The fairy egg

A few days ago we found a little reddish-dark brown egg in the grass near the chicken coops. It was intact and much too small for a chicken egg, in fact, it was so tiny that we thought it must have come from a small, wild bird.

Google wasn’t terribly helpful in our quest to identify which bird it had come from, and I also felt that week two of February was far too early for wild birds to be laying eggs anyway. So our miniature egg has rested in a bowl in the kitchen for several days. We haven’t broken it open as we wanted to show the egg to our family, hoping someone could possibly throw some light on it.

The next time I had an hour to spare, I searched online again, and eventually came across something we’d never seen before in all the time we’ve had chickens. It’s something called a fairy egg. Let me explain –

Hens’ bodies and hormones are working overtime to produce an egg every 25 hours on average, so sometimes an egg isn’t perfect, or sometimes it’s a disaster, like an egg with no shell. Fairy eggs are eggs that are missing the yolk. If we crack this egg open and find only egg white, it’s a fairy egg. They are also sometimes called wind eggs, rooster eggs or witch eggs.

Apparently fairy eggs are more commonly laid by pullets, though older hens can lay them, too. Even though pullets begin laying as they begin to mature, that doesn’t mean full maturity has been reached. As a newly laying pullet is maturing, her hormones and her reproductive system are trying to work together as best they can, churning out eggs quite suddenly and sometimes missing a beat. We have two young pullets in our small flock, and both of them have recently started laying, so this phenomenon became a possibility the more I read about them.

If it is a fairy egg, whichever chicken laid it started forming the egg white (albumen) before a yolk (ovum) was released from the ovary. The egg white moved alone along the oviduct where a membrane was added that would become the shell. Fairy eggs do come in all the colours that hens lay: white, brown, green, blue and so on, although they are sometimes lighter or darker than her regular eggs because they may spend more or less time in the “egg painting” area of her system, the shell gland. This one of ours looks like a chocolate egg you’d find in a bag of Cadbury’s mini eggs at Easter time.

Fairy egg in bowl of chicken eggs
Fairy egg in bowl of chicken eggs

However, it’s also possible that the egg isn’t a fairy egg at all. The egg could be a perfectly normal egg with a teeny-tiny yolk, but we won’t know that until we crack it open. A hen may lay a small egg that still contains a yolk too, even if she normally lays larger eggs. Again, this tends to happen with a new layer as her body is getting into the rhythm of laying, but it can also occur with older birds if there has been a disturbance that upsets their usual cycle.

We’ve decided not to crack the egg until the weekend when our granddaughter visits as I’m pretty sure she will be fascinated by it; I’m also keen to find out what this beautifully formed mini egg contains. I think it’s correct to say that we all learn something new every day. Isn’t Nature amazing?

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