Updated: Nov 20
Being partly or fully self-sufficient on a farm it's only natural to keep chickens. If you have read my other Chicken Diaries story, you will know that I am quite ‘chicken mad’ and have tried many different breeds. Some breeds are mainly for show, others are dual-purpose chickens, meaning table-eating chickens and egg-laying, and others are only for egg-laying and not suitable for eating.
As we are discussing eggs, I will include some breeds that are great layers, and some that are both laying and table birds. In South Africa, we have some great indigenous breeds namely the Boschveld, Potchkoek and Venda chicken which are great meat and egg dual-purpose chickens. Lohmann Brown hens and Rhode Island Reds are docile and used only for laying. They provide around 345 eggs per year. Many commercially bred chickens are also dual-purpose for eggs and meat.
Let's talk about eggs
Eggs are an amazing superfood, loaded with nutrients and health benefits. Humans have eaten eggs since the beginning of time and today chicken eggs are consumed by millions around the world.
Other eggs, like that of an ostrich, can feed 14 people. Duck eggs and quail eggs are also consumed in huge amounts worldwide.
8 facts and excellent reasons to include eggs in your diet
1. One large whole raw egg is made up of:
6,4g of protein
4,8gr of fat
0,4gr of carbohydrates and finally
0,2gr of sugar
2. Eggs contain everything needed to create a chicken and are rich in vitamins:
Vitamin B5, B2, B6,
They also contain protein, and healthy fats, and are very low in calories.
3. Types of egg branding:
I'm sure you've all noticed just how many choices of eggs are in the stores so here's a quick guide to their meaning:
Chickens are allowed free time outside all day, choosing their diet, and as they are omnivores, these are the ultimate healthy eggs.
Chickens are in a more controlled environment, ie a large camped-off area, and fed only organic grains vegetables and grass
From chickens fed on grass that is grown especially for them; most are also allowed to move around freely but only eat grass
Chickens are kept in enclosures and fed on staple grains.
Not all eggs are created equal. We encourage you to source eggs from healthy, happy hens. We don't support the battery egg industry, in any way. This name derives from the fact that, in many instances, these hens are forced to lay two eggs per day by being under lights 24/7, causing the hens to think there is no night. They are treated very poorly, live in cramped, unhealthy conditions and are fed commercial foods.
The colour of the egg yolk
This will differ depending on the feed. We always want to make sure our eggs are a deep yellow-orange colour.
4. Dispelling the myth - high in cholesterol or not?
Eggs may be high in cholesterol but eating eggs does not affect cholesterol levels in the blood for most people. This is because eggs are high in lipoprotein which is known as good cholesterol. Good cholesterol is linked to lowering heart disease. Both the yolk and the white albumin contain the same amount of good cholesterol and you can go ahead and enjoy both with no guilt.
5. Choline, not to be confused with cholesterol
This nutrient is responsible for building healthy membranes for our brains so this is literally brain-building nutrition.
6. Eggs are great for your eyes
Lutein is a compound found in the egg yolk, which helps cataracts and builds muscles.
7. Besides the health benefits of eggs, they are used in baking
My favourite way to eat eggs. Duck eggs are better for baking as they contain more fat and protein than chicken eggs. They are also bigger and more orange in colour. Top pastry chefs prefer using duck eggs to chicken eggs.
8. Eggs can be stored for many years.
They can be pickled or even dehydrated, and stored in some very interesting ways which I will share in a later article. A huge variety of foods include eggs as ingredients. If you have an allergy to eggs better check food labels.
Raising chickens for eggs is fun and entertaining, plus you can be creative nowadays with so many different breeds and eggshell colours. Collecting eggs is one thing I look forward to as I never know what beautiful colour surprise I will get on the day.
Fun facts about eggs and chickens
A chicken is the closest living relative to a dinosaur
Egg shells have thousands of pores
An egg is fertile only if a rooster is kept with the hens
Eggshell colour has no effect on the taste
A coloured egg layer has an ink box which runs out of colour over time
It takes a hen 24 to 26 hrs to form and lay an egg
A hen will lay between 240 and 300 eggs a year
As the hen ages, the eggs become larger and better quality. This is known as a mail egg
A hen turns her eggs many times a day to stop the embryo from sticking to the sides
An incubator does the same thing
It takes around 21 days for an egg to hatch, but can take longer
A baby chick feeds off the yolk and feels like a soft squishy egg for the first 12 hours of its life
A healthy hen will lay eggs for roughly 4 years, after which time it lays fewer eggs
Chickens can recognize people out of a crowd
How long does a chicken live? between 5 and 7 years
Whether you like eating eggs or not, they can be used for many other reasons on the farm for their nutrients. I feed all the excess eggs to the other farm animals.
Last, but not least, hens are allowed to be kept in towns, so even urban dwellers can experience green living. Check with your local municipality to ascertain how many you may keep. Imagine chicken eggs for breakfast fed from your veggie patch and healthy table scraps. After seeing and appreciating the colour of the yolk, and understanding the cute little animal that provides it, how can you not want to keep some?
Hens are often given special names such as Matilda, Scrags, and Rosie which helps to identify them when one goes missing.
Have fun with your own chickens I can highly recommend them!