JULY 22, 2010

Fair Feathers

By Jeanne Hood

   Which came first, the chicken or the egg? At the Clearwater County Fair it depends on where you park! If you leave your vehicle by Les Schwab and visit the barn first, itís the chickens. But if you use City Parking youíll find the eggs in the exhibit building. And there is more to exhibiting chickens and eggs than you think.

   Letís start with eggs. As with all our entries the eggs must come from your chickens - not store bought. We require six (6) eggs in a clean carton. Some people cut a regular carton in half. The eggs will be judges on cleanliness, uniformity of size, shell, and interior quality. The eggs should be the same type and color. You can enter White, Brown, Bantam, or other, such as Araucana eggs (green, blue or pink).

   Start by collecting your eggs several times a day. By doing this you will lessen the chance of cracked or dirty eggs and help maintain the interior quality. Clean the eggs immediately in warm water. Cool water may force bacteria through the shell into the egg. Spraying the shell with a thin film of mineral oil will help maintain freshness. Dry each egg and place in a clean carton; pointed end down. Refrigerated eggs donít Ďageí as quickly as eggs stored at room temperature.

   You can check the interior quality of your egg by Ďcandlingí. Today we use a flashlight, rather than a candle but the idea is the same. Hold the egg up to the flashlight in a darkened room. Old eggs will have a large air cell. That is because the white (albumen) dehydrates or shrinks. You will also be able to see meat or blood spots in the white. You can also check the air cell without candling by placing it in a bowl of water. A fresh egg, with a small air cell, less than 1/8 inch, will go to the bottom and rest horizontally. A week old egg will have the big end of the egg slightly off the bottom. Two to three weeks and it will settle on the bottom, big end straight up. A very old egg floats!

   Each entry is checked for quality by breaking open on a saucer. If itís rotten the smell of sulfur is very strong. If the egg is poor quality the white or albumen will be runny and the yolk will be easily broken. A good egg has a firm white that stays in a pool and the yolk is round and stands up. There will be no meat or blood spots.

   The exterior or shell will be judged on cleanliness. The shell should be smooth and uniformly shaped. No odd shaped eggs. All six eggs should be the same size and color. They can be small, medium, large, or extra large, as long as they are the same. The eggs should not have cracks or fractures visible to the naked eye. Nor should they have ridges or bulges.

   In an eggshell, we hope to see eggs that are clean, same size, same shape, and same color. When we crack them open, we hope to see firm albumen and yolks, with no spots and no odor.

   So this year, the egg came first. Next week weíll fly down to the barn and ruffle some chicken feathers!