free range class a coloured eggs from fife smallholder

Class A Free Range Eggs Available Direct From Fife Smallholder

We sell our coloured eggs direct to customers.  However, what we have available fluctuates with the seasons because egg production is affected by length of daylight, moulting, brooding, age, etc. If you want to know more about eggs then read on, we have pulled together some useful information.

What is a Class A egg ?

Class A eggs are the highest grade.  They are naturally clean, fresh eggs, internally perfect with shells intact and the air sac not exceeding 6mm in depth.  The yolk must not move away from the centre of the egg on rotation.

What is Free Range?

Free-range eggs are eggs produced using birds that are permitted to roam freely within a farmyard, a shed or a chicken coop. This is different from factory-farmed birds that are typically enclosed in battery cages. The term “free-range” may be used differently depending on the country and its laws.

Egg sizes and Weights

  • Very Large 73g and over
  • Large 63g up to 73g
  • Medium 53g up to 63g
  • Small under 53g

*Because our eggs come from a range of chicken breeds the sizes vary from egg to egg. *

Medium and large are the most commonly used and most recipes are based on these sizes.

Why are your eggs not marked with a stamp?

“Ungraded eggs sold direct to the final consumer at the producer’s farm gate or sold by the producer locally door-to door in the region of production will not have to be marked.”

Egg Box Labelling for small scale poultry keepers such as smallholders

Producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to mark their eggs – so long as they provide other information such as their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs at the point of sale. 

What’s In An Egg?

“As one of the most complete, naturally produced foods, eggs provide many of the essential nutrients for a balanced diet.”

Protein

 Protein makes up half of the solids content of an egg and a medium egg contributes about 12% of the daily amount of protein needed for a man and 14% of the amount of protein needed for a woman.  Eggs contain all eight indispensable amino acids needed by the body – isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.  As a result egg protein is the highest quality food protein and is the standard by which other proteins are judged.

 Cholesterol

Some people have had reservations in the past about eating eggs due to their cholesterol content, but it is now recognised that eating too much saturated fat is more likely to raise blood cholesterol than eating foods rich in dietary cholesterol.   Most people on a healthy balanced diet can eat an egg a day without raising blood cholesterol levels.

Fat

Eggs contain about 11% fat, 55% of which comes from unsaturated fatty acids and only 29% from saturated fatty acids.  Eggs are therefore relatively low in saturated fat – only 1.6g in a medium egg.

Vitamins

 Eggs are rich in Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and many ‘B Vitamins’ especially riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12 and folate.  Vitamin C is the only vitamin not contained in an egg.

Minerals

Eggs contain minerals phosphorus, iron, calcium and zinc as well as essential trace elements including iodine and selenium.

Energy (Calories)

A medium egg has an energy value of 78 kcals (324 kilojoules).

What Causes Double Yolk Eggs?

When an egg starts its journey inside the hen, the first thing formed is the ovum in the hen’s ovary. This grows and the colour changes from pale grey to the yellow we know as the yolk colour.

Once it reaches full size, the yolk sac breaks away (ovulation) and begins a journey down the oviduct where the egg white (albumen) and the shell form around it. The process from ovulation to egg laying takes around 24-26 hours.

Normally, the next ovulation is triggered by the hen laying the egg but occasionally things go wrong and two yolks are released at the same time to travel down the oviduct together, being surrounded by one shell and giving us the double yolker.

Can I freeze eggs?

  • Egg in shell – If you freeze raw eggs in their shells, the shells will crack and burst and you will have egg all over your freezer.  
  • Hard boiled – If you freeze hard-boiled eggs they’ll go rubbery.

To freeze an egg all you do is find an airtight container and break the egg into it, before putting it in the freezer.  You can beat the egg, if you want it for scrambled, or baking or leave it whole if you want it for fried eggs.  Another way is to use ice cube trays.  Just beat the eggs and place them in, then when they are frozen solid, place them in a freezer bag.  The trick here is to do one egg at a time, so you`ll know how many cubes you`ll need for whatever it is you use them for.  Then when you want to use them, let them defrost and that’s it.  

You can freeze egg whites in a clearly labelled freezer bag (great for making meringues).

How do I know if an egg is fresh?

If I come across of clutch of eggs that the hens have been hiding then I usually just put them all in the compost (break each one as you put them in) – better to be safe than sorry.  However it is likely that one or more hen would have been laying an egg in this clutch every day with a view to sitting on them and hatching them.  Therefore, some eggs might be fresh.  

A tip for checking an eggs freshness is to place it (in shell) in a bowl of water.  If it sinks and lays on it’s side it’s fresh and can be used for anything.  If it stands on end, it’s still okay but is better for cooking.  If it floats on the surface of the water, handle with extreme care because this is an egg that could explode.

