Friday, April 23, 2021

Fertile Eggs: Not To Be Egg-nored

When people talk about chickens - especially backyard chickens - the subject of eggs always comes up.


Inevitably certain questions about eggs come up as well. Questions like...

Do fresh eggs really taste better than the ones you can buy in the store?

Don’t you need a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs?

If you have a rooster, aren’t all of your eggs going to be fertilized?

Can you eat fertile eggs?

Well, the first question is easy to answer. The eggs my hens lay absolutely taste better than those bought from a store. You can even see how much better they taste because the yolks are a deep orange instead of a pale yellow. But this is a subject for a different blog post.

As for the second question, as any chicken owner can tell you, hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. The egg laying process happens with or without a rooster being present. But if a rooster is present... well this brings us to not only the third question, but the subject of this blog post.

Fertilized Eggs

And now that we ourselves have a rooster in our Flock - and what a rooster Rudy is! - the idea and question of fertilized eggs has come up a lot. (Check out my previous post HERE to learn more about Rudy.)

So let’s answer those remaining two questions: Will all of the eggs our Girls lay be fertilized? And also: Can we eat those fertilized eggs?

To dive into these questions, I think we first must understand how the fertilization process in animals like birds and other egg-laying animals works. This brings us to two different types of fertilization.

Internal Fertilization and External Fertilization.

External Fertilization is used by a whole slew of animals. Animals such as most fish - Salmon and Cod and Trout are just a few to mention. It’s also used by amphibians - Frogs and Toads and Salamanders and such. And it’s even used by animals such as Clams and Coral and Sea Anemones.

The basic way external fertilization works is this:

External Fertilization is my business.
Business is good.

The female of the species releases a large amount of eggs from her body. These eggs are immediately fertilized with sperm from a male. Some fish and amphibians will do this in safer places where the eggs won’t just be swept away by tide or current. Others, like Coral and Sea Anemones will just let their eggs fly and hope they join with the sperm the males of their species let loose into the water. One of the reasons this works is that the amount of eggs and sperm released by these animals is absolutely immense. Millions upon millions of each. And chances are, because of this, a good amount of eggs will be fertilized.

This brings us to Internal Fertilization, which is exactly what it sounds like. The eggs that the female will lay (but hasn't yet) are fertilized while still inside of her body. These eggs will then be “Fertile” when they are indeed laid. As a quick note, believe it or not there are some fish that use internal fertilization. Fish like Guppies and Mollies and Mosquitofish among others. Their eggs will be fertilized by the male of the species using a special fin called a gonopodium fin to deposit sperm onto the eggs inside of the female. And the female’s fry will be “born” live in the water once the eggs inside of her hatch.

To belabor the point - see what I did there? - here’s a video I found on YouTube of a mama guppy giving birth to her fry.

This brings us to Chickens. It always comes back to Chickens, doesn't it?

Chickens - and all birds, actually - reproduce using Internal Fertilization. Which means that sperm from the male was placed into the female and her eggs are fertilized before they are ever laid. So, to clarify...

An egg can only be fertilized by a rooster before it is laid. That means that once an egg flies out of a chicken and hits the nest, if it’s not fertilized at that point it cannot be fertilized.

Okay. So now with all of that information out of the way, let’s answer - or try to answer - the questions from earlier.

Will all of the eggs our Girls lay be fertile?

Chances are, yes. If a rooster is doing his job then the eggs that are laid by the hens will be fertile. And this can start in as little as a day or two after putting a rooster and your hens together. In fact, after a rooster and hen mate, even if you separate them, the hen can still lay fertile eggs for about two weeks. Why? Because the rooster’s sperm is stored in the hen’s oviduct - the tube that the newly-forming egg travels through from the hen’s ovary in order to be laid. It would be during this “traveling” that the forming egg would be fertilized by the sperm that’s just waiting around to do its job.

That pretty much answers that question. Yes. The eggs will be fertile.

Which brings us to: Can we eat those fertile eggs?

And the simple answer to this question is: Absolutely!

In fact there are several grocery stores that sell fertile eggs, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s being just two of them.

And while fertilization means that ultimately, if given enough time and the right atmosphere, and temperature, and humidity, there will be a baby chicken inside of the egg, if the egg is removed from the nest and refrigerated in a timely manner any and all development inside of that egg stops. Now. If you leave a clutch of eggs under a chicken for more than a couple days, then development will have not only started, but progressed. So. Yeah. No.

