Whose Eggs?

Hens that lay eggs in factory farms have little genetic diversity. One of the breeding criteria is for the hens to lay identical eggs. In fact, if an egg is a slightly odd shape or color, it will be diverted for use in “egg product” and not put into a carton and sold as “shell eggs.”  One of the nice things about having a variety of chickens in one’s backyard is that the eggs come in different sizes and colors. Shell color doesn’t have anything to do with flavor or nutritional quality, but they sure are pretty. Depending on the breeds of your hens, you’ll have a range of shell colors from white to dark brown, and from green to blue. There will be small eggs laid by bantams and large eggs laid by big hens.

Even if you have a flock of only one breed, you’ll notice variation that you’ll never see in supermarket eggs. Chickens lay eggs unique to themselves. I once had a hen that consistently laid an egg that was pointy on both ends. My two Golden Comets come from the same breeder and are exactly the same age and size. And yet, one lays a light brown, very large egg and the other lays a more oblong, dark brown egg.

Of my thirteen chickens, most are old, and some are breeds not known for their egg-laying prowess. I appreciate each and every egg left in the nesting boxes. On any given day in the spring (which is the height of the laying season) sometimes I collect only three eggs, and sometimes as many as six. This is what I found today:

The dark brown egg in the back row was laid by Twinkydink! She is six years old and has been laying about every third day. The egg next to that is Lulu’s. She produces a medium, light buff egg every other day. This is a shocking bounty from her because she usually goes broody in the spring. Of course, this year, with chicks coming, she shows no maternal signs. But, I’m happy to get eggs from her. The two eggs in the front left row are from the Golden Comets. See how different they are? The medium white egg is from a Polish hen – I have no idea whether only one is laying or they take turns. I get one a day, or sometimes every other day. The last egg is so tiny that it would fall through the hole if it wasn’t sideways. That’s from Betsy, the four-year old Bantam White Leghorn. Coco, although younger, hasn’t laid an egg yet this spring. Nor has she gone broody. But last week she graciously let 60 preschoolers pet her at a story time. She’s worth her weight in gold.

Speaking of eggs, for those of you filling Easter baskets, I hope you’ll consider tucking in a copy of Tillie Lays an Egg. Until one of my hens does lay a golden egg, it’s the book sales that keeps the HenCam going.


  1. Terry! What a great idea and we certainly want to support our favorite diversion! People always comment on how pretty my eggs are…all different shapes and colors and sizes. I think that is what makes it fun! I also await the coveted “Golden Egg”….

  2. Just ordered one! Hope my little bit helps! Will the Farmstead Egg cookbook ever come back into print?

  3. Thanks Donna and Gina! The copyright for The “Farmstead Egg Cookbook” reverts back to me this summer and I’m looking into how to get it back into print. I’ll let you know when I know!

  4. Yes! I DO want that cookbook as well!!!..Terry..just want you to know…you have had such an influence on me with growing my own veggies. I found someone who was tossing those huge plastic crates you put grapes in for wine making, and we filled them with mulch and compost and planted all kinds of lettuce and spinach, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and of course my Topsy Turvys have tomatoes…I even found a yellow heirloom one with green stripes? I am so excited! I will be bugging you for more ideas as to what to do with the surplus! Thanks again!

    • I’m jealous of your early gardening start. I’ve been able to get in peas, spinach and lettuce but have to wait for the more cold-sensitive plants. I’m so pleased I’ve gotten you gardening and eating more veggies!

  5. And with Easter around the corner, lets not forget about the wonderful tip you shared on how to steam the perfect hard ‘boiled’ egg! Even the freshest Easter eggs will peal with no problems. Thank you!

  6. Hi Terry,
    I have 4 buff Orpington’s hens and one went broody last fall and now is showing signs of broodiness again. Since, I want to discourage this I wanted to know if you have any advice. I’ve searched the internet high and low and I’m still perplexed. She puff’s her feathers up a lot and wants to sit in the hen box the majority of the day but she’s still laying eggs. I’ve set up a broody cage to elevate her slightly and keep her out of the boxes while the others have a chance to lay. But I don’t know if I should leave her in the broody cage all day for the 4 days recommended because she’s still laying eggs herself. So, I’m not sure if she’s truly broody. Any advise???

    • Are you sure she’s still laying eggs, or are the others adding to the clutch? If she’s laying, she’s not really broody. Those Buff O’s sure like to sit in the boxes. Mine does. A truly broody hen will only get off the next once, leave a huge, stinky pile of poo, eat drink, and go right back. If you do decide to break her spell, then you do have to put her in the broody hutch all day and night. It cools off the body temperature and helps to snap her out of it. She might stop being broody in less than the 4 days.

  7. Hi! I enjoy reading and have learned so much from your posts. :) I love your egg carrier. Our 5 backyard chickens should be laying any day now. Where did you find it?

    • I searched for a couple of years at flea markets and on eBay before I found it! A friend has one she purchased in England, and so I knew what to look for.

  8. I’m in charge of the Pesach hard boiled eggs…I don’t have a steamer, and need to provide eggs for 17 people, and extras for the kids, I’m planning 2 doz. I have a spaghetti pot with an insert with holes….if I don’t fill it all the way, will that work? How long do they need to steam?

    Do you shake your eggs to peel them? I put them in the empty pot and shake moderately vigorously until the shells crumble, and pop off the eggs…..didn’t believe it would work, until I, oh so sceptically tried it….amazing!

    • I’ll be providing the eggs for my seder, too. You should be able to adapt that spaghetti steamer. Make sure the water comes up to the bottom, but doesn’t touch the eggs. Once the water starts boiling, cover, lower the heat, and start timing. A big pot of eggs will take a full 20 minutes to steam. Check to make sure that you don’t run out of water. Add as necessary.
      Yes, shaking the eggs so the shells crackle does make it easy to peel!
      Happy Pesach.

  9. I was wondering if your chickens have a preference as to which coop they lay their eggs in?

    • Hens don’t like change, so switching to the HenCam coop was disruptive. But all has settled down and now they seem perfectly fine with laying their eggs in the coop. I do find that they are sensitive to how bright it is – they don’t lay in the nesting box that gets direct sunlight from the window. They also prefer hight to low.

      • Terry I always wondered why hens prefer to lay in the higher nest boxes as to the lower ones, mine to that as well. If you think about it, it should go against their natural instincts. The ancestory of the domestic chicken laid on the ground not in trees. HMMMM…

  10. Having a variety of eggs is so delightful to our friends. They were all especially surprised by the green eggs we have this year. We give most of ours away and people are thrilled to receive them. I suppose I could sell them, but part of the fun in having chickens is being able to share the bounty with friends.

    • I just sent a house guest on her way with a half-dozen eggs. Inside was a chart with the names of which hen laid which egg – like the paper that comes inside a box of chocolates identifying which is which. My house guest is a sophisticated, world traveling, food professional, and she practically hopped up and down when she saw the carton. Egg gifts do that to people!

  11. I have 2 flocks. one is at 7 weeks old and the other is at 5 weeks. Their hen house is finished being built. Will I have a problem putting these 2 flocks together? there is 3 hens in older flock and 12 in younger flock.Please advise me, Thanks Tammie, Santa Fe,TX

    • Hi Tammie- They are close enough in age to get along. However, since they’re not currently together, they will tussle until things settle out. I suggest letting them free-range together in a large space so that the wimpier ones will be able to keep their distance. Also, supervise and toss feed when you see aggression, so that the aggressor has to move away from the pullet she’s going after. You didn’t say what breeds they are. Some are more difficult to integrate than others – and Polish always get badly picked on! I have a lot more advice in my blog- check the archives.