My New Toy

The hens are very busy laying and with about 18 eggs to sort each day, I finally got an egg scale.

Mr. O'Kitten found it on the eBay. It's nice and antique-y, works fine, and is kind of like playing a little egg game--the arrow goes to a color for each size...woo-hoo!

Did you know that eggs are graded by the ounce? I didn't. They're categorized in six sizes:

Egg Size - Minimum ounces per egg - Minimum ounces per dozen
PeeWee - 1.25 oz. per egg - 15 oz. per dozen
Small - 1.5 oz. per egg - 18 oz. per dozen
Medium - 1.75 oz. per egg - 21 oz. per dozen
Large - 2 oz. per egg - 24 oz. per dozen
Extra Large - 2.25 oz. per egg - 27 oz. per dozen
Jumbo - 2.5 oz. per egg - 30 oz. per dozen

I find this fascinating. (Go ahead and say it--I'm a geek.)

Our hens are laying everything from peewees to jumbos (usually double-yolked -- someone lays one of these almost every day). You can see one of each by the scale in the pic above. (Also fascinating!) Three peewee eggs make a perfect fried egg sandwich.

But mostly they range from 1.5-2 ounces (small-medium). I'm expecting the egg sizes to get a little larger as the pullets grow; they're 28 weeks old now.

Our hens run around the yard and eat hormone- and antibiotic-free locally-milled chicken feed, grass, and lots of garden treats (they especially like pumpkin, zucchini, and apple parings). I guess this makes them free-range in the best sense of the word.

I hesitate to use the term "free-range" because from what I've read commercial poultry farmers are allowed to use that phrase if they simply allow their birds a small access door to the outside (regardless of whether the chickens actually go outdoors or not...still, this is better than the conditions most caged hens are in).

From an interesting article on grass-fed/free-range poultry: "The public, especially in cities but also in the country to a large extent, have no idea how badly the term 'free-range' is abused. It is virtually meaningless as a marketing term. One thing must be understood about chickens: they will not walk very far out of their line of sight; they feed on what they see close to them. They won't go around a see-through fence for water. But commercial poultry farmers, I'm told by many sources, have put little doors at the ends of their huge chicken barns, doors that open onto a bare dirt lot, and by doing so, are able to call their product 'free-range,' whether the chickens ever go outside or not." (By the way, there's nothing scary in this article about cruelty to the birds or anything, it's just very informative--nothing to make you feel guilty or put you off eating chicken, I promise!)

Anyway, we have happy, healthy birds and I get a huge kick out of watching them wander around the yard, mulching up the garden, scrabbling in the leaves, eating bugs and seeds and who knows what else. It still amazes me that they actually eat grass (who knew?) and apparently this helps them lay a healthier egg.

So if you happen to live near someone who raises chickens that you can buy eggs from, or to a farmers' market where you can get fresh eggs, you should...they are so delicious and you've never seen such golden-orange yolks (it's because of the high level of beta-carotene in the farm-fresh eggs).

As I mentioned above, I tend to be a bit skeptical of the "free-range" "uncaged" "organic" and now "lower cholesterol" labeling. But if you see a farm along the road...well, here's a few things I've learned about eggs from hens that wander around the farm eating grass along with their chicken feed. Their eggs have:

• Half the cholesterol of supermarket eggs

• Two to six times the beta-carotene (again, that's why the yolks are so golden-orange)

• About 50% more vitamin E

• An average of four times more Omega-3s than factory eggs

And yes, cats like fresh eggs too...


Mouse said...

How cool.. thanks for the lesson! All of this was news to me except for the "free range" part.. which is why I just don't eat or buy many eggs. I get them by the 1/2 dozen and only if I have absolute plans for them. If we weren't living in suburbia- I'd so have a hen or two!

Gothknits said...

That was fascinating. I always try for local and/or organic. Organic is a "safe" word since they have to be certified according to strict standards to put organic on their product. "all natural" however can be anything. Cyanide is "all natural". And the only difference between "toxic" and "non-toxic" is one dead lab rat.
But on a more pleasant note your place looks lovely. I would love to see it some time.

Chris said...

Thanks for the info - I think the egg scale is cool. :)

RheLynn said...

Cool toy! (and useful too!) I read about that omega-3 thing too.

Isis asks -- I know birds have something to do with this! Where are they?

Joanie said...

YUMMMM-I had two eggs over easy this morning with whole wheat toast but I am sure the same meal is so much better at your kitchen table. What a great view you have from your window.
Enjoy the day

Glaistig said...

What a cool post! I feel like I get a little peek into the wholesome country life :) The egg scale is too cool! I want one even though I don't have any little chickies. (Maybe I could weigh skeins?)

Until the day she died at age 89, my great grandma would only eat eggs from her own chickens. I think y'all healthy country folk are onto something. . .

And since you've opened the door: GEEK!

KnitXcorE said...

that's awesome.... i'm always in awe of you farmy-ness :-)

BlackCrow said...

Where does the chicken sit on the shoot? ;)