Farmhand's Journal : Unscrambled
A day rarely goes by at The FARM when someone, young or old, doesn't ask me to help him or her understand what's going on inside an egg.
"The chick is going to die!"
"I don't want to eat this chicken's baby!"
It seems that people hardly understand one of the most popular breakfast foods in America. Fear not dear readers, I will attempt to help you solve your egg-related blunders.
A laying hen (a hen being a mature, female chicken) will produce approximately one egg every day for the first year of her life about as casually as we change our clothes. But the daily egg is rarely the origin of a perky chick. First, and most importantly, the egg must be fertilized before it is lain, which will be impossible if the rooster is out of the picture.
The rooster, ironically, is a disinterested suitor. Most male animals seem to have a one track mind when it comes to mingling with the ladies. Roosters, on the other hand, seem to think about breeding a whole lot less. Occasionally you will see the rooster getting down to business with an unsuspecting hen but more often than not, he's just scratching around the yard. This behavior, of course, varies with each rooster.
Most roosters are more valuable for their aesthetic appeal or for their boon to the farm atmosphere than for their seeds, their handsome color patterns and crowing adding an exciting and familiar element to the farm experience. They also serve the functional purpose of defending the flock from predators (including, and especially, humans) through an aggressive, kicking motion of their spur-laden legs. Unfortunately, many roosters meet their doom for simply exercising their protective instincts.
But even a rooster strutting among a flock of hens does not mean that all eggs produced will hatch into chicks. In the case where the egg is fertilized, development will cease unless the egg is kept at a relatively precise temperature - the temperature it is underneath a sitting hen - for a period of 21 days. But it is hard to find a good, broody hen these days. Which is as much to say, most of your common laying hens will leave their eggs behind on the shelf without thought of returning to brood. Some farmers interested in raising their own flock will remove the eggs once laid and place them in an electric incubator to avoid having to worry about whether or not the hen will stick with it.
It has been found that if fertile eggs are kept in a refrigerator for even a lengthy period of time, they will begin to develop if, and only if, they are placed in incubating temperatures. So if you were to get a dozen eggs from your local farmer and stick them in the fridge for a few weeks, there is a chance that the eggs, if placed in an incubator, will hatch. Think of it in terms of seeds. You can buy a packet of seeds at the store and keep them on your shelf until you are ready to plant them. The seeds will remain dormant until you provide them with what they need to prosper. Once you plant the seed in rich soil and supply it with water, sunlight, and love, it will grow into a beautiful plant.