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Plain Talk

6 minute read

Can Your Hens Lay Golden Eggs?

Alabama’s 4-H Golden Egg Contest

 

The 4-H Golden Egg Contest was begun in 2017 Alabama and involves gathering 4-H youths to test member’s skills related to producing the best eggs from their hens. This year, because of COVID-19, members sent in their eggs for the contest.

 

Alabama 4-H members may enter up to three dozen eggs, but only one dozen per shell color:  white-shelled eggs, brown-shelled eggs, and blue-green-shelled eggs are allowed. Members raising chicken breeds yielding all three shell colors have three shots at the state championship. 

Golden Egg contest sign

In 4-H, it is important to teach the next generation of chicken owners how to produce and select the highest quality eggs from their flock. 

 

In preparation for the contest, a series of videos is sent out to help prepare members for what to expect. The nine videos address types of defects to avoid, but also cover uniformity and how to pack eggs for shipment or delivery to the contest. Type in “4-H Golden Egg Contest” into the YouTube search bar to find the videos. 

 

A scoresheet was developed based on measurable quality standards and good management factors.

 

Evaluating eggs inside and out

Eggs are evaluated on exterior quality, as well as how they are packed and sized. Eggs are evaluated on interior quality by opening three randomly-selected eggs from the dozen and checking the Haugh Unit and Roche color. 

roche color fan for egg yolk color

The Roche color is the “yellowness” or “orange-ness” of the egg yolk according the Roche color fan. To achieve some of the darkest yolks, it takes strict attention to detail when it comes to managing and adjusting the diet. The darker the yolks, the higher the number assigned according to the fan.

 

Lastly, the opened egg shells are washed out and dried for 24 hours so judges can measure shell thickness. Shells that are too thin—producing “checks” or “leakers”—would never make it to market. 

 

Members are rewarded for managing their flock so that the shells are thick enough to ensure that their eggs make it intact to customers, family, or friends.

 

Learning to make the grade

When evaluating the interior and exterior quality of the egg, the 4-H Golden Egg Contest incorporates scientific and long-standing principles from a very similar contest: the 4-H Poultry Judging Contest. There is an entire section in 4-H Poultry Judging Contest devoted to eggs. 

 

To make sure that the eggs selected from their flock are free from blood spots or meat spots, 4-H members need to candle their eggs, and learning how to candle eggs is definitely the highlight of many 4-H Poultry projects. The scoresheet deducts 5 points for small blood or meat spots and deducts 10 points for large ones, making it important to be diligent in the selection process.

 

Judges want only the highest quality eggs, and by candling, the interior quality can be assessed.

 

When opened, the interior quality of the egg is judged using tools and calculations to determine its Haugh Unit, a measurement of the egg white or albumen. The albumen quality deteriorates over time if the egg is temperature abused, lowering the egg grade. 

 

Also, evaluating the outside of the egg means that members need to select eggs that are free from visible defects. Eggs shouldn’t have ridges, thin spots, calcium deposits, stains and adhering foreign material. Adhering foreign material can be droppings, feathers, bedding, egg yolk or even egg white. This portion of the contest teaches that eggs need to be clean when they are selling, bartering, or even giving away eggs.

 

Stains on the shell are one problem that many 4-H members have, regardless of shell color. Members are encouraged to keep their nest boxes clean to help ensure that the eggs are clean when picked up, and collecting eggs 2-3 times a day will ensure they stay clean. Also, they should be cleaned prior to shipping or delivering to the contest.

 

The other main difficulty that members have is providing a dozen eggs that are uniform in both size and shell color, a challenging aspect. Members with larger flocks have more eggs to select from, and less pressure to get same size egg.

 

A dozen uniform brown-shelled and blue-green-shelled eggs is harder to achieve due to natural variations between hens, but it is not impossible.

 

Meet the 2020 winner

The best dozen eggs by a 4-H member in Alabama came from a flock belonging to 14 year-old Kadie Allen Riley of Marengo County. Her very clean brown-shelled eggs were very uniform size and shell color. 

Kadie and one of her hens

Kadie is a member of a homeschool 4-H club, the Marengo Rangers. Her flock was obtained in April, 2020 from the local Tractor Supply Company store in Demopolis, Ala. She has five hens and two roosters. The roosters’ names are Tom and Jerry and the hens’ names are Daisy, Violet, Pecky, Tigger, and Blue Betty. 

Kadie and her dad built the coop together, taking several days, but she said it was a fun project for them to do together. It features a front porch with rocking chairs, a robin’s egg blue dutch door, and décor for any holiday season. 

 

In addition, Kadie and her father included porch rails and posts from a cedar tree in the yard that blew down in a storm. ladies chicken coop

In the future, she is interested in doing research in the future on the emotions of chickens. Being homeschooled, she can design, and complete, a science project with her chickens at her leisure.

 

Kadie says 4-H programs teach responsibility. She also wants everyone to know that chickens make great pets, and that that programs like this help her work with her family in new ways, taking them out of the routine.

 

Marengo County, Ala. is no stranger to winning this contest. They are the only county, so far, to have bring home the championship twice! The 4-H agent is Mrs. Elizabeth Yates who provides a variety of engaging and fun programs for 4-H members in her county. Mrs. Yates has even taken a 4-H Avian Bowl team to the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Contest in Louisville, Kentucky.Sadie with a big future in front of her

For more information

Ask your county 4-H agent to see if a program like this one can be started for judging eggs. Or, visit the Alabama 4-H website and look through the information under the 4-H Golden Egg Contest.

 

If you are interested in learning more about this contest, then feel free to visit the Alabama 4-H website and look through the information listed under the 4-H Golden Egg Contest. 

 


The prizes

The winner of the Alabama 4-H Golden Egg Contest wins 500 pounds of feed donated by Nutrena. They have been generous from the inception of this contest and continue to encourage young poultry keepers. 

 

Winners also receive an impressively large ribbon, a signed copy of the book “The Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Keeping Chickens,” and will be a guest on the Chicken Whisperer Radio show.

 

The 4-H member receives a yard sign identifying them as the state champion, as does the 4-H agent for the front of the county’s Cooperative Extension Office.

 

 

About the author

Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD, is a poultry scientist who has worked with small flock owners for more than a decade.  Her expertise is being utilized at Auburn University in the development of curriculum for 4-H Youth Development's Animal Programs.

 

 

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