Intriguing Egg Facts and Folklore

Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Eggs

July 23, 2021
Eggs in Carton

To put it simply: There is nothing quite like an egg! Eggs are surrounded by more myths and old wives’ tales than any other everyday food. Here are some surprising facts about eggs.

Intriguing Egg Facts

Opportunities, like eggs, come one at a time.

  • The entire yolk of an egg is actually only one cell, one of nature’s largest. In fact, an ostrich egg, which can serve about 24 for breakfast, is probably the largest cell nature manufactures (currently, that is).
  • The color of the shell is strictly a function of the breed of the bird. You can (usually) tell what color egg a chicken will lay by looking at the color of her earlobe. Hens with white ears produce white eggs, hens with red ears produce brown eggs, and hens with bluish-green ears produce bluish-green eggs! Find out more about different chicken breeds and the eggs they produce.
  • Americans consume an average of 281 eggs per year, which keeps about 285 million hens busy day and night. If you’d like to keep your own hens busy, check out our Raising Chickens blog.
  • An old-fashioned but valid test for egg freshness is accomplished by gently dropping a whole uncooked egg into a salt solution (two tablespoons salt in two cups of water.) If very fresh, the egg will be full and heavy, and it will sink and tip to one side. If moderately fresh, it will remain suspended in the middle of the water in an upright position; if it bobs up to the top, it is stale. Learn how to do this test and see other egg tips in this video.
  • According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on end on the spring equinox (or fall equinox). Let us know if it works for you!
  • Government grades are based on the size of the air cell in the egg, the egg’s quality, and its freshness. A Grade AA egg must be less than ten days old from packing, a Grade A, 30 days. 
  • The whitish, twisted material seen near the raw egg yolk is thick albumen, which is part of a layer of dense egg white surrounding the entire yolk. Its purpose is to help keep the yolk centered in the egg. The albumen is especially prominent in fresh, high-quality eggs.
  • The color of the yolk is determined by the feed. If the chicken eats grass, yellow corn, or other feedstuffs rich in yellow pigments, the yolk will be deep yellow in direct relation to the amount of yellow in the feed, regardless of the breed of chicken or color of the shell.
  • The incubation period of a chicken egg is 21 days. 
  • Shortly after an egg is laid, it is placed in front of a light source that reveals the condition of the innards. This process, called candling, can detect cracks in the shell or harmless but unappetizing blood spots on the yolk. It also reveals the size of the egg’s air cell: the smaller the cell, the better the egg.
  • Old wives’ tales suggest that the shape of an egg indicates the sex of the chick that will hatch from it. Unfortunately, there is no truth to this myth. Scientists are unable to distinguish between the sexes before the eggs hatch.
  • The greenish gray color around the yolk of a hard-boiled egg is a harmless compound of iron and sulfur called ferrous sulfide, which forms when an egg is heated. To prevent its formation, boil the egg only as long as is necessary to set the yolk, and then plunge it into cold water and peel it promptly.
  • While brown, white, and green eggs are essentially the same in nutritional value, there are definite preferences by individuals and by people in different regions of the country.

Now, here’s an age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you know the answer, please share!

Do you have your own backyard chickens? Here’s how to collect, store, or hatch eggs
Learn even more about eggs and eggshells and their various uses here

Reader Comments

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chicken or the egg

All Christians know that the chicken came first.


Our neighbor has chickens and I love her birds’ eggs..they are brown but vary in shades of brown. She feeds them organic foods and only made in the USA, not China or elsewhere. Shell color doesn’t matter...the egg itself is so flavorful. Grocery store eggs make my stomach hurt after (additives given to birds?). Eggs are a “perfect” food...give it some thought...the myth of cholesterol has been put to rest. Eggs are great for brain and body!

chicken eggs

I have at least 2 eggs a day and for a while I was up to 9 a day without any ill effects. I find I prefer white eggs because he brown shells are stronger and harder to crack. I worked at a farm store for a while and when asked I personally recommended the brown eggs to anyone traveling to their cottege. I felt they would have less breakage. I can't tell the difference in taste in chicken eggs but do like duck and turkey eggs for their stronger taste.

