Our Red Star Cross chickens have been very reliable layers for us this past year and a half. Recently, however, one of our hens has gotten broody. She took over the nesting box and banned the other two hens from using their habitual laying area. But a hen has to lay, so they took to the yard for another option. They are quite adept at hiding a clutch of eggs as we found out. It took 9 days to find one hidden clutch! The blackberry brambles slowly trying to take over the back yard didn’t help, but I have to give credit to our ladies for being masters of camouflage.
So, here is the dilemma: eggs keep for several days out in the open, but in a big clutch of 18 eggs, how do you know which ones are good and which ones need to get tossed. We recently had a heat wave of almost 100F for about 5 days and only found those eggs after the heat wave had passed. We wanted to know if the eggs were bad or not, so we went to the resource that everyone goes to – the Internet! All the sites say that if the egg lies on its side and sinks that the egg is good and if it floats that means it is bad. There are a number of other folk methods out there such as shaking the egg and listening for sloshing or holding the egg in front of a bright light source and looking for translucency.
The light method is utterly inconclusive with non-white eggs. The shaking method lead to many false positives. We found the floating method to be the most reliable, but with a bit of a caveat. Many claim that as long as the egg maintains contact with the bottom of the bucket or bowl that it is probably OK. We found this not to be true. In fact, if the egg tilted up more than just a few degrees from lying completely flat on the bottom of the water bowl it was probably going to be bad. Of course this doesn’t count for refrigerated eggs as they have larger air pockets. The most reliable indicator was an exterior greying discoloration on some of the eggs that were the most far-gone.
So for those of you with chickens, I think the best indicator of whether an egg is bad is to gauge the coloration of the egg compared to a known fresh one, and do a float test – but know that the ones most likely to be bad will only slightly tilt up.
Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of experience recently and have become quite adept at differentiating good and bad eggs in a hidden clutch. Our broody hen has snapped out of her funk, but the exiled hens have developed a taste for laying in a hidden clutch. It seems they prefer the hidden clutch to laying in a cozy egg box. It looks like we’ve got some behavioral modification training to figure out if we want to get our regular egg box collection back up and running again.