We recently asked our Facebook fans to tell us some of the funniest questions they’ve heard from folks that don’t raise backyard chickens. We heard some great questions like “why are some eggs brown?” For chicken owners, these are funny, but hey, let’s be fair. We may have asked some of these questions at the beginning of our chicken keeping journey.
With every question asked, there’s always the possibility of learning something new.
- “I was asked why I sell bleached eggs with my farm fresh brown ones.”
- “What do I feed them (my chickens) to get colored eggs?”
- “Are the green eggs rotting because of the color?”
People are continuously fascinated by egg color. They wonder why are some eggs brown? Why are there blue eggs and green eggs? This is probably because most have only seen white eggs in store cartons. Chicken egg color is determined by the breed of the hen that laid the egg. Different breeds lay different colored chicken eggs. For instance, the white eggs seen in grocery stores are most likely laid by a White Leghorn. Factory farms are all about a consistent look to their eggs, but backyard chicken owners often like to focus on a colorful egg basket, so they may have brown egg layers, such as Buff Orpingtons and Speckled Sussex, and green egg layers, such as Easter Eggers, in their flock. No matter what you feed your chickens or whether the egg is fresh or rotten, it will not change its color once it’s laid.
Baby Chicks On Board
- “Don’t you need a rooster to get eggs?“
- “You eat their eggs? Aren’t baby chicks inside?”
Hens are born with all the reproductive cells (called ova) they will ever need for reproduction. The ova develop individually and are passed through the reproductive system at regular intervals. As each ova travels through the reproductive system, an egg is formed and eventually laid. This happens regardless of whether a rooster is present or not. So, you don’t need a rooster to get eggs, but you do need a rooster to get fertilized eggs that could develop into a baby chicken. In the case of supermarket eggs, the hens that laid those eggs are most likely never exposed to a rooster. In the case of backyard eggs, it depends on each individual backyard chicken owner’s set up. Even if someone keeps a rooster with a flock of hens, you will still not be eating eggs with baby chicks inside. Eggs have a spot on the yolk called a germinal disc. This is the spot where the sperm enters the egg and where the embryo (baby chick) will start to form. In an unfertilized egg, that small disc – 2 to 3 millimeters – will be solid white. In a fertilized egg, it will look like a bulls-eye with a clear center and a white outline. That germinal disc will only start to form a baby chicken if it is incubated in an incubator or under a broody hen. This does not happen with eggs that are meant for consumption, so no baby chicken will be inside.
Sexing Baby Chickens
- “I was told when incubating eggs you can tell which ones are roosters before they hatch because those eggs have pointed ends.”
In the world of chicken hatching, it would be wonderful to have early indicators like egg shape that tell us whether that egg will bear a female or male. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The egg shape is developed regardless of fertilization. It can even be determined by outside factors such as stress or rough handling. The best way to tell if you have a rooster is to watch your chicks develop and even then, it can sometimes be hard to tell.
Feeding Baby Chickens
- “How can you tell if the baby chickens are getting enough milk? Where are the chicken teats because I can’t see them?”
Baby chickens are birds and not mammals so they do not drink milk from their mothers. Female hens do not have teats and do not produce milk. Baby chickens should be fed a chick starter that’s specially formulated for their developing systems. Never feed baby chickens layer feed that’s meant for hens that are of egg-laying age. The extra calcium in layer feed can cause great harm to a baby chicken.
- “I have a friend who will not eat my eggs because they come of our a chicken’s rear, but she would rather buy them from a grocery store.”
People perceive that eggs laid in a backyard setting are different than grocery store eggs. They are not. Regardless of where a hen lives, she will lay her egg the same as every other hen. Mother Nature takes care of the cleanliness of a hen’s eggs. The cloaca or opening where a hen lays an egg is where her digestive, reproductive and excretory tracts all come together. But they don’t co-mingle and make the egg dirty. A hen cannot lay an egg and defecate at the same time. The shell gland stays wrapped around the egg and shuts off the intestinal opening as the egg is laid. Dirty eggs happen after the egg is laid.
- “Which one is the chicken?”
All chickens are chickens but they are referred to in different terminology throughout their lives. A male chicken under a year old is called a cockerel. An adult male chicken is called a rooster. A female chicken under a year old is called a pullet. An adult female chicken is called a hen.
- “Do roosters lay eggs too?”
Last but not least, roosters don’t lay eggs!
What are the funniest chicken questions you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments below.