Got it cracked! Show­ing eggs

David Her­bert, nick­named The Egg Man, re­veals ev­ery­thing you need to know about show­ing eggs

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - Fol­low Dave on Twit­ter: @her­mitcrabeggs

The first step when it comes to show­ing eggs is to get your en­tries sub­mit­ted to the show sec­re­tary after giv­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to your likely con­tenders. In the run-up to the show, en­sure that your en­tries are up to scratch. On the day it­self you will need to make your fi­nal decisions and be sure to be or­gan­ised. It is all to easy to for­get those vi­tal passes, tick­ets, di­rec­tions and other rel­e­vant pa­per­work. Then ex­pect a rest­less night’s sleep and an early awak­en­ing to get loaded and mov­ing.

Ar­rival at the show­ground usu­ally means a dash to your sec­tion where you will need to un­pack, ap­ply some fin­ish­ing touches to your en­tries and get ready for the judg­ing. If you have been to an agri­cul­tural show you will have seen judges of var­i­ous dis­ci­plines mak­ing their as­sess­ments of the cows, sheep and birds on dis­play. They get hands-on to have a feel for mus­cu­lar struc­ture or con­form­ity and they look square at the ex­hibit to get a sense of pro­por­tion and line. They don’t for­get the back end ei­ther, en­sur­ing that all is clean and in or­der. Over­all, they are check­ing that all points meet the nec­es­sary stan­dards for the breed or type.

But just how do you go about judg­ing or se­lect­ing eggs? What is it that you’re look­ing for when pre­sent­ing your own egg ex­hibits in the poul­try sec­tions? Ac­tu­ally, whether it be large fowl, ban­tam, wa­ter­fowl or even turkey, it is much the same prin­ci­ple.

Let’s start with the shape. This should be, well, egg shaped. An egg that is too round or thin and nar­row is no good. Par­tic­u­larly for chick­ens, we want to see a broader base and a nar­rower top. Next we look at the shell and how it was formed. There are any num­ber of un­de­sir­able fea­tures we hope to avoid. The shell should be smooth, with no wrin­kles, pim­ples, cracks or holes. There should be no ex­cess cal­cium de­posits on the sur­face and no vis­i­ble ar­eas of thin or translu­cent shell.

Now we look at the colour. If a pig­ment is ap­plied to the shell we want to see a smooth, even field of colour around the whole egg. Some breeds, such as Marans or Wel­sum­mers (which will some­times have their own ded­i­cated egg classes), will lay down ex­tra pig­ment which can re­sult in mot­tling.

If this oc­curs we want to see an even ap­pli­ca­tion and con­sis­tent pat­tern to the mot­tling across the en­tire sur­face. There should be no marks from nest boxes or claws and it goes with­out say­ing that the egg should be clean.

It is deemed ac­cept­able to wash your eggs for a show. How­ever, a judge can dis­qual­ify an egg which smells of de­ter­gent or looks pol­ished. It is also for­bid­den to bleach or at­tempt to colour an egg in any way.

I tend not to wash my eggs, but in­stead rely on a clean­li­ness regime. At a push, I might just wipe a spot or two with a (fra­grance-free and re­cy­cleable) baby wipe.

Now we’ve got a good egg. The next chal­lenge is to match three or more of the same to pro­duce a set of eggs as iden­ti­cal as pos­si­ble. Some shows even fea­ture classes of 12 match­ing eggs – not an easy feat to achieve, I can as­sure you. I like to think that I’ve de­vel­oped an eye for egg match­ing and se­lec­tion and get ab­so­lute plea­sure and joy from the prepa­ra­tion and choos­ing of my ex­hibits. I find it al­most zen-like to shut my­self away with a few trays of eggs and make my decisions, find­ing that proper prepa­ra­tion, con­sis­tency and at­ten­tion to de­tail tend to pro­duce bet­ter re­sults and make the process a plea­sure.

