EGGS are truly amazing! Designed to grow a chick in 21 days, they form inside the hen, whether fertilized by a rooster or unfertilized (no rooster required). Leaving the ovary, a soft yolk acquires coatings of egg white and other structures, and then a shell that hardens before it leaves the hen – one egg about every 25 hours. If the egg is fertilized, the chick develops inside, supported by the yolk and albumin, and by a system of capillaries linked to pores all over the surface of the egg. When the only air left is the air cell at the bottom end of the egg, it's time to hatch!

Before you decide to incubate eggs for chicks: read this.

About 1/2 of fertilized eggs will hatch as male chicks, destined to become roosters. They neither lay eggs nor are they needed for hens to lay eggs. Many cities ban roosters because their crowing is very LOUD. They are not prohibited in Chicago, but the noisy animal ordinance definitely applies.

Female chicks grow into pullets (young hens) and lay their first eggs when they are 4-6 months old. Then they are called hens. Female chicks start out with the total number of ova they can lay in their lives – about 1000, depending on breed. Hens will lay eggs year-round, but lower natural light levels in winter can slow egg production. Eggs' size & color depend on breed of bird.

All About Eggs. On the Mother Earth News Poultry Resources page.



See Mother Earth News - Oct/Nov 2007 article, "Meet Real Free-Range Eggs," pp 42-48.

They compared 14 flocks around the country, in a study that joins a consensus of studies over the last 35 years. he nutrient value of eggs from truly pastured hens (roam around foraging greens, insects, seeds) is much better than conventionally produced eggs (even those called 'cage free'):

LATEST RESULTS: New test results show that pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry's derriere when it comes to vitamin D! Eggs from hens raised on pasture show 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs. Learn more: Eggciting News!!!

RESULTS FROM OUR PREVIOUS STUDY: Eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages! Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 times more Vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more Vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

Info about Lead (Pb) in Eggs and in Soils

- Backyard Chickens and the Risk of Lead Exposure (Tufts U May 2019)

- Eggs of Urban Chickens Contaminated with Lead (Boston, 2018)

- Subclinical Lead Exposure Among Backyard Chicken Flocks in MA (Jl of Avian Medicine, 2018)

- Lead Exposure from Backyard Chicken Eggs: A Public Health Risk? (CA, 2014)

See the Advocates for Urban Agriculture + AUA Resources Guide.

Info about free soil lead screening thru the Chicago Safe Soils citizen science mapping projects is here:

Soil lead is less bioavailable (less likely to be taken up by plants or incorporated into tissues) in the presence of more soil organic matter -- compost and similar additions that "bind" it.

UMASS Extension provides thorough instructions about how to test your soil and helpful info about interpreting the results. They offer a comprehensive menu of testing options (including heavy metals) for a low price.

According to OH State University soil scientist Nick Basta, their heavy metal test protocol is a "mild acid test" not correlated for urban applications and results therefore may be low. He advised assuming the results represent 2/3 of actual (available) lead.

The OSU Soil Department's lab offers comprehensive testing that costs more than UMASS Extension but less than commercial labs, in the $15-30 range.

Dr. Basta also said the U of MN Extension has good heavy metal protocol:

University extension labs provide soil test info to growers, so results are interpreted for the purpose of growing plants. BUT this is not necessarily for organic or biointensive production since majority of users are big crop growers. Do assess recommendations for amendments with that in mind.