Is there a way to tell a fertile egg from a non-fertile egg before cracking it open? Yes. And the method is called “Candling”. Basically, after about a week (although I’ve read it could be in as little as three days) the egg is held up to a bright light so its interior can be observed through its exterior. From this there will be specific signs of fertilization or not. And it’s called Candling because back in the day eggs would be held before a candle flame to see what was going on inside. I won’t get into the what of it all, but click HERE for information on candling. In short, though, Candling is used to see which eggs are developing enough to try and hatch. So, in my opinion, considering you’re waiting more than a few days in order to find all of this out, it’s not the best option if you’re looking to eat the egg. Again. My opinion.

Other than that, the only other way to tell if an egg is fertile is to crack it open and see if there is the tell-tale sign of fertilization. Let's get into that!

In an unfertilized egg there will be a small, faint whitish spot inside of the yolk. This is called the Blastodisc. And it’s perfectly normal. If you see this single little spot in the yolk - and it can be extremely hard to see sometimes - the egg is not fertile.

From Alabama Cooperative Extension System (

However, if that little faint whitish spot in the yolk looks more like a little faint whitish bullseye - a small dot with a small ring around it - you’ve just found the Blastoderm. If you see it - and if you’re not looking for it you might not even notice it - then you’re dealing with a fertile egg.

From Alabama Cooperative Extension System (

I guess there is a third way to tell if the egg is fertile. And that’s to let it sit under a hen for three weeks. If it hatches, it was fertile. If it doesn't, it wasn't.

So there you go. Our questions have been pretty much answered.

Yes, our eggs - considering we have a rooster who knows his job only all too well - will most likely be fertile. And Yes, considering we pull our eggs out of our hens' laying boxes almost immediately after they are laid, we can and definitely are eating them.

And they are eggs-cellent!




Thursday, February 18, 2021

A Rooster By Any Other Name...

As mentioned in my last posting (check that out HERE) Ruby’s feathers were pointing more toward cockerel than pullet. And things have finally become official.

This little Bantam Rhode Island Red has finally crowed!

The chicken we’ve been calling Ruby will now be called Rudy, and we’re extremely excited by it. I’m not sure if our neighbors are, but us? Definitely. 

Let’s see Rudy in action!

When we first brought our Flock home, they were all underweight and infested with chicken lice. (More on this a few Posts back, so check that out HERE.) Obviously we didn’t know this. And I doubt the place where we got them from knew it either, as it wasn’t as reputable as all of its online reviews said.

Ruby - as he was known back then - was small and had a very pale comb, usually the sign of a pullet if everything I’ve read is correct. Anyway, that’s probably why the man who helped us thought she was a female. Or maybe he just didn't care. Also, the fact that she was going through her first molt didn’t help matters. There were no hackle feathers. There were no saddle feathers. There were no sickle feathers. But again... it was her first molt and what eventually would become her full-on self - or his full-on self, as we know now - hadn’t begun to show.

Here’s a quick Before-and-After comparison of Rudy from when we first brought him home and now.


Yep. That's the same chicken. It's amazing what can happen after some proper care and a good molt.

What’s that, you ask? What are hackle feathers and saddle feathers and sickle feathers?

Hackle Feathers are the group of feathers found on the neck of a chicken. When it comes to hens, the hackle feathers are usually a little bit wider and maybe even a bit rounded. And with roosters these feathers are generally long and thin and pointy-looking, kind of like hair.

Rudy and his Hackles, Saddles, and Sickles
As for Saddle Feathers, this is the group of feathers that look like, well... a saddle. They sit on the back and are right in front of where the tail starts. Hen and Roosters both have saddle feathers, but a rooster's saddles are generally longer and come to a point.

This brings us to Sickle Feathers. These are only found on roosters. And they are the tail feathers that are long and curved like... wait for it.... like a sickle.

You can read more about Hackle, Saddle, and Sickle feathers HERE. And a lot more about chicken feathers in general HERE and also HERE!

Anyway, Once these three groups of feathers started to become pronounced, it was just a matter of time before the crowing started. And start it did!

So, we now have a rooster in our midst. And while we may not be the most popular family in the neighborhood because of it, I think it’s pretty cool.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A Quick Chickeny Introduction...

