Janice Houghton-Wallace looks at how to judge a good egg

With a New Year and spring approaching, poultry keepers will soon be enjoying a bumper crop of eggs. As well as eating them and incubating some, why not consider showing a few?

Poultry shows are held throughout the year - Avian Influenza disease precautions allowing - and all will have some classes for eggs as well as birds. Even if live bird gatherings are temporarily banned, the egg section of the show is usually allowed to continue. Egg competitions are not only found at poultry shows though as summer and autumn agricultural and horticultural shows usually include them as well, in the produce section. A village flower show will often have a few egg classes, alongside the cake and jam competitions.

To produce a prize winning egg there are some preparations that will help along the way. Healthy and correctly fed chickens are required in the first place because poor quality stock are not likely to produce good quality eggs. Good husbandry will mean that the birds are wormed on a regular basis and checked for external parasites. If internal and external parasites do not exist then the birds’ body can concentrate on doing what a good egg layer knows best and that is laying a quality egg.

Feed with a layer pellet or breeder pellet and see that they get plenty of greenery and can scratch around for insects – all this helps to produce a lovely egg. Some specially formulated pellets contain artificial carotene which result in darker yellow yolks. A deeper coloured yolk does not necessarily mean that it is a better quality though, it just looks better to some people.

The same goes for egg shells. At one time a brown egg was the crème de la crème of eggs but the pigmentation of the shell bears no resemblance to the quality of the internal egg content.

Certainly with many foods going through various fashions, different coloured eggs seem to be currently enjoying marketing success and possibly filling a corner of the niche market. The Araucana is a pure breed that lays blue/green eggs and if crossed with another breed such as the Welsummer that lays deep brown eggs will produce a khaki coloured egg. Marans are another breed that lay a deep rich brown egg and Minorcas and Leghorns lay white. A large unblemished white egg can look just as stunning as a deep chestnut mahogany one.

When wanting to select eggs for showing ensure the area where the bird lives and lays is clean. Nestboxes should be kept clean with no contamination through faeces or mud. Eggs are much easier to keep clean if they are laid in a clean nestbox and collected at least daily. Dirty stains cannot be washed away so start with as pristine egg as possible and the quicker it is collected from the nestbox the less likely it will get dirty through another hen climbing over it to lay her egg.

Whether you enter a poultry show or the local village show, read the schedule carefully for judges can only give a prize to an exhibit that is correctly entered. Generally there will be classes for large fowl and bantam eggs, even specialist breed classes and distinctly coloured eggs. If the schedule just states 6 eggs – then you can enter either large fowl or bantam. If a class is as vague as to only stipulate the number of eggs then duck, goose, guinea fowl, turkey or quail eggs could be entered.

The size of the egg is not a deciding point but should be appropriate for the breed or species. When a pullet starts to lay the weight is around 49.6g (1¼ oz), this increases to 56.7g (2oz) and exceeds this after several months of production. There is another increase in the hen egg after the moult.

Bantam eggs should not exceed 42.5g (1½ oz). Turkey and duck eggs weigh between 70.9g (2½ oz) and 92.2g (3¼ oz). Bantam duck eggs should not exceed 63.8g (2¼ oz). Goose eggs will depend on the breed. Light geese lay eggs from 141.8g (5oz) and heavy breed goose eggs can weigh up to 198.6g (7oz).

The external look and shape of an egg is important. It should have a good dome at the top as this contains an air sac and the bottom of the egg should be slightly pointed. The length from top to bottom should be greater in length than in width.

Egg shapes that are conical, spherical, oval, elliptical, bioconical or double yolked are all undesirable and should not be considered for showing purposes or incubation purposes but would most likely be fine in a frying pan.

The shell should be smooth and free from lines, bulges and any roughness. Ripples at the bottom of the egg should also be avoided. The colour should be clean and even in the case of mottled or speckled eggs – such as turkey eggs – regular mottles or speckles are preferred. No stains or blemishes should be seen on the shell and although eggs may be washed they should be left to dry and never polished.

If the eggs are being judged for internal contents they should be as fresh as possible. The yolk should sit up, well rounded on top of the albumen (the white of the egg). There should be no blood streaks on the yolk and no blood spots or cloudiness in the albumen. If an egg is fresh the albumen will be a thick, dense substance around the yolk with a thinner substance in the outer ring.

When an egg is stale the yolk will not sit pertly on the albumen and the albumen itself will be very watery and runny.

Egg showing is a very popular hobby as well as helping to showcase your produce. George C. Taylor from Cumbria is a Guinness World Record holder having won 536 first prizes in a single year.


This article was written by Janice Houghton-Wallace for Smallholder magazine. Make sure you don't miss Janice's monthly features on poultry by subscribing to the magazine.