University of Maryland Extension

Egg Laying and Handling

Eggs are considered by many to be perfect nutrition in a perfect package. Traditional egg laying breeds like Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds typically start laying at around 4-5 months of age. Some breeds may not start laying until 8-12 months. Hens produce about one egg a day on average.

A hen will lay eggs regardless of whether or not you have a rooster. Fertilized or unfertilized eggs are both excellent for table use. Sometimes, a small blood spot may appear in the yolk; this spot is due to a rupture during ovulation and makes no difference in the taste of the egg. Occasionally, a hen may lay a double yolk egg. Although most eggs available in the grocery store are white, egg color is determined by breed and diet and may be brown or many other colors. The color of the egg has no effect on its taste or nutritional value.

Clean nesting boxes should be provided to encourage hens to lay. Nesting boxes should be approximately 10 x 10 x 10 inches square and are usually located up off the floor. Wood shavings and/or straw make good nesting material. Hens that do not use the laying boxes can be trained to do so by gently placing them in a nesting box and promptly picking up any eggs that they lay elsewhere.

The egg shell is semi-permeable. Air enters the egg and moisture evaporates. Eggs should be cleaned gently with a damp cloth, and refrigerated. Since water can enter through the egg shell, do not immerse in water to clean. The risk of infection from eating eggs is low, but susceptible individuals should only eat hard cooked eggs.

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