Incredible Hens and Nutritious Eggs!

The hen that gives us the egg for our breakfast is such a wonderful gift of nature! She scores both on quality and quantity. There is no other bird that produces so many unfertilized eggs in its lifetime. Eggs that are perfect nutrition for us and our babies!

The Hen's egg when it is laid contains all that is needed to make a chick. It's so complete in every detail that as soon as the small bird is born, it is ready to face the World. It needs no additional feeding by the mother. As the chick comes out of its shell, it starts running, eating and chirping! Other species of birds produce fledglings which require caring and feeding till they grow features and learn to fly and feed on their own.

Everyone knows that the egg consists of yellow yolk and white albumin. But there is quite a lot more in it than meets the eye. The yolk has a small germinal disc on its surface which is the embryo that will eventually grow into the chick. The yellow part is encased in a protein film called Vitellin membrane which has two small anchoring cords on opposite sides for holding the egg yolk in the central position. The yolk is surrounded by an immediate layer of thick albumin and an outer layer of thin or fluid albumin. The entire egg contents are contained within an outer sac called the shell membrane. And finally there is the shell forming the encasing of the egg. The shell membrane hugs the egg shell on the inside except at the top where it leaves a small gap inside the shell. This gap forms an air pocket within the egg.

The yolk provides the proteins and the minerals for the embryo to grow to form the chick. The white albumin is the store of protein and water to nourish the growing baby. There is another important function of the albumin. It helps to carry the oxygen into the growing chick and remove the carbon dioxide to the outside. The albumin surrounding the yolk absorbs carbon dioxide and becomes thick milky white. The gas is then diffused to the thin albumin and passes through the shell membrane and the porous shell to exit to the atmosphere. The oxygen on the other hand permeates through the egg shell and gets absorbed in the thin albumin. The life sustaining gas then diffuses into the thick albumin, passes through the Vitellin membrane for the need of the growing embryo. The two membranes are so fantastic that while they allow the gases to pass, there is no way for the liquid to go out!

The chick grows day after day consuming the nutrition in the egg. From the liquid mass of the yolk and the albumin, the chick forms its bones, flesh, beak, feathers and eyes! Quite an amazing transformation! When the chick is fully formed, it begins to breathe. It instinctively moves its beak towards the air pocket between the shell membrane and the shell at the broad end of the egg to breathe through the holes on the base of its upper beak. It breaks the membrane and begins to inhale and exhale in the air pocket. Soon the oxygen depletes in the air pocket and the chick then pecks the shell for pursuit of more air. Within minutes it breaks out of it and emerges into the World!

The eggs of reptiles do also produce young which begin to move and eat as soon as they are born. But the eggs of birds that fly high produce nestlings which require tending from their parents. Hens hardly fly and are more of ground runners. Are they related to the reptiles? And using our imagination, can we see Cocks as descendants of Dinosaurs?

In nature, when a hen starts laying, she waits till she has collected about 15 to 20 eggs and then she sits on them to keep them at incubating temperature to produce the chicks. She stops feeding when she can see adequate number of eggs and prepares to sit for warming the eggs. She produces no more eggs till all the chicks are hatched out. It is this quality of the hen to produce a clutch of eggs before she stops laying, that the poultry-man uses to deceive the hen for her to continue producing more eggs. He removes the eggs as they are laid. She lays more eggs as she is unable to see the sizeable clutch for her to sit on for hatching. She continues to produce more eggs because she wants to have that minimum number to incubate! In this way the poultry-man induces a single hen to produce as many as 300 eggs in a year! He makes the hen annually produce eggs weighing more than 10 times her own weight!

The hen is such a wonderful bird that it keeps on laying eggs whether she has mated or not! She keeps on producing unfertilized eggs day after day weekly for 6 days and then takes the seventh day off! There is no other bird that produces so many unfertilized eggs per year. All for the benefit of Man! The hen is made for producing eggs for man's consumption! Eggs are a perfect food for humans for building and repairing their bodies.

The average egg weighs about 57 gram of which 7 g is the weight of the shell. The white weighs 33g of which Protein is 3.6g, and the yolk is 17g of which Protein is 2.9g and Fat 5.6g. Water content is almost 38g in the egg! The egg white has no fat, which is all a part of the yellow yolk.

The egg protein is the best food protein that we have. The quality of proteins in other foods is evaluated against the standard set by the egg protein! Both children and adults require proteins to build muscles and repair body tissue. You won't find a better protein and value for money!

Two thirds of the egg fat consists of Oleic acid similar to that found in Olive oil. The remaining third is saturated fat. The fat ratio is near ideal! Besides, the fat is so finely emulsified that it is easily digested even by infants!

Eggs contain vitamin A, vitamin B Complex and vitamin D, and an abundant supply of minerals, such as iron and phosphorus that are essential for building and maintaining strong, healthy bodies. But eggs are low in calcium (it is in the shell), and contain little or no vitamin C.

Some people wrongly shun eating egg due to its cholesterol content. They have nothing to fear as the research study published in The European Journal of Nutrition on 28th August 2008, has shown that eating two eggs per day, while on a calorie-restricted diet, succeeded not only in weight reduction but reduced their blood cholesterol levels, too!

Eggs are regularly eaten for breakfast as scrambled, poached, fried, as omelets or in boiled form. I would urge you to try the simple egg salad for breakfast. It's made from diced pieces of the white part of boiled eggs with a little mayonnaise and parsley or coriander garnish; salt and pepper to taste. There is no yellow yolk in it. The dish is mainly protein and is quite filling. But no matter how you eat the egg, it's an awesome nourishing food for us humans and our babies too! The incredible hen laying an egg a day for 300 day in a year, each with so much nutrition is such a wonderful gift of Nature! It's a blessing to feel good about!

Dilip Dahanukar is an IIT Powai alumnus. He is an experienced author having written 2 science fiction books 'eMaya' and 'Alien Man' which are available on Amazon and Borders. He has written articles on the net, which are widely read. Married to an artist, he is an avid gardener and enjoys nature.Visit the webpage of the author: Dilip Dahanukar

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