A mate of mine is a farmer. A while ago we discussed a series of stories for kids about “Where food comes from” after realising how many ‘city kids’ really have no idea. Here’s the first. Tell me if you’d like more!
“Do you know where eggs come from?” the cook asked Nicky.
“Mum keeps them in the door of the fridge.”
“Okay, before they go into the fridge – where do they come from?”
Nicky thought for a moment. “Umm… the supermarket.”
“Do you know where the shop gets eggs from?”
“From a farm,” said Nicky, remembering something in a book.
“Yes, often they do. How do the farmers get the eggs?”
“Does they grow them? Is that what an eggplant is?”
The cook laughed. “No, that’s a type of vegetable. Eggs come from chickens.”
“Oh! Um… how do the chickens get them?”
“They lay them. Female chickens start to lay eggs when they’re about twenty weeks old…” the cook started to explain.
Nicky interrupted. “Wait… what do you mean, ‘lay’ them? Where does the egg come from?”
“Well, er, out of the chicken’s bottom.”
“What? Like poop? Ee-uuw!”
“Eggs and poop do come out of the same hole, but that’s okay – they come from different places inside the chicken and don’t get mixed up together.”
“Okay… if you’re sure about that,” said Nicky, looking uncertainly at an egg on the kitchen bench.
“So why do the chickens lay these eggs?”
“Something inside the chicken’s body makes it produce eggs regularly…”
“It varies between chickens. Some might be once or twice per week. When a chicken is young and healthy it might be about every 25 hours.”
“There are 24 hours in a day, right? So the chicken lays an egg every day almost!” Nicky was good with numbers.
“Yes. If she lays her very first egg at ten o’clock on a Monday morning, the next will pop out at eleven on Tuesday, then noon on Wednesday, and so on. But most chickens only lay eggs during the daytime, so when that pattern gets to when it’s dark she’ll stop, and lay her next egg in the morning when it’s light.”
“Okay, that’s when – but why is she making them?”
“If there’s a rooster spending time with the chicken, then some of those eggs might get what’s called ‘fertilized’. That means that a chick grows inside the egg. That’s how we get new chickens. But most eggs don’t get fertilized, so there are lots more eggs than chickens.”
“Otherwise we’d have dozens and dozens of chickens in the supermarket instead of all those eggs. Do white eggs come from white chickens, and brown eggs from brown chickens?”
“Not necessarily. Black chickens don’t lay black eggs! Different breeds usually lay slightly different coloured eggs, and each individual chicken will produce pretty much the same colour. Sometimes a bit darker or lighter, or with little speckles – depending on what they’ve been eating.”
“So… if chickens make eggs to make more chickens… where did the first chicken come from?”
“Or, where did the first egg come from? I don’t think anyone has ever quite figured that one out! Now, would you like a boiled egg?”
“Yes please. With no poop in it!”