As was mentioned in my last post (check it out HERE), we purchased a flock after several years of not being able to. Seeing as it was late-autumn, our options were limited as to where we could actually get a new flock. So we did what anyone would do and we turned to the internet to find a reputable chicken-seller, be it a feed & pet store or ranch.

All of the feed stores in our area had no chicks available. This was completely understandable considering how late in the season it was. And they also had no adult chickens available, as it seems that the pandemic - at least in our area - has prompted people to start raising chickens. (Read an article about that HERE) I’m 100% all for this! Let’s give chickens good homes and good, long lives. Either way, if I wanted chickens I needed to go to a ranch.

Again, the internet was where I turned.

The closest ranch to me that was selling chickens wasn’t all that far - something like 20 miles or so. It came very highly rated online so that’s where we headed. When we got there we saw goats and sheep and alpaca and turkeys. And, of course, we saw chickens. A lot of chickens.

The man who helped us showed us the heated Chick House where there were more chicks than I could count. We didn’t want chicks as we didn’t want to have to deal with setting up a brooder or any of that. We have a full-on Coop and Run, but a brooder is another story. And with temperatures on the cold-side... chicks weren't what we were after.

The man then showed us runs filled with adult chickens. Again, we didn’t want to go with adults as we weren’t sure of ages and laying capacity and they all seemed established and happy. What we really wanted were pullets.

A pullet is a female chicken that is under one year old and hasn’t started laying yet. The “hasn’t started laying yet” was important to us. So off to the Pullet House we went!

There were more than several young birds running here and there once we arrived. Supposedly they were all between two and four months old. A lot of them looked the same - a blur of whites and tans. But several stuck out to us. The breeds of each of the Girls is not really known. I think there was a lot of cross-breeding going on, as roosters and hens of different breeds were housed together. Either way, we came for four and left with five. And while these five have been briefly introduced in the previous post - with photos of each from when we got them - it seems only fair to give a better and more in-depth introduction to each of them here, with updated and more recent photos to boot!

One thing I will say before jumping in, while all of the chickens we bought seemed healthy at the time, when we got them home we found them to be underweight and full of lice and dealing with respiratory conditions. The weight issues and lice were fixable with some good food and a good delousing. The respiratory condition on the other hand was a bit more of a issue. But after an expensive visit to a reputable avian veterinarian and two weeks worth of medication, things were looking up!

Having said that, a call to the ranch to explain this all was met with less than concern. The guy who runs things - not the man I dealt with - said his chickens are vaccinated and healthy. And that he considers it all more of a hobby than a business. Yet somehow he’s on Yelp. Either way, we came home with our five Girls and they are - in my opinion - infinitely better for it.

Anyway. Enough of that. We’re here to celebrate our Flock. So, without further adieu...


Ruby is supposedly a Bantam Rhode Island Red. This is suspect to me because her legs are not the yellow color that Rhode Island Reds usually have. They're more of a white or dusky white. But who knows. As mentioned, there were several different breeds, both male and female housed together so it’s more than possible she’s some sort of combination. So, Bantam Rhode Island red and... something.

Either way, Ruby is energetic and vocal and personable (chickenable?) and inquisitive and fast! She may be the smallest of the Flock, but that doesn’t stop her from holding her ground and letting the other Girls know that she won’t be pushed around. She likes to wedge herself under the others while they’re sunbathing.  And she likes to sit on our shoulders. Ruby is as Ruby does! And it’s pretty great!

ALSO! The older Ruby gets and the more she fills out, the more we're thinking... Ruby may be Rudy? No crowing yet, but her feathers certainly seem to be more cockerel than pullet. We'll see. Updates on the Ruby/Rudy Front to come!


When we first got Molly unbeknownst to us she was severely underweight - the most underweight of the group -  and infested with chicken lice. Not a great combination at all. It’s from Molly’s condition that we realized the ranch where we got the Girls should not have been rated as highly as it was. But after a good delousing of the entire Flock and treatment of the Coop and Run, and a good mixture of starter mash and grow crumble as food, Molly and the other girls started to put on some weight and are now where they should be weight-wise. Anyway... back to Molly.

We have absolutely no idea what breed Molly is. At first we had no idea because of her
condition. But as she started to become healthier we began to think maybe she was Araucana or Ameraucana, as she started to have the telltale cheeks. After several searches online, we are settling into full-fledged Easter Egger (more on Easter Eggers HERE, and more on the difference between Araucana
s, Ameraucanas, and Easter Eggers HEREWe’ll know more once she starts laying and we get to see the color of her eggs.

