Most people think chickens only release eggs when they’re fertilized, but that’s not the case. Contrary to humans, the female cell in chickens doesn’t need to be regulated by a male cell to form a baby.
Do chickens lay eggs if they are not fertilized? All chicken eggs are unfertilized, unless the chicken has mated with a rooster. Both fertilized and unfertilized eggs can be eaten, but there is a difference.
Let’s see the truth behind the chicken’s unique reproductive system!
Why Chickens Lay Unfertilized Eggs
Have you ever wondered why chickens lay unfertilized eggs? It’s not that the chicken didn’t find a qualified rooster or something. At the same time, an unfertilized egg won’t hatch, so there isn’t any gain for the hen.
The answer to the question lies within the chickens’ bodies. The egg doesn’t require fertilization to form, unlike the embryo. It only needs some light, and it’ll get released in no time. The presence or lack of a sperm cell doesn’t change the fact that an egg will be released.
There’s also the fact that humans breed chickens to lay eggs without fertilization. Farmers don’t need the nuisance of getting roosters when the eggs are already going to be collected for selling.
The duration of laying eggs is another thing that was affected by humans. Typically, chickens shouldn’t be able to lay eggs in winter. All they need for laying is light, and it’s not available in winter. However, breeders now install artificial lights to encourage chickens to release eggs.
As for fertilization, it goes in a similar way to most species of living organisms. When the female egg cell gets produced, a male sperm fertilizes it to form an embryo. With chickens, there are a few exceptions to the biological rule. Instead of growing inside, the eggs get released before being fully developed. Then, the chicken nests over the eggs until they hatch.
Chicken Eggs: Fertilized Vs. Unfertilized
If the chicken mates with a rooster before releasing the eggs, they’re then fertilized while inside. So, is there a difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs? Of course, there is. The male then gets into the equation, which ought to change the outcome.
Contrary to common belief, you can eat fertilized eggs. Most people think they’ll open the fertilized egg to find a baby chick inside, but that’s not the case. If the farmer collects the egg daily or every two days, there’s no chance it’ll have developed into a chick.
In order for a baby chick to develop, the egg needs to be put in incubation for three weeks. That’s if the chicken doesn’t nest over it. In this case, it doesn’t require incubation. So, unless the egg has spent three weeks under the hen, it’s safe to eat.
Chickens lay unfertilized eggs because they’re aiming at releasing a clutch. A clutch is the number of eggs a bird releases before stopping and nesting them. In the case of chickens, a clutch consists of a dozen eggs.
When the chicken lays a clutch of unfertilized eggs, it still lays over them for nesting. However, in this case, the farmer collects them before the incubation starts. It wouldn’t make any difference either way.
How to Tell the Difference Between Them
If you want to know whether the egg you’re eating is fertilized, you can easily tell the difference. Although the taste, consistency, and nutritional value are the same, there’s a single visual difference that you can see with the naked eye.
There will be a small white dot on the fertilized egg’s yolk. Additionally, it’ll have a ring around it.
There are other factors that people mistake for signs of fertilization. However, they’re not even close to that. For starters, when people see red spots in the egg, they automatically think it’s fertilized. Meanwhile, it’s actually a broken blood vessel that can be found in unfertilized eggs too.
When the chick is developing, the first signs that’ll appear will be veins rather than spots.
Furthermore, when people see a white string in the egg, they think it’s something like an umbilical cord. However, it’s something called a chalaza, and its job is to keep the yolk intact so that it doesn’t smash against the hard shell.
You’ll rarely encounter a chalaza. It’s mostly found in farm eggs. That being said, it dissolves after a few days, which explains why it isn’t there in store-bought eggs.
The Development of Chicks in Eggs
For a chick to form inside an egg, it needs to be kept in ideal conditions. It’ll have to stay in a room of 60% humidity for the first few hours. It’ll develop so slightly that it won’t be noticeable to the naked eye.
After a maximum of four days, the egg will start showing veins—this is the first sign of a baby chick before the process continues to complete the development phase. If you put the egg in a fridge amid this process, it’ll stop immediately. Eggs need to keep incubated until they hatch. Otherwise, the chick won’t grow.
Are Unfertilized Eggs a Natural Occurrence?
Many people may wonder, is it normal for chickens to lay unfertilized eggs? It goes against the rules of nature, so it must not be normal, right?
Yes and no. It’s normal for chickens to lay unfertilized eggs, but not in large numbers. That’s not how natural evolution intended it. Nevertheless, human-caused evolution had another opinion. I like to call it selective breeding.
Selective breeding is when humans are in control of the chickens’ reproduction process. Their primary goal is to select individuals that are suitable to reproduce. It’s somehow a principle of survival.
After a couple of generations of selective breeding, the individuals start gaining the traits that humans desire for continuous reproduction. This is out of the humans’ hands; it’s not like they can control genetics. But it’s the genetic mutations that take control, doing the necessary modification for survival.
A lot of people think selective breeding results in genetically-modified eggs, which can be harmful. However, that’s not the case. If you think about it, all our foods are genetically-altered. Even in plants, farmers will always opt for the better-looking seeds. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Humans have been bioengineering foods forever without even noticing it!
Do Chickens Brood Unfertilized Eggs?
Brooding is when the chickens lay over the eggs for incubation. This is the last phase before the eggs hatch. This time, you may be questioning the future of unfertilized eggs. Do they still get brooding?
Related: Are Chickens Protective of Their Eggs?
Chickens still brood unfertilized eggs. Here’s the thing, chickens have no way of knowing whether the eggs they’re releasing are fertilized. So, they won’t change their natural process. As far as they know, their eggs will soon hatch into baby chicks, and they’re acting upon it.
With modern breeds, the chickens mostly walk away after laying the eggs. That’s because they’re used to the drill. They know they won’t be getting any chicks; that’s the way it is with commercial hens.
The lack of brooding is another human-caused revolution. Farmers and breeders don’t want the hens to brood because it’s going to be very hard to convince them to ditch the eggs. And naturally, the farmers need the eggs to be free.
Additionally, when chickens brood, this encourages chickens close-by to do the same, which will turn the coop into a sleeping academy!
The breed is also a huge contributor to the brooding process. Some species are used to brooding, even when the eggs are unfertilized. On the other hand, some modern breeds need convincing to sit over their eggs.
Now, you should be all aware of the chicken’s laying habits. They lay unfertilized eggs, but that’s not how nature intended it. It’s one of the many results of selective breeding. Most modern breeds are getting used to the new process, so it’s not much of an issue for them.
As long as we have eggs to eat, we can’t complain much either!