplementing the diet with oyster shell is common practice for backyard chickens to ensure your hens are getting enough calcium.
-There is no difference in taste or nutritional value between white eggs and brown eggs (or other colors). It’s really just a matter of personal preference (and likely what type of hen eggs you are used to). Many people tend to associate brown eggs with farm fresh eggs though, probably because so many store bought eggs are white.
-Eggs that come from hens raised on pasture (or free range chickens) are much more nutritious than eggs that come from confined caged hens, including having 4 to 6 times as much Vitamin D, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more Vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene, as well as 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 less saturated fat.