Monday, May 13, 2013

Then Came the Duck Eggs


More eggs began showing up in the nest lately, signalling that the ducks had "come on line" after six months in our backyard. Before, with just two Araucana chickens laying, it was easy to tell which eggs were whose. Now, with about four eggs of subtly different shapes and colors showing up every day, it's a bit of a guessing game.

Chances are, these three eggs correspond to the three types of ducks in this photo, with the outsized egg being the work of the big white Pekin, the more numerous mid-sized eggs being the Runner Duck's, and the miniature variety being an early effort by the mate of the male mallard in the photo.

The two eggs on the right in this photo have no shells, but instead are more like water balloons that slowly deflate as they dry out. Sometimes, the presence of these shell-less eggs means the birds aren't getting enough calcium, but they're getting the standard feed for egg-layers, plus whatever they forage for in the garden. More likely, it's taking each bird a few egg-laying tries before they get it right.

Here, the deflating of a shell-less egg is more obvious. A similar process of drying out occurs within a normal egg, though much more slowly because the eggshell has an outer coating, or "bloom", that keeps the egg inside fresh. It's recommended to delay washing of a homegrown egg until just prior to using, so that the coating can help protect it during storage. In fact, refrigeration is not necessary for unwashed eggs if they'll be used within a week, or so I've heard and read. Store-bought eggs tend to have been washed.

Related to this, you may have noticed that some hard-boiled eggs are easier to peel than others. As an uncooked egg sits around, the membranes between shell and eggwhite loosen. Using older eggs for hard-boiling will increase the chance of the shell easily coming loose from the eggwhite during peeling.

This "deflation" of the egg inside the shell also makes it possible to tell whether an egg is fresh or older. As my neighbor Pat pointed out, a fresh egg lays flat at the bottom of a bowl of water, while an older egg will tilt upward at one end because air has gotten trapped inside where the egg has slightly deflated.

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