The domestication of the chicken is believed to have taken place about 3000 B.C. in India. Europe has had domesticated hens since 600 B.C. Columbus brought chickens to the new world on his second trip in 1493. Today there are over seven billion chickens in the world! Each year, nearly 300 million chickens are raised for egg production in the United States alone. They produce about 65 billion eggs annually. There are now 200 breeds of chickens.
White-shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown-shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. Egg shell and yolk color may vary, but color has nothing to do with egg quality, flavor, nutritive value, or shell thickness. An average hen lays about 300 eggs a year, and the hen starts at about 19 weeks of age. To produce one dozen eggs, a hen has to eat 4 pounds of feed. It takes a hen 24-26 hours to produce one egg and it requires 5 ounces of food and 10 ounces of water. Thirty minutes later, it starts all over again. No wonder they cackle so loudly each time they produce an egg!
Eggs contain the highest quality protein. It has the perfect mix of thirteen essential amino acids and minerals needed by humans to build their own tissues. Eggs are indeed one of the most nutritious foods available.
Yolk color depends on the diet of the hen. That's why free-range chickens' yolks are deep orange in color and fantastic in taste! When hens first start laying, their eggs are small. The older a hen gets, the larger her eggs are (except for Bantams). The egg yolk is almost all fat with very little water. The albumen is low in fat, high in water. Many people dieting eat the whites of the eggs scrambled which greatly reduces their caloric intake.
For natural hatching, we let the hens set on the eggs. You only need the hens, one rooster and nesting boxes, and in twenty-one days chicks should begin hatching. It is important to keep a good rooster-hen ratio. An interesting fact is that most common breeds will not set on their eggs. This natural instinct has been bred out of them. We keep several hens that are breeders, like Bantams and Silkies. They readily adopt and hatch the eggs of non-setting hens. And that is exactly what one of our Bantam mothers did with four Aracuanas eggs. Those babies are now twice the size of the mother Bantie with beautiful, shimmering colors.
If you are focusing on egg production only, you do not want the hens setting, because then they stop laying. We have enough hens that we can do both therefore replenishing our stock each year. You will not need a rooster if you are only interested in producing eggs which are unfertilized. However, I think it is better to keep the rooster around to fertilize the eggs and thus keep the flock maximized by the hatching of new chicks. They crow a lot, sometimes several times a day, but they are a positive presence in the chicken house. Roosters have harems, and also have 'favorites', their ladies. They are very protective of them. And, of course, there is the constant battle between the roosters for King of the Roost crown.
To learn more about baby chicks, and their birth, visit the chick link on the main menu.
Visit the Egg Recipe site, click HERE
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