This image shows a nest egg of good eggs displayed at 40% of viewport width.
May 2020 by Terry Verduin


An airborne engine screamed and roared
as over the fence that speedboat soared.
Dolly squawked and dove under her stool
as that errant boat landed in the pool.

To lay an egg or build a nest egg it helps to know a good egg from a bad egg, how birds make an egg and signs of an egg-laying hen.

Shop Guy? Male birds are called “cocks”. Game and domesticated males, used for meat, may be given other specialized names, such as “drake”, “gander”, “tom”, “gobbler” or “rooster”. All female birds are called “hens”.

Making an Entrance? Birds are not the only animals to hatch from eggs. Monotreme mammalian species and most reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, fish and insects lay eggs. These young are not born live.

Egg-Shape Science? Biologist Mary Caswell Stoddard of Princeton University studied 50,000 eggs from 1,400 bird species. She answered this mystery: Egg shape appears to be related to flight ability in birds.

Shape Shifts

Flight Load? The above study shows high-flying birds tend to lay elliptical, asymmetrical eggs. Short-range birds lay asymmetrical oval eggs. Non-flying birds, like ostriches or penguins lay eggs that are quite spherical in shape.

Different Eggs? Not all eggs resemble bird eggs. Some animals lay round eggs. Others lay spherical or oval eggs. The shells can be jelly-like, rubbery, soft, thin, leathery or hard. Fish and amphibians may lay eggs without shells.

Acid Wash? Beaked monotremes likely evolved from birds. Hind webbed limbs of male duck-billed platypuses have venomous spurs. Echidnas, or spiny anteaters, sport quills, hair and venomous organs with weak toxin.

Dreamscapes? To lay an egg also means to make a bad performance. This act may not be brought to immediate attention. Like the bad omen of a bird flying into a house, bad actions may continue to haunt an individual.

Egg Crafts

Cozy Spot? Decorating eggs can be a bright spot on any day. The eggs can be hard-boiled and colored with food-safe paint for eating. They also can be hollowed out to keep as treasured ornaments or family mementos.

Once Upon a Time? Creations from House of Fabergé, in St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia were made of gold, gemstones and other precious materials. Jeweled eggs need not remain things of Easters past. Ingenuity is of value.

Uncommon Thread? Egg art can help children understand the frailty and the magic of nature. Egg shells break. Successfully completing projects with these unique shapes and materials builds discipline, perseverance and pride.

Making Hearts Fly

Flight to Remember? Some parents push reluctant chicks out of the nest to send them on their way. Birds do not build a nest egg of assets for future purposes. Their production is expected to gain independence and fly away.

Sibling Rivalry? Nazca boobies, egrets, herons, pelicans, owls and eagles are known for siblicide. When eggs hatch separately, the early hatchlings push subsequently-hatched siblings to death landings below their nests.

Pastel Play? Avian species cannot employ locks or security devices. They can band together to protect their flock and nesting areas. Parrot parents take turns sitting on eggs. The chicks hatch in about 20-to-30 days.

Bronze Age

Net Worth? Parrots practice restraint before launching attacks. The cost to life may not be worth the effort. Parrots are responsible for their offspring for at least one year. Some chicks take four years to reach maturity.

Basic Instinct? Outside reactions or self-awareness may guide change. Why sit on eggs that cannot hatch? Why try to incubate unfertilized eggs of other hens? Why lay eggs in nests of other species? Birds do all of the above.

Evolutionary Success? If all birds could identify and oust alien eggs, breeding would fail for some biological parent species. Many birds incubate a wide variety of foreign eggs, then raise the hatchlings as their own.

Into the Woods

Freeloaders? Among opportunistic species are Cowbirds, Cuckoo Finches and Southern Red Bishops. These parasites dump their eggs into other species' nests. Another bird spends time or energy caring for these orphans.

Divine Intervention? Flocks are vulnerable to predators. To build a nest egg takes precaution, effort, time management and diligence, all of which are attributed to nesting birds. Human intervention may restore an injured flock.

Wild Country? Flocks may resettle in unspoiled territories. It is difficult to move forward with repeated setbacks. This may be why humans put effort into holding onto property of value. Birds live and work in the present.

Know a Good Egg from a Bad Egg

Hot Seat? There can be a bad egg. Bad eggs can result from illness, genetics, pollution and internal or external forces. This also defines unwelcome intruders in nests, homes, offices, restaurants, stores or vehicles.

Skin in the Game? State or federal licensing may be required to sell eggs from homes or by home delivery. These eggs may not require pasteurization, special washes or size grading, but “organic” labels must be certified.

Chef's Table? Illness caused by gifted or sold eggs may result in liability. Home insurance may not cover any damages caused by home business activities. Hiring lawyers at great cost may be required to fight legal claims.

Rotten Eggs? There's no need to crack or smell bad eggs. Placing an egg in a bowl of water tests freshness. Good eggs sink to the bottom. A sunken, upright egg is nearing expiration. A floating egg is no longer good to eat.

