What you probably don’t know about laying hens

I drive a lot.  Really a lot.  85,000-90,000 km per year.  Because I drive so much, I splurged on a hybrid vehicle to drive.  It makes a lot of sense….the gas savings more than make up for the extra cost.  I’d like to think it is environmentally friendly, too.  I had a discussion with a friend of mine around the campfire the other night, and was told that the net effect of hybrids is not good…due to carbon footprint of battery production and destruction, etc, etc.  The point was, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the environmental impact. 

As people have become more and more busy and specialized, we have all been forced to become really good at a very narrow scope of expertise….whether its fixing cars, organizing an office or producing food.  The flip-side of this, unfortunately, is that we are all horrifically ignorant about the vast majority of things we use everyday.  On the drive home from camping, in my theoretically eco-friendly vehicle, no less, I started a list of things that almost nobody outside of professional laying hen farming circles would know.  In no particular order, here they are:

  1. It takes almost 22 hours of continuous input to make an egg…first the yolk, then membranes, then albumen (white), then water, then shell, then cuticle.
  2. Modern commercial laying hens on high quality feed in Ontario will produce 325-335 eggs per hen per year.
  3. Feed conversion is often less than 2kg of feed for each kilogram of egg produced. (this means that each pound of feed will result in more than 4 eggs).
  4. Chickens only have 1 ovary (the left).
  5. Chickens tongues are triangular. 
  6. Yolk color is determined by what the chicken eats.
  7. It IS possible to produce green eggs.
  8. Shell color is determined by breed of hen….almost always, brown eggs come from brown hens.  Spotted eggs, bluish eggs, and pinkish eggs are possible.
  9. When a chicken sleeps, her feet relax in a closed position (thats how chickens sleep on perches)
  10. Chickens eat stones to help grind up their food (they don’t have teeth)
  11. Chickens recognize each other primarily by facial features.
  12. Chickens can recognize and “know” approximately 20 mates.
  13. A rooster’s testicles are inside his body, near his kidneys.
  14. A neutered rooster is called a capon.
  15. Egg size changes throughout the hens life….they start out small, and get bigger as the hen ages.
  16. It takes 21 days to incubate a chicken egg to produce a chick.
  17. Roosters maintain a “harem” of around 12-15 hens
  18. Chickens have no external ears….just holes in the sides of their heads.
  19. The amount of calcium that covers a single egg is all the calcium that can be dissolved in the blood at any time.
  20. Chickens can run up to 9 miles per hour, but not for very long.

If you have any other questions…the wackier the better, I will try to find out for you, if I don’t know it off the top of my head.

Mike the Chicken Vet


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