we’re getting into the groove of getting gifts from The Girls, making eggnog pots de creme, learning how to make the perfect hard boiled fresh egg and generally enjoying the benefits of a few hours of light on egg production.
other than the occasional “double yolker” we didn’t imagine The Girls could throw us any surprises, that is, until we discovered this shell-less egg in the coop. a quick internet search confirmed that it’s not unusual for young hens ( pullets ) to lay shell-less eggs ( mark frauenfelder at the venerable site boing boing shot video of shell-less egg one his chickens laid ), so we’re fairly confident that The Very Unusual Egg is not the result of a systemic nutrient deficiency. if we keep finding them in the coop then we’ll investigate further.
we found the egg amongst the manure that collects in the coop under the roost and not in a nesting box ( another clue that it was produced by a Girl just getting used to laying since a regular layer will find her way to the box and not plop it out while perched on a roost ), so it was certainly not fit for consumption.
but inquiring minds wanted to know if the shell-less egg was like a regular egg in terms of yolk and white qualities, so we put under the knife for further investigation.
there’s no mistaking the egg for a thin-shelled egg. there’s absolutely no calcification at all. the entire coating consisted solely of the membrane that normally resides between the shell and the egg yolk and whites. it’s hard to say for sure, but the membrane seemed to a bit thicker than you might otherwise expect, but it was easily punctured with a knife.
a nice normal-looking, firm, orange yolk was hiding inside. the whites, though, seemed much more viscous and attached to the yolk and membrane which had the effect of keeping everything all bundled together. i doubt it would have made for an award winning presentation on a plate over easy.
so there you have it, our first and possibly ( hopefully ) last shell-less egg. i’ve taken an informal poll of folks who have backyard chickens and none have seen one completely lacking a shell, although most have heard of or seen thin-shelled eggs from pullets or hens that aren’t gettign enough calcium in their diet.
if anyone finds a reference for how common often shell-less eggs are laid ( 1 in 100? 1 in 1.000? 1 in 1,000,000? ), i’d love to see it.
one of peculiarities of having fresh eggs from backyard hens is that the shells are really, really hard and the membrane between the shell and whites is firmly attached to both after cooking which can lead much frustration when trying to make a when you hard boiled egg or egg salad sandwich since you spend your time picking away pieces of shell only to remove large chunks of the egg whites that are stuck to the membrane. no fun!
this is actually one of the better looking examples of a hard boiled egg using our normal method of cooking – put the egg in water, heat to a boil, cook for seven minutes after boiling begins and rinse in cold water. there must be a better way.
we polled various friends who have backyard birds and got a range of responses. the most common was to set eggs aside for a week or two ( plausible suggestion but seemed a pain to have to segregate eggs ). anothers suggested dunking the eggs in ice water after boiling ( we tried that, it didn’t work ) and others suggested adding a bit of vinegar to the boiling water to soften the shell ( didn’t like the idea of having to remember to add vingar and wondered if it would affect the taste ).
one person said the answer was stupendously simple. drop the eggs in the water after it had started to boil. it was so simple we had to try it.
first, drop the eggs carefully into boiling water.
boil for 6 minutes or so.
don’t rinse in cold water – let cool in ambient air for 10 minutes ( presumably the membrane is still cooking/breaking down ).
well look at that! a nice, clean peel! if you look closely, the membrane has cleanly separated from the shell and the egg white. amazingly simple!
after 6-ish minutes in boiling water the egg yolk is best described as “soft-boiled”. while this is perfectly cooked to my taste, if you like hard yolks, you might want to cook for a minute longer.
mince with a fork, add a little organic mayonnaise and celery salt and you’ve got yourself The World’s Best Egg Salad Sandwich.
you might recall that a few months ago we were wondering whether or not we should light the chicken coop to maintain egg production from The Girls over the winter. eventually, we decided to light the coop for a hours if only to try to train them to lay in the morning before we leave for work so we can collect eggs before they freeze in the cold of winter. the theory being that hens will supposedly lay within a few hours of “day break”. if we have the light timer turn on a couple of hours before we leave for work, we hope that most of the The Girls will have laid Their Gifts by the time we leave. any effects on production would be a bonus.
so far, the production results have been great. we’ve heard from several families with backyard hen flocks twice the size of ours who are averaging and egg a day! we’re averaging seven eggs a day from eight hens which is just about the maximum you can expect.
but i can’t say we’ve trained them to lay before we leave for work. or at least not all of them. we’re tracking egg laying times and on a good day we get about half our eggs by 8 am and the other half by noon. it seems like they might be laying earlier and earlier as they get older but it’s hard to tell for sure.
with winter setting in, hopefully they’ll all get to laying by 8 am so we don’t end up with a buch of frozen eggs ( you can eat them after they’re frozen but they’re not as tasty )!
The Girls have been laying about 6-7 eggs a day for the past few weeks which means we’ve quickly moved from “oh cool! eggs!” to “oh my! what do we do with all the eggs!”.
we knew this day would come and the plan all along has been to sell some to offset feed costs and give some of the surplus away friends and neighbors.
this week a neigbor phoned us to tell us he he watched odin race to the coop in his pjs, pick up some eggs & skip back to house. the sight filled his heart with joy and he just wanted to call and thank us for building the coop and doing such a wonderful thing for odin!
so, today it was a pleasure and privilege to pack up some Gifts from the Girls and hand deliver them to our grateful and wonderful neighbors.
it’s been a fun week of collecting eggs from The Girls. whichever one of them started laying has learned to lay in the nesting box instead of randomly around the coop and odin has been super excited to get up in the morning & grab fresh (& warm) eggs from the boxes.
so far we’ve been getting an egg a day from the eight birds which for some reason made me think that only one of the girls has been laying, but it’s hard to know for sure since all the eggs are brown. there’s less and less daylight every day which lowers production, so for all we know three or four of The Girls could be laying every few days instead of one hen laying every day.
today was extra exciting because we found not one but three eggs! so, more than one of The Girls has started laying. and we know for certain the source of one the eggs since it was a pretty pastel blue-green color.
a colored egg can only mean our ameraucana has started leaving us little tasty treasures.
so fun to watch odin grab the eggs, without forgetting to say “thanks!”, and race back up to the house to excitedly show his mother the latest gifts from The Girls.
we been patiently waiting and waiting and waiting for our first egg from The Girls over the past couple of weeks. we knew the day was coming soon since it’s been about 24 weeks since we brought The Girls home which is about the age they should start laying. in anticipation of getting eggs, we’ve even prepared the nesting boxes with golf balls to give them and idea of where they’re supposed to lay.
each morning odin has been running out to check the boxes, only to come back empty handed.
but tonight, while odin was getting ready for bed, when i went out shut them in to the coop, imagine my eggcitement when i spied a single, tiny little egg in the coop!
odin literally leapt for joy when i came in house and handed him the egg ( and almost dropped it! ).
now we’re all wondering which hen laid the egg. amusingly, whomever it was, moved all the straw and the golf balls out of the nesting boxes and built herself a nice nest in the middle of the coop 🙂
a hen will start laying “pullet eggs”, which are dimunitive versions of what you’ll find cartoned on the shelves of your favorite grocery store or food coop. on the left of this photo you can see the pullet egg compared to a “regular brown” medium egg. after 6 weeks or so the hens will start laying full-sized eggs.
“foodies” claim pullet eggs are super tasty and can be used to make, for instance, a extra-creamy and delicious “yolk flan”.
i love me some flan, so i suspect we’ll try to whip up ba batch in the upcoming weeks!