Unlike usual, I will not write about a disease in small or large animals, but about chickens and their eggs. Whichever was first, both animal and product deserve some credit. According to one of my professors at university, the chicken is the closest thing to a live dinosaur. Our commercial and back yard chickens can be traced back to the red fowl in Asia that became domesticated around 5000 years ago. When in Sri Lanka last year I had the luck to spot a jungle fowl in the wild. Domestication was worthwhile since they provide meat, eggs, don’t wander very far and are low maintenance.
So let me tell you something about eggs. As the days lengthen the hen starts to grow bigger yolks on her ovaries and, fertilised by a rooster or not, they will ovulate. The yolk travels down the oviduct and gets surrounded by egg white (albumen) and an inner membrane. Next stage is the egg gland or uterus. Here the outer membrane and shell are formed. Depending on the breed of chicken the shell gets brown or white pigment. Before it is about to be released, a waxy layer called cuticula is added to the outside. This prevents moisture evaporation and invasion of bugs. Finally, after about 25 hours it is time to lay the egg. Occasionally this ingenious process goes wrong, causing shell less eggs or double yolks.
Producing an egg is an achievement that takes quite some effort from the hen. She draws the calcium for the outer shell out of her own bones. The yellow colour of the yolk comes partly out of the diet in the form of pigments called xanthophylls, but mostly from lutein. A good laying hen will draw yellow pigment from her own body causing a lighter coloured beak and a paler yellow ring around her eyes. Common belief is that the more orange the yolk is the healthier it is to eat. This is not the case. It just reflects the diet of the hen. Feeding maize and marigold petals will give a more yellow yolk.
An egg is the cheapest form of protein for us to eat and is full of nutrients. This 50 gram and 60 calorie miracle is packed with vitamin A, B and D, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and non saturated fat. So enjoy eggs cooked in any form and thank the hen for producing it for you.
Provide your hens with unlimited fresh water, a sandpit to dustbath, grains, grass and a dark clean nest to lay her eggs. A mate is always appreciated and she can recognize up to ten fellow chickens. Who knew there was so much to know about chickens and eggs?