Egg Based Recipes

How long does it take to make an egg inside a chicken?

It takes approximately 25 hours to lay an egg. The timing explains why traditional breeds do not lay every day, however hybrids have been selected for a slightly shorter time to produce an egg. 

  •  15 minutes in the infundibulum (chalazae added)
  • 3 hours in the magnum to add albumen (white of egg)
  • 1.5 hours in the isthmus to add shell membrane
  • 20 hours in the uterus/shell gland for shell deposition plus pigment
  • 1 minute in the vagina which extruded out past the vent to avoid faeces

The hen will ovulate 30 minutes after laying.

Care and Incubation Of Hatching Eggs

Here at fifesmallholder we mostly hatch our chicks under broody hens.  We do this for several reasons;

  •  it’s natures way and we do not cull out broodiness in our flock – some hens are going to get broody and go off lay no matter what you try to do to stop them
  • it’s cheaper than running an incubator for a month
  • you don’t have the hassle of checking temperatures and humidity levels
  • you often get a better hatchability rate 
  • the chics have the security and lessons from the mother hen (she protects her chics and shows them the ropes) 

However, there is nothing better than watching chics hatch in an incubator.  Children especially are fascinated.  Do what suits you.

A few tips to follow when selecting hatching eggs are:

  • Avoid excessively large or small eggs.  Large eggs hatch poorly and small eggs produce small chicks.
  • Avoid eggs with cracked or thin shells.  These eggs have difficulty retaining moisture needed for proper chick development.  Penetration of disease organisms increase in cracked eggs.
  • Do not incubate eggs that are excessively misshapen.
  • Before setting eggs in an incubator, you must obtain or produce quality fertile eggs from a wellmanaged, healthy flock which are fed properly balanced diets (specific breeder feed is available).
  • Keep only clean eggs for hatching. 
  • Keep the nest full of clean, dry litter. Collect the eggs early in the morning and frequently during the day to prevent excessive chilling or heating of the eggs. 

How do I wash an egg?

  •   DO NOT wash eggs unless necessary. If it is necessary to wash eggs always use a damp cloth with water warmer than the egg. This causes the egg to sweat the dirt out of the pores. Never use water cooler than the egg. Also, do not soak the eggs in water. If the egg is allowed to soak in water for a period of time, the temperature difference can equalize and bacteria has a greater chance of entering through the pores. 
  • Cleaning of the egg removes the egg’s protective coating and exposes it to entry of disease organisms.  The washing and rubbing action also serves to force disease organisms through the pores of the shell.
  • Be sure eggs are dry before storing. Never place damp or wet eggs in a styrofoam carton for storage.

Hatching eggs suffer from reduced hatchability if the eggs are not cared for properly:

  • Store eggs in a cool-humid storage area.  Ideal storage conditions include a 55 degree F. temperature and 75% relative humidity.  (Personally I store mine in the fridge).
  • Store the eggs with the small end pointed downward.
  • Alter egg position periodically if not incubating within 4-6 days.  Turn the eggs to a new position once daily until placing them in the incubator or under a broody hen.
  • Hatchability holds reasonably well up to seven days, but declines rapidly afterward.  Therefore, do not store eggs more than 7 days before incubating.  After 3 weeks of storage, hatchability drops to almost zero.
  • Allow cool eggs to warm slowly to room temperature before placing in the incubator or under broody.  Abrupt warming from 55 degrees to 100 degrees causes moisture condensation on the egg shell that leads to disease and reduced hatches.

How to set an egg in an incubator

Eggs are set initially in the incubator with the large end up or horizontally with the large end slightly elevated.  This enables the embryo to remain orientated in a proper position for hatching.  Never set eggs with the small end upward.

In a still-air incubator, where the eggs are turned by hand, it may be helpful to place an ‘x’ on one side of each egg and an ‘o’ on the other side, using a pencil.  This serves as an aide to determine whether all eggs are turned.  When turning, be sure your hands are free of all greasy or dusty substances.  Eggs soiled with oils suffer from reduced hatchability.  Take extra precautions when turning eggs during the first week of incubation.  The developing embryos have delicate blood vessels that rupture easily when severely jarred or shaken, thus killing the embryo.  

What is the incubation period of eggs?

  • Chicken – 21 days
  • Turkey & Duck – 28 days
  • Muscovy Duck – 35-37 days
  • Goose – 28-34 days
  • Pheasant – 23-28 days
  • Bobwhite Quail – 23-24 days
  • Cotumix Quail – 17 days
  • Grouse – 25 days
  • Pigeon – 17 days
  • Guinea Fowl – 28 days

 

What must the temperature and humidity be inside my incubator?

