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Nov 12, 2010 04:06 PM

Winter eggs versus spring eggs

I've had this question in the back of my mind for a while since we got a few lovely pastured eggs from someone raising chickens last winter. She said to my husband, "Now, these are winter eggs so you have to use them differently from spring eggs."

Unfortunately he was in a hurry and didn't get any details on the difference. So now I'm wondering, does anyone know what is different about the cooking of a winter egg versus a spring egg?

I presume because the hens tend to lay fewer eggs in the winter and it's generally too cold for them to eat insects and such, that the flavor would be different, but does that also hold true of how they cook up (i.e. how fast, how firm, etc.)?

He got the impression that she meant that there were different recipes for winter eggs than spring eggs (if say you were baking a cake), but would that be true?

I've searched online, but haven't found anything on it. Thanks!

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  1. Some of my egg people have told me that the more delicate breeds of chicken don't lay in the winter. It might stand to reason that the chickens who do lay have to conserve more resources, so the eggs are less nutrient-dense or less flavorful. I don't guess they would cook up differently enough to rule out any normal uses, but you might flavor them more strongly with other things?

    7 Replies
    1. re: jvanderh

      Less daylight, less eggs, from my observations, unless your chicken coop is wired for lights on a timer. Egg laying is effected by shorter days and less light hours. It's not a natural pattern for chickens to lay year round, just in the spring, winter solstice to summer solstice, but domestication of certain breeds and housing and feed advantages has led to year round production.

      I don't know about less nutrients nor do I remember my chicken's limited supply of winter eggs tasting any different, perhaps the shell is a bit thicker to protect the embryo from cold, but that was it. Chickens need to eat more in the winter, to conserve body heat. Thinking that winter eggs are less nutritious or of a different flavor, unless the diet was altered considerably, or have a different effect when cooked with, might be an old wives tale.

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Good info. My laying hens laid year round with lights. I noticed no difference in the eggs, except fewer of them and a bit less color in the yolks. They were on pasture even in winter. I did have to feed more - bugs were fewer. They got more scraps along with the feed so there wasn't a giant difference in egg quality, but if they go to totally chicken feed there probably would be a more noticeable difference in egg color and taste. No difference in the way you cook with the eggs, if that's even an old wives tale, its not one I ever heard. We had chickens when I was a kid (only roosters though, my mother kept thinking those chicks at Easter would grow up to be hens, LOL!) but my grandmother kept them until she was too ill to go out and feed them anymore. I remember going to her house for Sunday dinner and she would go out back, swing one around (apparently breaking it's neck), pluck and clean it, and voila, Sunday dinner. I only kept mine for eggs, when I had them. I do miss fresh free-range eggs.

        1. re: ZenSojourner

          Me too, and my chickens. Chickens are underrated as creatures go, and aside from the smell, are quite sweet (hens, that is, some of those roosters are pretty tough guys.) It's legal to keep hens in NYC, but my landlord would have a bird, no pun intended.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            SERIOUSLY? That's hilarious! That you can keep hens in NYC in this day and age!

            We had all sorts of trouble with the local gendarmes after the city tried to pass an ordinance against "livestock" inside city limits. They had to grandfather a farmer in (the city had grown up around his farm and he wasn't selling out) and when they did that, they ended up having to grandfather us in as well. We had chickens and ducks, but my mother just couldn't get it through her head that we were never going to have eggs from easter pets. She wouldn't go down to the feed store and buy chicks, she kept buying them at the pet store, and of course they were all males. It was like a lottery addict - keep buying the tickets thinking this time will be your one-in-a-million, LOL!

            We raised rabbits too. But she refused to let us actually eat any of them (not, honestly, that we would have been all that enthused about it at first). So they were really just pets. My grandmother raised chickens and rabbits, we were used to the idea, but apparently my mother couldn't make the leap, LOL!

            1. re: ZenSojourner

              Yup, legal hens and it's gotten quite popular, no roosters, though. I lived next to a live poultry market for years, roosters crowing at 4 am, no good. Beekeeping was been legalized again also. That I could do here, landlord aside (I used to keep bees, back when I had the chickens.) Here you can have chickens in the back yard but not ferrets in the house, go figure.

              Yeah, you have to purchase chicks from a hatchery, breeder or feed store, and it's still a crap shoot. When I was really little my dad worked for a poultry processing company, and he could actually sex chicks, a real talent in my book, haha.

      2. I keep chickens - in Ontario, so definitely northern climate - and there is some difference between winter and summer eggs but nothing that would affect cooking quality. Summer eggs have brightly coloured yolks because the chickens are eating lots of greens (they roam everywhere, including my flower beds AND my dining room - but that another story). In the winter I still let them go out but there's little greenery for them to snack on so their eggs don't have that rich, dark yellow, super-eggy flavour that summer eggs have, but as far as I know they're still just as nutritious as any other time of the year.

        From what I understand it's cholorophyll that gives an egg the extra yellowy yolk - but I don't think it has any affect on actual nutrient values. The whites are exactly the same - very thick when fresh, becoming thinner and more watery as the eggs age in storage. Hens lay fewer - if any - eggs in the winter, but this is tied to daylight and moulting periods rather than cold or feed. I have some hens that will lay all winter and others that go on vacation, but since they're all housed together I have no idea who is who out there.

        Many farmers who are serious about egg production (I am not - mine are decorative creatures who happen to lay some eggs) will raise a new flock of birds every spring and when they begin to lay in the fall - as they reach maturity - the farmer will dispose of the old hens in one way or another. I often get "used" birds from a local farmer when his new flock begins to lay - I love these older girls and am glad to give them a "forever home" - or at least until a fox comes around because the alternative is often the soup pot.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve

          How sweet: You're sort of the "Mother Superior" for these "older girls."

          1. re: walker

            It's not exactly a convent, though. We have several roosters. What happens in the hen house, stays in the hen house. It's nobody's business, I say.

        2. Wow, thanks everyone -- I had no idea you could keep chickens in NY. Learn something new all the time!

          So the difference in color (of the yolk) and nutrients definitely makes sense, but it sounds like maybe this is a case of legend --or maybe we misunderstood what she was saying.

          We got a little unexpected bonus of extra eggs this week-- I'm really going to miss them over the winter!