I’ve had more than one non-farmer friend ask me about eggs recently and if every egg can become a baby chicken. They think this is a silly question to ask but its one, I’m guessing, many don’t know the answer to. The answer is that eggs you find in the grocery store mostly come from large farms where hens are kept without any roosters around. Those eggs are not fertilized and cannot become a baby chicken. On our farm, like many other small farms, the roosters (male chickens) and hens (female chickens) live together so the eggs are fertilized and could, under the right conditions, develop into a chick.
Next question I usually get is “What has to happen for it become a chick?” I’ll spare you the birds and bees talk but before the hen lays an egg she must mate with a rooster for the egg to be fertilized. If this fertilized egg is then either put into an incubator or the hen is allowed to sit on the egg a baby chick will hatch after 21 days.
Many then wonder if a fertilized egg is somehow different than an unfertilized egg and if they would notice a difference when eating them. The answer is that unless you know what you’re looking for you will not notice a difference. If eggs are gathered daily and are not left under a hen the only difference is that there is a tiny white dot within the yolk of a fertilized egg. Both are equally delicious and when cooked, there is no difference at all.
When buying eggs, I would recommend not worrying at all about whether or not they are fertilized. What does make a difference though is how the chickens live. When possible, buy eggs from a farmer who allows their chickens to free-range eating plants, insects and other tasty things outside. These eggs are not only better for you but also taste better. Fresh, free-range chicken and duck eggs are available weekly at the Clear Lake Farmers Market so stock up the next time you go!
Written by CLFM Board Member, Laura Tidrick of Mossycup Farms