Thursday, November 11, 2010

A lesson about hens and eggs

I had a few questions today from a co-worker so I thought I'd blog about it.

The first question: How many eggs does a hen lay in a week?
The Answer: It depends. Some hens are production hens so they lay once a day while other heritage or as I call them 'cool colored laying hens' lay 5 -6 times a week. My husband is reading over my shoulder saying, "once every 25 hrs they can lay an egg". It also depends on the amount of daylight or just light a hen gets each day. In the winter, many hens stop laying until daylight starts to increase in late January. If your hens are in a barn or somewhere you can install a light with a timer, then you want to turn the lights on early when it is still dark out and this will cause the hens to lay more. It also depends on weather. Some birds don't lay well when it is too hot or too cold.

The second question: Can you get an egg from a hen without a rooster?
Answer: Short answer: Yes. This is perhaps the single most asked question I receive.

The long answer: This is my simple analogy and I know it's not going to be exactly perfect but you should understand this after reading it. I'm going to compare a human woman to a hen.

A human woman at some point ovulates and releases an egg a month.
A hen releases an egg just about every day.

In a human woman, that egg travels thru tubes towards the uterus.
In a hen, the eggs travels in a similar manner and starts to get larger over a few days. (if you kill a hen you will find 2-3 eggs of varying sizes still in the hen)

If there are no human men around, the female expels the egg or whatever happens to it and it is no more.
For a hen, even if there is no rooster around, they will expel or lay the egg. Kind of like giving birth to an egg about once a day- in a manner of speaking. No chick will ever come from this egg as it is not fertilized. And this egg looks and tastes just like the fertilized ones you'll read about below.

If there is a human male around and fertilization occurs in the female human, then the female egg gets fertilized in the tube and heads toward the uterus where it hangs out for 40 weeks.
If there is a rooster around and fertilization occurs, then the hen can lay a fertilized egg which if you collect it within a day or 2 or 3 is just a regular eating egg. Now this egg can wait for a week or so while the hen lays a bunch of eggs to form her clutch. The egg won't turn into a chick unless the hen sits on it for a few weeks and keeps the eggs at a certain temperature.

And concludes our lesson for the day. If that helps-- let me know. It's my best analogy yet.


Toni aka irishlas said...

Back in college, a long,long, time ago in a galaxy far away I had asked one of my animal science professors what laying an egg for a hen was like most - giving birth or a bowel movement. He couldn't answer it.

What's your opinion on this?

Oh, and nice post, too!

SteveandAlina said...

That is very interesting! Although does the fertilized egg really sit inside the hen for 40 weeks??? That is a really long time. If there is a fertilized egg sitting in there then how can she continue to lay more eggs? Can she have more than one fertilized egg sitting in there during the 40 weeks?

Anonymous said...

The fertilized egg does not sit inside the hen for 40 weeks, Annette was talking about the human female. Chickens lay eggs and they sit on them to hatch them.
That was a very good explanation Annette. I get questions like that too, I have fun answering them.
I like the giving birth vs. bowel movement. I think the 1st time would be like giving birth but after that it's an everyday occurrence (BM). What do you think?

SteveandAlina said...

Oh... got it... I think my sleep-deprived brain misread that (I have a 6 week old) :).

Anonymous said...

SteveandAlina, congratulations on your new baby. I remember that exhaustion, it is definitely a brain-fryer.