The best way to describe Molly is “Lap Chicken”. When you visit the Run she’s the first one to hop into your lap and cuddle up and make herself comfy. She coos and hums. And she is definitely the sweetest of the Flock. 


We have zero idea what breed or breeds Fern can be. And when the guy who owned the ranch told us on the phone that she was a "black feathered chicken" I threw up my arms in resignation and decided we were on our own. Probably for the best, honestly.

Fern has gorgeous black feathers that when hit by sunlight have that iridescent green-blue sheen like a beetle's wings. She has a pale comb and wattle - for now, anyway. She has long slate-colored shanks. And she has blue-ish ears. Again, no idea what we’re dealing with here. But since when does that matter?! She’s awesome nonetheless!

Fern is curious and alert. And she's been Molly's partner in crime since day one. She's always right behind her to greet us at the Run door when we approach. And she loves to hop up onto laps and gives Molly a run for the cuddle bug of the lot. Plus, she’ll fall asleep in your arms if you give her the chance. Sweet, sweet Fern.


Where to begin with Daisy. When we got her the man who helped us said she was a Barred Plymouth Rock. And she totally looks like a Barred Plymouth Rock, but again - even with the coloring - there’s a good chance she’s a mixture of breeds.

Either way, she has been sturdy and solid and sweet as can be since day one. Even so, she’s not afraid to let the other Girls know when they’re bugging her with a quick spreading of her wings and a quick lunge forward and a quick squawk of sorts. Having said that, she does a lot of cuddling with the others, too. A lot of it! Specifically with Molly and Fern. 

Daisy is curious and observant. She’s active and fun. She loves to be as high up on the roosts as possible and when she shakes it all out after a dirt bath it's a joy to see. Plus, she’s gorgeous. She was fairly small when we brought her home, but today Daisy is one of the largest of our Flock, second only to Kit.


Kit is an enigma. Unlike the others, when we got her she was much larger and looked much older than the rest. We’re guessing she was about eighteen or twenty weeks old when we bought her. And we're not sure exactly why a chicken that old or that large was in with others that were so small and young. Maybe she was being bullied by larger chickens in the next pen over? Not sure.

We were told by the guy who owns the ranch that she’s an Ameraucana at least in part, but honestly she doesn’t really have that many Ameraucana traits that we can see. Maybe some coloring, but that's it. Also, she has a crest on her head that speaks more to the Cream Legbar breed. Plus her reddish-orange eyes speak to that, too, at least from what I’ve read. (Read more about the Cream Legbar breed HERE.)

One other big thing is that she’s the first to have started laying eggs! And they are a gorgeous BLUE. We are so happy about this! As for her demeanor, she started out as incredibly shy. When we’d come into the Run, she’d head into the Coop. If we were in the Coop, she'd head to the Run. Eventually she started not run away, but just hide out in the Run's corners. But now she’s warmed up to us and, while petting her really isn't an option yet - although she's put up with it once or twice - she is fairly comfortable with us around. I call that a win!

Well. Those are our Girls!

Five wonderful additions to our family. They are all warm and personable. They’re all curious (even Kit, when she doesn't know we can see her!). They’re all loving. And I am so thankful that we were able to take them from where they were just one-of-many to a place where they are now each individuals. Each cared for, one-on-one.

We are lucky to have these Girls. And I like to think that they feel the same.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Welcoming the Girls Home!

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve updated this Outright Chicken blog - almost seven years - and there’s a definite reason  I’m updating it now. But before I go into that, let me give you a bit of history...

I started my Chicken Adventures in October 2011 (check out my first Outright Chicken entry HERE). My flock consisted of Bronny (a Dark Brahma), Mary and Sophia (both Ameraucana), Miss Lynn (a Red Star), Little Jo (a Black Silkie), and Arabella (a White silkie).

Our set up is a 4’x4’x6’ coop we call Coopenhagen. And we have a trapezoidal Chicken Run (Hensylvania) measuring roughly 12’x7’x6’. Shelter from the elements, safety from predators. A nice, roomy area, both inside and out. A great place to raise a small Flock.

Arabella passed away in March of 2013 (this was my last post up until now - check it out HERE). The rest of the Girls each lived much longer and productive lives, the last of whom - Miss Lynn - passing away in Autumn of 2017.