About a month be­fore the show I pick which classes I’m go­ing to en­ter and I send my en­try form to the sec­tion sec­re­tary. I need to plan for which birds are go­ing to be lay­ing come show time — I could be wait­ing for

ju­ve­niles to turn POL, an­tic­i­pat­ing the end of a moult or deal­ing with brood­ies by then.

The week be­fore the show I en­sure that all nest boxes are clean and I make sure that the birds have clean feet and bot­toms so that they are not dirty­ing the eggs or boxes as they lay. I col­lect the eggs as many times a day as fea­si­ble to en­sure clean­li­ness and to pre­vent dam­age. Next, I sort my eggs into colours – a tray for white, a tray for dark brown, etc, so that I can look for con­sis­tency and read­ily iden­tify any that don’t make the grade as far as colour is con­cerned.

Now it is a case of go­ing through those eggs and dis­card­ing the ones that have faults.

For this I need good, prefer­ably nat­u­ral, light to best see and I will also, on oc­ca­sion, use a mag­ni­fy­ing glass or can­dling torch to check for hair­line cracks or thin spots.

With my trays of eggs now whit­tled down, it is time to start picking sin­gle eggs or match­ing groups as per the en­tries.

For con­tents classes it is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent as the qual­ity of the ex­ter­nal shell isn’t judged (un­less it is a spe­cific In­ter­nal/ Ex­ter­nal class). Here, I take the eggs and break them open to have a look. On show day, the judge will be look­ing for a good thick al­bu­men that doesn’t sep­a­rate too eas­ily. The yolk will need to be pert and nicely rounded with a good rich colour. It should also be free of blood or meat spots. A fer­tile egg show­ing a white blas­togerm is ac­cept­able, pro­vid­ing in­cu­ba­tion hasn’t be­gun. My se­lec­tions will be picked from birds show­ing these at­tributes dur­ing the run up and only ever taken from those laid the day be­fore the show. I hope that by show­ing con­sis­tency dur­ing this pe­riod I can rely on the birds to de­liver on the day.

With the eggs cho­sen, they then get packed away ready for the com­pe­ti­tion. I used to carry bag­fuls of egg boxes, but now use a cou­ple of make-up cases adapted to hold egg trays. These are ideal – they pro­vide se­cu­rity, dark­ness and help to pro­tect the eggs from tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions. They also con­ve­niently fit into the car’s child seat, so I strap them in safely for the jour­ney.

On ar­rival at the show I col­lect my plate numbers from the sec­tion sec­re­tary and lay out my en­tries. I al­ways try to pre­sent the very best view of my eggs. The judge will pick up each one to scru­ti­nise it, but a good first im­pres­sion al­ways helps. This done, I’ll take a step back, dou­ble check I’m on all the right plates and that all the eggs are look­ing as good as pos­si­ble. From here on in there is noth­ing more that I can do but wait for the judg­ing to be com­pleted.

I never go to a show ex­pect­ing re­sults – you sim­ply never know what will hap­pen on the day – but I like to think that proper prepa­ra­tion and con­sid­ered se­lec­tions will en­sure that you and your birds (there­fore your eggs) have a fight­ing chance of a card.

In the rib­bons

After fol­low­ing these steps, at the North Som­er­set Show in May, I took 24 en­tries for six classes. I’m pleased to re­port that out of a pos­si­ble 18 cards I ob­tained five thirds, four sec­onds and five firsts.

I was par­tic­u­larly happy to sweep the board for Large Fowl and Wa­ter­fowl con­tents, but the real ic­ing on the cake was clinch­ing the Best Eggs in Show prize for our Three Large Any Colour.

Once again, it seems the hard work and ef­fort paid off. Good luck to you.

I used to carry bag­fuls of egg boxes, but now use a cou­ple of makeup cases adapted to hold egg trays

PCGB judge Kevin Brown in ac­tion

Win­ning Wa­ter­fowl con­tents en­try

Crack­ing an egg for con­tents judg­ing

Nest box check... with oc­cu­pant

Nest box check

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