Eggshells in a Nutshell: White Eggs

What's Up With Eggshells?

  • Eggshells have three layers:  That thing that some people call the "skin" on the inside of an eggshell?  It's real name is the mammillary layer and it's a thin protein membrane. 
  • The brittle middle layer, the testa, makes up the bulk of the shell and is made up of columns of calcite crystals held together by a protein matrix (imagine tiny crayons or pencils stacked together with their tips pointing out around the egg) – the spaces between the columns form pores.  Moisture and gases can go through these pores—so an eggshell is porous like cloth, not airtight like plastic wrap.  This middle layer provides the form and structure to the eggshell.
  • Calcite is a form of calcium carbonate – it’s the same stuff that’s in the shells of oysters and other marine animals.
  • The outer layer, a very thin layer of fat and protein, is called the bloom or cuticle. Think of it as paint or varnish that seals the pores of the testa to keep the stuff in the egg from evaporating and to keep bacteria out.  When an egg is washed, the bloom is washed off, which is why a washed egg spoils faster than an unwashed egg.
  • As an egg passes through a hen’s oviduct, the inner mammilary layer is applied first, then the testa, and finally the bloom is applied right before the egg is laid.  The bloom is still wet when the egg emerges from the hen.
  • It typically takes a hen 25 hours to make an egg.  20 of those hours are used for making the shell.
  • Calcite is white, thus eggs are white.  Eggs that are not white contain pigments that give them their characteristic color. 

Learn about brown eggs here!
Learn about blue and green eggs here!

White egg courtesy of Jennifer the Polish Hen
A few of the white egg laying Hipster Hens
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A Blind Hen

Bonnie the Cream Legbar hen cautiously wanders the coop, bumping into other chickens as she goes.  Bonnie has become functionally blind.  Her left eye is opaque and gray and her right eye has a tiny constricted pupil that never changes.  Her eyes worked just fine when she first hatched, but I noticed that she had eye problems as long ago as early last summer when her pupils became tiny constricted dots and she stopped going outside.  She knew her way around the coop, but outdoors was just too chaotic for a blind chicken.

The pupil of one eye is a tiny constricted dot while the other eye is opaque.  Result:  Bonnie is functionally blind

10,000 Page Views!

The Hipster Hens are at it again!  They’ve pulled out all the balloons and confetti and are celebrating the 10,000th page view on Randy’s Chicken Blog that just happened Sunday afternoon.  I started the blog and put up the very first post on March 1 of last year, so we’re nearing the first anniversary of this endeavor.  I’m sure the chickens will all want to party again when March 1 rolls around, but what can I say?!  They’re just party animals!

Since that first post, I’ve written 58 more – I’ve talked about broody hens, baby chicks, sick hens, conflict in the coop, poultry equipment, quite a bit about the cruelty of battery cages and efforts to get rid of them, and I’ve branched out to talk about the woods around the coop and the wild plants and animals that live there, I’ve discussed a few good books about chickens, and I’ve talked about, well…life, the universe, and everything!

Along the way, I’ve seen a slow but encouragingly steady increase in readership.  Thanks to all of you!  Who are you?  Well, thanks to the demographics info I get from Facebook and Google, I can tell you! Some of you are “fans” who have “liked” the Facebook fan page – but many of you are casual readers.  Most of my casual readers live in the US, but a significant number of you are in France, and there are also quite a few of you in Russia, Brazil, Canada, the UK, and Germany.  Kudos to you international readers who have used the “translate” button on the page to translate my posts into Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, and Danish.  Many of you US casual readers are clustered in the Twin Cities area, but you are also in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and well – all over!

And you Hipster Hen fans, I love every one of you, don’t you know!  Most of you are in the US (Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, West Virginia, California, Oregon, Florida, and yup – all over!)  Special words of appreciation to you international fans – Three of you are in Australia, and one each are in Ireland, the Philippines, Serbia, Tanzania, and Iraq.  You know who you are!  Thanks, mates!  Go raibh maith agat! Salamat! Tak! Хвала! Shukrani!   شكر !

About three quarters of you are women 35 or older.  I really appreciate your support.  Tell all your male friends!  Most folks who blog about chickens are women.  I’m not sure why that is, but I’m not, btw, and more guys need to find out how cool chickens are!

Topics of future conversation:  I’m going to start building a chick nursery inside of Coop 1 soon and will be getting ready for baby chicks in June.  I’ll also be putting together a float for the local 4th of July parade – it will be pulled by my trusty John Deere, driven by yours truly, and will be colorful, festive, producing chicken themed music, and endowed with real live chickens!  Beyond that, is there any topic in particular that you would like to hear about?  Let me know!

Finally, I thought I’d end this post by highlighting the top five posts to date.  These are the posts that have had the most page views up to this moment.  Glad you liked them!  Thanks for your support!  Stay tuned for more!

Top Post:  Poop (December 14, 2016).  Wow.  Why did this take off?  It’s basically some good practical information on dealing with chicken manure – bedding options, using a poop tray under the roost for easy collection, and some composting tips.

Second Place:  Sweater Girls (November 1, 2016).  So I found myself in the ridiculous situation of trying to convince the Hipster Hens that it would be a good idea for them to wear chicken sweaters.  Pandemonium ensued.

Third Place:  A Dog Story (November 14, 2016).   How my good friend, Bailey the Labrador Retriever, came to be the Protector of the Hipster Hens here at the ranch.

Fourth Place:  Sometimes Hens Get Sick—Sometimes Hens Die (July 31, 2016).   Two hens get sick, one gets better and one passes on.  Dealing with sick hens and nursing them back to health and dealing with grief when one doesn’t make it. 

Fifth Place:  RIP, Bailey the Labrador Retriever (January 10, 2017).   Sweet Bailey moves on to dog heaven.  More about her life and her passing.

More to come, everybody.  Stay tuned!

The Chicken Encyclopedia – A Book by Gail Damerow

The Chicken Encyclopedia
An Illustrated Guide
Gail Damerow
Storey Publishing

I discovered Gail Damerow’s “The Chicken Encyclopedia” back when I first got the notion that I should get a few chickens.  I decided I needed a few good informational resources before plunging into this new project and I found this book on Amazon.   It was a serendipitous find since I knew nothing whatsoever about it when I ordered it.  As it turns out, this is a book that has never made it onto my bookshelf because it’s in constant use.