Floating Eggs

Martha Eggs can be stored for very long periods of time in refrigeration. If they float, it's merely a sigh of dehydration, which happens when refrigerated...desiccation is loss of fluid which makes them lighter and therefore have more air and more bouyancy. while floaters may not be as good as non-floaters it is not a sign that they are inedible. Only to be sure is crack the egg...if the yolk is mixing with the white or if it is obviously spoiled then toss it. I have hens who always want to be mammas so I always crack o egg at a time in a separate container to make sure I don't crack a bad egg in with the rest.

Standing eggs

We have stood eggs on their wider rounded ends many, many times. It takes patience, but it also helps if the eggs are at room temp, so the contents settle easily. Try it any day of the year!

Checking for freshness

When you check eggs for freshness, you don't need salt water. Just fill a pan with water higher than a standing egg and it will lie flat if very fresh or float if it is old. Throw away the floating eggs. Use the eggs that are upright, but still on the bottom in baking within a day or two. Eat the rest.

Egg preference

I raise chickens and ducks. I would recommend this to anyone who wants top quality and the healthiest eggs. Although I get many people who only want certain colored eggs, I cannot discern a difference in chicken eggs based on color, but can definitely taste the difference between home raised chicken's eggs and those purchased in the store. I love fresh eggs.
Now ducks eggs are a little different. If you dearly love the taste of eggs, you may go gaga for duck eggs. Imagine a chicken egg, but twice as much flavor. And if you bake, duck eggs are the way to go. They are a much richer egg with a higher content of fat. They will make your cakes more rich and moist.
I am no doctor, but we provide eggs to one lady on dialysis. She wants her eggs fresh, never refrigerated, and mostly the duck eggs. She eats a dozen a day. She eats them for the protein and has no problems with cholesterol. Her kidney doctor asks her where she gets her duck eggs and she will only respond, "get your own supplier".
If you want to eat healthy and can do so, consider raising your own chickens. You can learn all you need to know about it from the Farmer's Almanac.

Egg preference

I always liked farm fresh, organic eggs, especially brown shelled. Don't know why. Just like the brown shells...


Very interesting article; Thanks! I prefer brown eggs. They look more "real" !

Eggs at the Solstice

It's true one can stand an egg on its end during a solstice but then again, you can stand an egg on its end any day of the year!

Eggs standing at solstice

This is true. It is fun to do with kids and adults alike. They do stand up on end. Sometimes tricky to do, however, they will stand.

Eggs are stinky

Aren't they just a chicken's period? And where do all the male chickens go when they are hatched?

“Where do all the male chickens go when they are hatched?”

Commercially hatched male chicks are not useful or productive to the industry. They have conveyor belts that lead to very large grinders that the male chicks are poured into, ground alive soon after hatching and being sexed.

Hatched male chickens.

That is so horrible. What happens to the ground chickens.I have considered becoming a vegetarian. I love chicken but killing baby chicks is euthanasia and enough to push me in that direction.

Brooklyn Chickens

Back in the 60's and 70's my family kept a small flock in the backyard of our house in Brooklyn. Maybe a dozen birds, if that. You could get away with a lot in Brooklyn back then. LOL One day my folks came home from a visit upstate with a crate of 6 white hens. They had stopped at a farm to get fresh produce and in talking to the farmer got on the subject of chickens. When my dad mentioned that we had some back home, the farmer mentioned that he had some old layers that weren't doing their business anymore; maybe one or two eggs a week at best. He said that they were scheduled to go to the great chicken coop in the sky. One thing lead to another and my dad ended up buying the hens for 50 cents or a buck each. He figured that if they didn't lay we could always make soup. Those poor hens looked miserable; skinny, clipped beaks, feathers missing, I swear that some of the poor things had a nervous twitch. Dad threw them in with the other hens and roosters and basically kissed it up to god. After a few days those old hens began to settle in and actually started to put on weight and lay. Within a couple of months we were getting 4 or 5 eggs a week out of those old birds! Better than 2 dozen eggs from $3 - $6 worth of throw away hens. Not bad! Shows you what a little tender loving care, good food and fresh air (our birds were all free-range even though we didn't know to call it that 50 years ago, just the right way to keep chickens) will do for a bird.

Boil eggs

A large egg to avoid sulpher ring around yolk when boiling. Place eggs in pot with water to cover, put on stove med. high heat, when start boiling 10 minutes remove from heat, drain, immediately put into ice water. add 1 minute for X large and minus 1 min for med.