This is plain and simple, yet the MOST important part of hatching.  Fan Forced incubator: 37.5 degrees C measured anywhere in the incubator.

  • Chicken    temp 100 F        humidity 85-87 F
  • Turkey     temp 99F            humidity 84-86 F
  • Duck         temp 100F         humidity 85-86F
  • Goose       temp 99F            humidity 86-88 F
  • Pheasant temp 100F         humidity 86-88F
  • Grouse     temp 100F         humidity 83-87F
  • Pigeon     temp 100F          humidity 85-87F

 

Where should I locate my incubator?

To help your incubator maintain a constant temperature, place it where it will receive as little temperature fluctuation as possible. Do not place it near a window where it will be exposed to direct sunlight. The sun’s heat can raise the temperature high enough to kill the developing embryos. Connect the unit to a dependable electrical source, and made sure the plug cannot be accidentally detached from the outlet.

 

The importance of humidity during incubation

Correct humidity is important in obtaining a good hatch because it controls the degree of dehydration of the eggs.  Soon after an egg is laid a small air bubble forms in the large end.  This must  be enlarged by depletion of the fluids to a point where the embryo in the egg can easily reach its beak into the bubble and pick the cap of the shell off at hatching time.  If humidity has consistently been too high, the bubble will not have increased sufficiently and the embryo will not reach it, but will pip the shell below the air filled area.  At this point, the embryo is likely to drown in the fluids.  If humidity has been far too high, the embryo (that is the baby chic) will be oversized from excessive fluids in its system and may not have room inside the shell to get its head out from under its wing where it developed, and therefore may never be able to make the effort to pip the shell.  It may die as an oversized chick in a shell that is too tight for it to make the necessary efforts to escape the shell.

Conversely, if humidity has been too low, there will be over drying out of the fluids in the egg.  The embryo will be retarded, especially near the end of its development.  If it has strength to pip the shell at hatching time, the embryo is likely to become stuck and not be able to turn over to continue pecking the shell cap off.  Air entering the shell after the initial hole is made, may further dry and stiffen the mucous causing the chick to become glued hard and fast to the shell.  For these reasons, the percentage of humidity is an important consideration in obtaining high percentage hatches from fertile eggs.  Some advantage may be had in slightly increasing the humidity at hatching time to make the membranes and mucous more pliable and therefore easier for the chick to escape the shell.

As seasons change, so goes humidity. Hatching problems will change as the season progresses. If you are doing things the same way in July as you were in January, you have to expect different results. Low humidity outside, low in the incubator. High outside, high in the incubator. 

Importance of turning eggs during incubation

Turning of incubating eggs at regular intervals is an absolute necessity.  In the nest, a mother bird normally moves the eggs about, at approximately 15 minute intervals.  She often deliberately turns each egg by placing her beak under it and flipping it over.  The need for turning eggs can be compared to the movements a person makes when asleep in bed.  He will make some form of movement every several minutes, and deliberately turn completely over several times during the night.  When a person lays for a long time in one position, he may wake with his hands or feet tingling.  Te condition is caused by restricition of the nerves and impairment of circulation.  The growing embryo in the shell has the same needs, to be turned over.  

Without regular turning at intervals reasonably close to nature, an embryo will not fully develop in its extremities.  The feet and legs may be totally paralysed. The degree of damage will be proportional to the neglect in turning. 

What is candling of eggs?

“Candling” is the examination of the contents of the eggs using a shielded light in a darkened area. Eggs should be checked for development; then, if fertility is poor, you do not have to wait the entire incubation period to learn you are going to have a poor hatch. Candling to check air cell size can determine incubator humidity. You can also observe the development of the embryo.

You can make an egg candler from a wood or metal box or from a container in which you mount a 40-watt light bulb. Make a 1-inch hole in the end near the bulb. For better viewing, place a felt or cloth cushion around the opening so an egg fits the opening better and so light does not leak around the egg.

Hold the large end of the egg up to the candling light. You won’t see much development until the 4th or 5th day of incubation. White or light-colored eggshells permit better viewing of embryo development. The contents of the egg have a pinkish color or cast when the embryo is developing properly. As the embryo grows, it occupies most of the space within the shell. Toward the end of incubation, the contents will appear dark except for the air cell. Eggs that appear clear at 4 to 5 days in incubation or that show little development at 10 days should be removed from the incubator. They are infertile or contain early dead embryos.

Candling will not influence embryo development if you handle the eggs gently. When eggs are removed from the incubator only a few times and are not allowed to cool to any extent, candling makes little difference in hatchability or the time required for hatching.

Useful incubation links

Problems with hatching chicks

chick hatching out of free range fertilised egg


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