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The rubbery yolk problem.

Several readers have complained that their chickens layed eggs with rubbery yolks. We had no answers for them ... until now.

A New York poultry farmer had the same problem. Boiled, the yolks from his chickens' eggs could be bounced like rubber balls. He was losing customers. Fearful that his flock had contracted some new disease, he took his problem to Cornell University.

Scientists were puzzled but intrigued. Unlike normal runny yolks these didn't even break open when pricked with a fork. One researcher picked up a raw yolk with his fingers, passed it around the laboratory, and it didn't break.

The culprit turned out to be velvetleaf. This large, fast-growing weed with luxurious leaves that give it its name, produces an abundance of brown-to-black heart-shaped seeds. Free-range chickens eat the seeds, but since the plant is a common pest in corn and soybean fields, it can also end up in harvested grains.

The seeds contain two fatty acids that deactivate a hen's liver enzyme which ordinarily converts saturated acids into unsaturated fats. When the enzyme is inactive, the eggs have more saturated fat. This causes the yolks to turn rubbery within 24 hours.

A ration containing as little as 1.5 percent velvetleaf seeds produced yolks with 55.3 percent saturated fats, compared with 33.5 percent in rations without the seed.

The most likely cure for free-range birds would be to eliminate velvetleaf from their foraging area. -- Reprinted from 77/1
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Previous Article:Cleaning and disinfecting poultry houses.
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