In 2018, California announced a Virulent Newcastle Disease Outbreak (read about that HERE) and any and all chickens needed to be quarantined. This also meant that there was a moratorium on selling chickens in California. And that meant that there was no new Flock for us. At least not at that time. But...

Welcome to 2020!

Not the best year on record in recent times, but as of June 1st California's Newcastle Quarantine was lifted. New chickens were once again available to be purchased or adopted.

In the three years since Miss Lynn left us, Coopenhagen and Hensylvania started to run down. Paint faded. Hardware rusted. Ivy grew through the hardware cloth and took over a lot of the once wide open Run.

In early November of this year all of that changed.  Operation: Chicken Revival took effect. A new coat of paint for Coopenhagen. New Hardware on all the doors. A diatomaceous earthing of the Coop interior. The de-ivying of Hensylvania. A new Run door, as the last one had warped to the point of not being able close - and that just wouldn’t do. Why? Because it was time for us to re-chicken. And since a new Flock was imminent, their homestead needed to be not just in working order, but comfortable and safe.

Flash forward to November 16, 2020. Everything from fresh bedding in the Coop to new feeders and waterers to a bowlful of grit to a cabbage dangling from a chain in the Run was in place. The only thing missing was a Flock. Having said that, I'd like to introduce to you...

The Girls






For now we'll stick with this brief introduction. A future post will delve more into who these Girls are and hopefully answer a few question, while probably asking a few more. Stay tuned for that!

At this point, these Lovelies have made Coopenhagen and Hensylvania their own. It’s been a fun and interesting and informative time with them so far, and there will be more on all of that in upcoming posts, as well. Either way, we are thrilled to be able to raise these beauties. And we look forward to our time together and the stories that will come from it all.

Chickeny Updates coming soon!


Saturday, March 30, 2013


Normally my blog posts are more informational than personal.  But not today.

Today I write about one of my flock. Her name is Arabella. She’s a white silkie and was hatched October 13th, 2011.
About sixteen months ago I started down a path. Knowing next to nothing of chicken rearing, I built a Coop, built a Run, and purchased six chicks, each two days old. And every day since has been a crash-course on everything chicken. I’ve learned so much, but I realize I know only a handful of what I truly need to know.
Arabella and Little Jo.
Yesterday, while filling my girls’ feeder and freshening their water, I treated my flock to a few handfuls of mealworms, their favorite treat. Five of the six came running. Peck-peck-pecking at the ground. And that happy sound that only Chicken Owners can understand filled the silence. But one girl was missing: Arabella, my often-broody, somewhat shy White Silkie. I peered into the small door of Coopenhagen (as my Coop has come to be known) and saw her lying in the straw.
It only took a moment to realize what the situation was. Arabella, at some point in the past twelve hours or so, had passed away. And there she was, still fluffy as ever. But gone.
Arabella and her flock
enjoying a veggie sub.
A shock went through me as I went to tell my wife. And then, once that was done, I had to think of anything and everything that might have caused Arabella’s passing.
On our several-times-weekly free-range around the yard, Arabella would stay back to herself, sometimes not even leaving the Run. But that didn’t stand out, as she was the broody one of the bunch. Then, three days ago I noticed she was roosting on the lower-most roost by herself when the hens were put to bed. And, after finding her barely-cold body in the straw, I noticed several – more than several – white silkie feathers scattered around the run.
White. Fluffy. Relaxed.
None of this really tells me anything, to be honest. She was eating and drinking. At least when the others were free-ranging. And, being broody more-than-not, she kept to herself quite a bit. As for the feathers in the run, I assumed they are from her summer molt.
Yes, there's the possibility of the others bullying her. It happens even in established flocks. And Arabella was at the bottom of the pecking order, being the smallest and most timid of the group. But she had no bruises or cuts or scrapes or any evidence of being pushed around. At least none that I could see.
So the question remains: What happened to Arabella?
Mad as a wet hen.
I will never know for sure.
What I do know is she was a sweet, funny girl who made me smile, not only because she ran in that special sort of silkie-way, or scratched for grit like only she could, or devoured mealworms in a fluffy-white blur. But because she was a truly wonderful hen. She was not only a part of my flock. She was a part of my family. Like my dog. Or my two cats. And after the sixteen or so months spent with her, she captured my heart.
We miss you already, Arabella. Rest in Peace.
October 13th 2011 to March 29th 2013