No, you’re not ‘eating’ a baby chicken when you eat an egg. Almost all eggs sold in supermarkets will not be fertilized. Even if an egg is fertilized, the embryo is basically in suspended animation as a hen has not sat on the egg to incubate it.
If you’re concerned about eating baby chicks or stopping chicks from being born, don’t be!
In this article, I will explain why you’re not stopping chicks from being born, why it’s perfectly safe and ethical to eat eggs - as well as nutritious - and how the process of creating and hatching chicks works:
Is Eating Eggs Killing Chickens?
By eating eggs you're not killing chickens, no. If you've heard this said, it's likely from Animal Rights Activists and Organizations that want to dissuade people from eating eggs.
There are two reasons why you're not Killing chicks when you eat eggs:
- The first reason is that commercially produced eggs are not fertilized. Egg farmers, particularly those that produce a lot of eggs do not keep roosters with their laying hens.
- The second reason is that even if an egg was fertilized, the embryo would not have started to develop at all as it has not been properly incubated.
I've seen some articles stating that if there is a blood spot in a yolk, this means that the egg was fertilized.
This is not true. Blood spots, also called meat spots, are just pieces of tissue that attach to the yolk while it's being developed in a chicken's reproductive system.
So, now you know; there is no chance of the eggs you're buying hatching into chicks, and by eating eggs you're not stopping chickens from being born!
Related - Why supermarket eggs will not hatch.
Do We Eat Fertilized Eggs?
It's perfectly safe to eat fertilized eggs, and the reality is that you may well have done so before without realizing it.
It's incredibly unlikely that commercially bought eggs from supermarkets will be fertilized. It is possible, however, that eggs from farmer’s markets, backyard flocks, etc,. are fertilized as there is more likely to be a rooster in the flock.
Eggs do not taste or look any different if they have been fertilized. Also, when you store eggs in a fridge it's impossible for the embryo to develop.
It's also unlikely for an embryo to develop if it’s not refrigerated as it would need to be kept at a constant 99.5 degrees.
Related - Are chicken eggs abortions?
How Do Farmers Know if a Chicken Egg Is Fertilized?
To state the obvious first; if there are no roosters present in the flock farmers know 100% that the eggs are not fertilized.
If they are keeping roosters and hens together, then there is a pretty good chance that eggs are going to be fertile.
As I explained above, they will still sell the eggs as it makes no difference if they are fertile or not.
As for knowing for sure if an egg is fertile, a farmer is not going to know unless they start to incubate the egg and then do something called 'candling'.
Candling is a simple procedure that involves holding the egg up to a light. This enables you to see a silhouette of what's happening inside.
If an egg is fertile, in the early days you will be able to see a red spot surrounded by branching out blood vessels. This is the embryo developing and confirms that the egg is fertile.
Another way to tell if an egg is fertilized is to crack it open and take a look. You should be able to see a white spot in the yolk, and this spot needs to be larger than a tiny pinhead to demonstrate it's been fertilized.
Obviously, cracking eggs open is not an option when they're being produced for sale, but this is another way to know if an egg is fertilized without allowing the embryo to develop.
What Do Eggs Need to Hatch?
For a chick to hatch from an egg it needs to be fertilized, and it also needs to be incubated.
Incubation essentially means that an egg is kept at the optimal temperature for a set period so the embryo can develop into a chick.
When incubating at home in an incubator, chicken eggs need to be kept at 99.5 degrees at all times. One degree lower or higher for a few hours can terminate the embryo.
The egg also needs between 40-50% humidity for the first 18 days, increasing to 65-75% humidity for the final 2-3 days.
Hens, of course, are able to provide the right temperature by sitting on their eggs. Hens typically sit on a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs and will incubate them.
It takes 21 days on average for an egg to hatch. A couple of days before, you will start to hear chicks chirping, and they will use what's known as an 'egg tooth' to crack the shell.
This is actually a fascinating process as the chick pecks at the shell and creates a line referred to as a 'zip' like a zipper.
Is It Ok to Eat the First Egg a Chicken Lays?
If you've been fortunate enough to collect the first egg a hen lays, this is quite an honor - and it's perfectly safe to eat it.
When hens first start laying, they lay what's called 'pullet eggs'. Pullet eggs are eggs laid by hens less than a year old, and they're smaller as the hen's reproductive system is still maturing.
Pullet eggs are a delicacy on many menus. They tend to have a higher yolk to white ratio, making them more flavorsome. Some chefs offer them as a more 'creamy' taste and texture from regular eggs. You should definitely try one if you enjoy eggs.
Hopefully, you're now a lot more informed and comfortable knowing that you're not eating or stopping chicks from being born when you eat eggs.
Hens produce a lot of eggs, almost daily for most breeds. Very few are fertilized, and even if they are, without incubating them properly the chick never starts developing.
Image credits - Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash