Our backyard chickens usually produce an inconsistent product. Their eggs vary in shape, size and color, mostly because we collect a variety of breeds based on their coloring, lace, combs, cold hardiness, heat tolerance, egg colors and sizes—whatever tickles our fancy, really.
Whether or not we realize it, those of us with many different breeds are participating in biodiversity: raising more than one breed for biological variety. It’s diverse genetics that will influence a flock’s chances of survival when exposed to disease and its ability to thrive for those who recover.
I stumbled onto a chicken forum the other day when I was trying to figure out which pullet laid the tiniest egg I’ve ever found in the nest box. I hadn’t thought much about eggs sizes when choosing the new breeds, so I assumed they were all layers of large eggs. I jumped to the conclusion that the Easter Egger was the culprit (because it’d be my luck to have an Easter Egger named Rainbow who lays brown eggs).
In the forum, people were talking about the Speckled Sussex, and sure enough, some people refuse to keep the breed because their eggs are “too small.”
But, what does it mean for an egg to be too small?
As a supporter of natural processes and biodiversity, I’m not a selfish chicken keeper. Raising chickens is a hobby that happens to feed me in the months of abundance. I still buy organic feed pellets whether or not they’re laying. I don’t supplement light in the winter because I can empathize with the need to take a break from ovulating every once in a while.
A tiny egg is completely adorable, but beyond that, do they serve any other purpose?
The Skinny On Egg Size
The only trouble I see with small eggs is in baking, but here’s an example of where we’ve been conditioned to expect our food to be large. Have you ever seen a recipe call for three small eggs instead of two large ones? Recipes always call for large eggs, without any other options or substitutions. When urban dwellers stopped keeping chickens and bought their eggs in stores, all the large eggs their recipe books called for came from just one breed that laid large white eggs.
My mom once said that a good cook can modify a recipe and make it her own … or something like that. To not be intimidated by a recipe is the key. When I’m baking and I need two large eggs, I know it’s not a hard and fast rule. Urban chicken keepers are already friends of anarchy, of bending the society’s rules and living on the edge of a good, tall fence. If you have a large, medium, and small egg, it probably equals two large eggs. Just eyeball it. I promise, the sky will not fall.
If you can’t bear to experiment or you’re a stickler for volume, information from the USDA will help you tailor your eggs to your recipes.
- Jumbo: 30 oz./dozen; 2.5 oz. ea.
- Extra Large: 27 oz./dozen; 2.25 oz. ea.
- Large: 24 oz./dozen; 2 oz. ea.
- Medium: 21 oz./dozen; 1.75 oz. ea.
- Small: 18 oz./dozen; 1.5 oz. ea.
- Peewee: 15 oz./dozen; 1.25 oz. ea.
I get a kick out of choosing among the varieties of eggs in my cartons. Enjoying life is all about the little things, including the little eggs my Speckled Sussex lays.