Lady Luck

Peak Form? Birds can suffer deadly egg binding. Obesity, malnutrition, stress or small body size may result in egg failure to exit the reproductive tract. Massages, warm baths, lubricants or calcium may help eggs pass.

Bad Break? If eggs break in the oviduct, resulting blockages can lead to bacterial infections in the bloodstream. Untreated, the toxins cause sepsis, a deadly inability to fight progression of illness, ending in organ malfunctions.

Fresh Takes? Birds have a poor sense of smell. They cannot detect scents left by humans on nests, babies or eggs. They do not recognize a good egg from a bad egg. Hens will lay on and protect artificial or natural eggs.

Outside the Lines? Some birds may not be able to distinguish a bird from a fish. An adult bird gained scientific attention after it was filmed putting food into goldfish's open mouth at the water surface.

Sunset Hour

Candling Eggs? Breeders expose eggs to candle, flashlight or incubator light to check fertility without damaging embryos. Circulatory system development, embryo shape and movement indicate life and hatchability.

Abandoned Eggs? Fertile eggs can survive for up to seven days in cool, unrefrigerated temperatures prior to commercial or natural incubation in the wild. Unincubated commercial eggs should be discarded after this period.

Soapbox? USDA|FAS does domestic and foreign inspections for safety, labeling and packaging of commercial poultry and egg products. Bad Egg producers may suffer steep product retrieval costs, public scorn and boycott.

Love Story

Higher Ground? Eggs are associated with new beginnings and Spring. Domestic and wild fowl lay fertile and infertile eggs. Infertile eggs will not hatch. Parrots typically lay from 2-to-8 fertile eggs during nesting season.

Laying Season? Most birds breed and lay eggs in spring. Not all species follow this pattern. Eagles are winter layers. The multiple laying seasons of robins and cardinals extend through late summer. Poultry breeds year-round.

Laying Time? Most birds spend a long period of quiet before they can lay eggs. Robins quickly lay eggs. Incubating birds and breeders turn the eggs over. This distributes heat and prevents embryos from sticking to the shells.

How Birds Make an Egg

Costume Drama? Different birds lay eggs of different colors. Chicken eggs come in many shades of white, brown, green, blue and pink. Aging hens have larger eggs in lighter colors. Pigment coverage has to stretch.

Uniform Look? Males and females have a cloaca for sperm or eggs, urine and feces. Males release sperm into the female cloaca for egg fertilization. Bird eggs are fertilized internally. Unfertilized eggs are avian menstruation.

Beauty Awakens? Birds are Oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Embryonic development happens within the egg. It hatches outside the parent. Not all eggs are incubated. Many eggs hatch without any adult involvement.

Fine Line

High Tide? External fertilization takes place in water. It occurs when male sperm connects with female eggs outside adult bodies. Most fish and all crustaceans, squid, mollusks, frogs and toads “spawn” to reproduce.

Beach Day? In Ovoviviparous species, egg embryos remain within a parent. Stingray, manta, snake and insect eggs develop inside females. Seahorse males incubate eggs in pouches until they hatch for live delivery.

Current Affair? Parrots mate for life. Breeding seasons vary. Care for young is consistent. Nestlings are too young to develop flight wings. Fledglings receive continuing care while practicing flight at about 4 months of age.

Forward Thinking? Chicks require close care during the first two weeks. They are blind during this time. Adult avian species identify predators. They know when to be quiet for danger avoidance and when to squawk in warning.

Signs of an Egg-Laying Hen

In Full Bloom? A hen ready to lay an egg has a swollen abdomen. She picks and prepares a quiet spot by shredding materials or digging out obstructions. She remains in place, without eating, throughout the egg-laying process.

Finest Hour? As the egg exits the vent in the cloaca, her tail may wiggle back and forth. She may strain. The narrow end of the egg must exit first, or it may get bound. This can be life-threatening for the mother and the egg.

Manual Override? Laying eggs is very hard on birds. Exotic bird breeders discourage breeding behavior for safety. Removal of stimulating toys, other birds and nesting areas may work. Hormone injections may be required.

Dream Team? Parrots only lay eggs with mates in the wild. Hilary S. Stern, DVM, For the Birds, gives tips on Discouraging Breeding Behavior in Pet Birds. Egg laying can be prevented to reduce accompanying health risks.

Kick It

Stripe Back? Birds are hormonal and territorial. They lash out to protect nests. These may be the world's most expensive culinary ingredient. Parrot nests are not harvested for the bird's nest soup market.

Go with the Flow? Birds faced with danger become anxious. Concern over nests in trees, tunnels or rock crevices typically leads to skill acquisition and avoidance of errors. Learning also comes with eating expired eggs.

Shore Leave? Learning about eggs laid by others can be fun. This is especially true when the outcomes are amusing. The world welcomes people, animals and things that are pleasant, agreeable and trustworthy.

Behind the Music? In the video below of the author's “grand chicks”, provided by her daughter, hens sing to announce the arrival of eggs. Chickens tend to remain chatty throughout the incubation period. (11 seconds)