As chicken keepers, we have encountered them. Small. Cute. Maybe they were still in the nest box or perhaps stashed somewhere in the run or under a bush? Novice flock keepers may scratch their heads and wonder what exactly they are. But don’t wonder any longer, these pint-sized gems are pee wee eggs.
But before we delve into these eggs, let’s take a look at egg sizes. These standards were put into place by the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946 according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). And what is unique about this program, it is voluntary. Egg producers don’t have to participate, but for those that do, consumers have come to expect a uniform size (whether it be medium, large, or perhaps jumbo) when they purchase a dozen eggs.
As backyard poultry keepers, we are not bound by this program. Though there are those folks with larger flocks who will weigh out eggs and provide their patrons with a uniform dozen. But if you are like myself or some vendors at farmers’ markets, there is variety in the sizing. This is not because we don’t have a scale, but more than likely, because we don’t have a large enough flock to provide enough eggs of a consistent size to all of our buyers. In other words, we fill up cartons as our hens lay their eggs regardless of size.
In the United States, egg sizes are determined by the weight of a dozen eggs. Peewees are the smallest and therefore the lightest eggs categorized. An entire dozen of peewees must weigh at least 15 ounces, but less than 18 ounces per dozen. This averages out to 1.25 ounces per egg at a 15 ounce dozen.
Now you may say, “Well, I have never seen eggs that small at a grocery store”. For most stores across the country, medium-sized eggs are the smallest sold. Those eggs come in at least 21 ounces per dozen which averages to 1.75 ounces per egg. Large eggs are the most common size sold with a dozen weighing in at 24 ounces per dozen with individual eggs averaging 2 ounces each. (For you bakers and cooks out there, if an egg size is not listed in a recipe, it is commonly assumed that the egg size is large.)
As backyard chicken keepers, we get to experience the progression of egg sizes. Our young pullets start out by laying those cute, tiny eggs… peewees. But as the chicken matures and puts on more weight, the size of her egg increases. Now occasionally you may encounter a ‘wind’ egg which may or may not contain a yolk. These eggs are not to be confused with peewees which will contain yolks. Wind eggs also tend to be more round in shape and are usually half the size or smaller than a true peewee egg.
Even though a peewee egg sighting in a carton may be as rare as hen’s teeth, it does not diminish their value. Some chefs and restaurants seek them out because of the claimed superior flavor. Others prefer their size stating that they are perfect for hors d’oeuvres and don’t take as much work to peel as quail eggs.
So embrace the peewee egg. Prepare them for meals where their flavor will truly shine through in omelets, scrambled, or even over-easy. Or if you have enough to sell, pack them up in a dozen and start a new trend. Peewee eggs could become the next specialty egg allowing you to charge more for this tiny treasure.