I think Iman is hiding eggs from me again.
She likes to do that a few times a year, and seeking out her stash becomes an Easter egg hunt as the hubby and I scour the chickens’ 2,500 square feet of foraging space for their secret nest. (Last summer’s search yielded almost a dozen eggs!)
So I was very confused the other day after I skipped a day of egg collecting and, in three different locations, ended up finding an Iman egg, a Kimora egg, and a mystery egg that looked like a bantam had come and laid it for us.
I can always tell which of my ladies has laid an egg because the colors and sizes are so distinct.
But this teeny tiny egg was a mystery. It was one-third the size of a standard chicken egg, and not quite pink (like Iman’s) but not quite brown (like Kimora’s).
It was about the size of a quail egg, but I knew we didn’t have quails in the yard.
So what are tiny chicken eggs all about?
Diminutive eggs like these are known as wind eggs, witch eggs, dwarf eggs, fairy eggs, or more affectionately, fart eggs. I guess if a chicken farted, this is what would theoretically come out!
They’re usually yolkless if a hen hasn’t released a yolk yet by the time her body starts producing the shell.
In those cases, a bit of reproductive tissue breaks off inside the oviduct and triggers the formation of an egg by tricking the hen’s body into thinking the tissue is a yolk.
A misfire, if you will.
Mine, however, had a miniature yolk when I cracked it open — more like a golden squiggle in a sea of egg white.
Yolkless eggs sometimes come out darker or lighter. Because of the abnormal cycle, they may spend more or less time in the hen’s shell gland pouch, which deposits pigments on the shell in the final stage of egg making.
This would explain why my fairy egg was a slightly different shade of brown (or pink)… and I never did figure out who laid it.
Fart egg folklore
In the olden days, yolkless eggs were sometimes called cock eggs, since without a yolk, the egg wasn’t viable.
This led many to believe that the malformed eggs were laid by roosters (cocks) and they were the work of the devil.
Superstition had it that if a toad or a serpent incubated the cock’s egg, a winged beast called a cockatrice (which bore the head of a rooster and the body of a serpent) would emerge.
Its maleficent powers included turning people to stone and destroying them with its deadly gaze.
The only way to rid of the evil was to hurl the unhatched egg over the roof of the family house without letting it hit the house. (I took my chances by keeping it!)
Can you eat fart eggs?
These days, we know that fart eggs usually occur in young, newly laying hens, whose bodies are still trying to adjust to the rhythm of laying. In other words, they’re learning to ovulate.
Older hens may occasionally lay fart eggs if something disturbed their reproductive cycles (such as new chicken feed, flock integrations, injuries, changes in the pecking order, a big move, or other environmental factors).
Fart eggs are an (adorable!) anomaly but nothing to worry about. After such a hiccup, a hen should return to laying normal-sized eggs again the next day.
Fart eggs are also edible, and it makes me giggle to think I’m eating something with the word “fart” in it. I fried mine and it was no different than a large egg… just in a bite-sized version!
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on August 4, 2014.