Boiling eggs- no green rings

Boil eggs in an electric water kettle. It boils the eggs the right amount of time.

Boiled eggs, never again!

I have come to steam cook my eggs rather than boiling them. I use a kettle with a vegetable steam basket. Use just enough water to touch the bottom of the steam basket. Bring water to a boil and place eggs in the basket using tongs. Cover the kettle and steam for 15 minutes. Immediately plunge eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Plunging into ice water also makes them easier to peel. I do this with fresh eggs right from my hens.

All Color Eggs Are Good!

I have three chickens at home and each of them lay a different color: one brown, one pink, and one white. I have done taste tests with them and honestly they all are the same... I don't think me or my friends can tell the difference with any accuracy. I do feed the chickens all the same food, so I wonder if that might be the biggest difference between the taste of eggs... that and how fresh they are...

Egg Nomenclature

What is the name of the 'clear' fluid contained in a raw egg, before it is cooked & becomes egg white?

Egg Term

The Editors's picture

The clear substance is most often just called “egg white” (both when cooked and raw), but it may also be called “albumen.”


Grade AA egg must be less than ten days old from packing, a Grade A, 30 days; thanks for the tip Old Farmer's Almanac!; Interesting; my comment is this: "concerning edible food; Eggs and Eggs alone stand as the most "perfect form of Protein"; discovered for "man's health";
this is why "body builders" use Egg White Protein Powder; (note: Raw Eggs are not recommended"; Eggs also have Vitamins A; D & E !!!;

Fresh Eggs;

Fresh Eggs (cooked in any way); would be better than any manmade heated commercial Egg White Powder; "the incredible edible egg";

Clear fluid in a raw egg

It is called albumin.


It depends on if the eggs are washed or unwashed. Commercial eggs in the US tends to be washed and would need to be refrigerated. When I lived in Europe, my friends were horrified that I stored eggs in the fridge and that I would buy two dozen at a time.

My grandmother never washed her chickens' eggs and chances are your aunts didn't either and that is why they were not stored in the fridge. Eggs do last longer in the fridge but I like the taste of unrefrigerated eggs better.


Do eggs need to be refrigerated or can they be left out? I remember as a kid, two of my aunts, one who raised chickens and sold their eggs, left the eggs out of the frig. Today, I hear they should always be kept cold. Should they or shouldn't they? Thanks.

Eggs must be refrigerated;

Eggs must be refrigerated; I think this is the USDA law for restaurants; (eating eggs in restaruants is risky); I do not eat raw eggs nor do my cats; I hard-boil";

Eggs must not always be refrigerated

In response to Anne - your answer is misleading. As described by others - fresh unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated. We run a small organic egg farm (~50 birds) and never refrigerate our eggs - unless we accidentally need to wash them or get them wet. USDA rules apply to mass-production of eggs - which are the worst eggs to use - laid by chickens generally housed in the worst conditions.


Thank you, Glenn for your informative comment.
It would be a life changer if people knew the conditions that hens were raised in. Also once you have raised hens, you appreciate their individual personalities, communication, and intelligence Even “cage free” are severely overcrowded. Perhaps “pasture raised “ would be more humane.
Are there any space or other humane requirements for hens laying organic eggs?


Most animal factory farms today, of which there are many, give their animals two shots, one is an antibiotic shot (because they live in filth), and the other is a hormone shot (to make them grow fatter...faster), and then they are fed GMO grain. GMO stands for "genetically modified organism", and all this is what goes into humans, when they eat dairy, or meat.
If you want to stay away from GMO's, then always look for the ORGANIC symbol of the front of the package. It shows that it wasn't made with man made chemicals (of which there are many in all foods), or GMO's (of which is in most everything you eat and drink today, if not organic).
Please everyone, learn about GMO's, this isn't the way humans were meant to consume! The first GMO crop was made in 1995, and has increased dramatically since then. And you wonder why diseases are increasings, people are having more skin problems, health problems? Get educated, and change the way you eat! You'll feel better, AND look better! I did, and when I stopped eating and drinking that junk, I lost 50 un-wanted pounds, and now I look and feel SO much better!
Organics are getting so popular now, that even Walmart and Target stores are putting them on their shelves! Just get educated on this subject, because some company's are lying about being organic, to increase their profits. Get educated, and get healthy!