The best eggs

28 October 2015
Now that the 'experts' have told us that eggs are 'good' for us and not the cholesterol bomb they said they were, let's talk about eggs - what are the best eggs to buy, if you're buying chickens to lay eggs, what chickens should you buy and if you have your own chickens now, how do you get the best eggs from them.

A variety of our hens' eggs - the blue eggs are Araucana eggs.

All eggs contain about 6 grams of protein - 3 grams in the yolk and three grams in the egg white. That is about 12 percent of the daily protein requirement for the average person.

There is no doubt about it, after testing eggs from various sources, free range eggs are thought to be the best eggs you can buy. Make sure that 'free range' on the carton is really free range - the chickens should be outside in the sun most of the day, not live in over crowded conditions (there is a limit on the number of chickens allowed in each area), sleep in a barn overnight and be able to eat grass and the bugs that live on it. It is the grass and bugs that gives eggs the boost of Omega 3 oils that are so beneficial and make the eggs tasty. If you're not sure about the eggs available at your supermarket, write and email to the manager, or head office, asking them to clarify the free range issue for you. If you still can't get a straight answer, many cartons have the supplier's name on the carton, so look up their phone number and ask them.

What are the best eggs to buy
Where to buy genuine free range Australian eggs

 Lulubelle, one of our barred Plymouth Rocks.
 Nora Barnacle, our Barnevelder.
From left: buff Sussex, Barnevelder, (back) Araucana, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire.
 Martha and Margaret Olley our buff Orpington and buff Sussex girls. Buff is the colour.

I believe that buying point of lay red/brown, black or white chickens produced for the caged egg industry is one way of supporting that industry. If you would never buy caged eggs, don't buy the chickens bred to lay those eggs either. However, if you already have those chickens, how can you improve the eggs they lay. This applies to all breeds of chickens, heirloom or pure breeds too, the single best step to take is to give your chickens access to grass. It will boost the nutritional value and taste of the eggs the chooks lay.

Always give your chickens free access to fresh water, they can be fed on pellets with a small amount of grain but if you add greens to their diet, in the form of grass or vegetables leaves, that will make those dark yellow yolks we all love and it will improve the quality of the eggs. Currently we have eight chickens and we get about six eggs per day. I'm feeding them half a small bucket of pellets and a hand full of grain per day. They have access to greens every day and occasionally they get some of our leftovers.

Having had many types of heirloom breeds over the past 35 years has given us a good opportunity to decide which eggs we prefer. This is important because we keep chickens for the eggs. Currently we have Plymouth Rocks, Barnevelders, Australorps, Frizzles and a Wyandotte. In the past we've had Welsummers,  Pekins, Hamburgs, New Hampshires, Orpingtons, a variety of Sussex colours, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, Campines, Old English Game Hens and Faverolles. Of all those breeds, I believe the Barnevelder lays the tastiest eggs and the New Hampshires are the most consistent layers in a backyard environment.

Yesterday's eggs, with the dark brown Barnevelder egg on top.

Keeping heirloom chickens is similar to growing heirloom vegetable seeds. They've stood the test of time, they're part of the diverse poultry world, they'll lay longer and are generally healthier than mixed breed chickens. And keeping a few of the pure breeds will help keep that breed alive so they're there for your grandchildren to choose from too.  Which breed produces your favourite eggs?