What a remarkable year for the 2023 Alabama 4-H Golden Egg Contest! We expanded our celebration this year to include first through third places, awarded prizes to the 4-H agents in the winning counties, and even changed how we judged the eggs by incorporating a new high tech egg device.
What is the Golden Egg Contest?
It is a test of a 4-H members’ management skills and attention to detail, both of which are valuable life skills.
The 4-H member enters a dozen eggs of the same shell color. A member may enter a dozen brown, a dozen white, and a dozen blue-green eggs. They strive for a dozen that is uniform in size and shape, uniform in shell color, clean, and of high interior quality.
Members are encouraged to candle the eggs to check for quality and to detect defects and also determine the size of the dozen they are entering.
Lastly, the yolk color is assessed with darker yolks having a higher Roche color. Members who manage their flock to yield a darker yolk color are rewarded with a higher score.
4-H members may enter eggs from a 4-H Chick Chain program, a 4-H Poultry Project, or from their family flock that they raised outside of the 4-H program.
A challenge is that members collect and clean their eggs in the summer which is difficult—many flocks may not be in lay during the hottest part of the summer. Collected eggs may be refrigerated to preserve the interior quality of the egg stays for a longer period.
The interior quality was measured, for the first time, by the use of the Egg Tester Ultimate made by ORKA Technologies. That means the egg is weighed, cracked open, the Haugh Unit measured, the Roche Color Score assessed, and shell thickness determined in about 30 seconds.
This objective measurement of the interior quality still depends on the eye of the judge to determine if blood spots or meat spots are present.
And the winners are…
The eggs that placed first through third place all came from West Alabama, and there was only a three-point difference among them!
In third place—A dozen eggs submitted by ten year-old Jake Roakes of Hale County 4-H was a brown-shelled dozen that was beautiful to behold. They were all packaged with small ends down, and were weighed and sized correctly.
His eggs were nearly free from exterior defects, had high interior scores, and strong shells. His score added up to 87 points.
A new 4-H agent in Hale and Perry Counties, Stephanie Nixon, encouraged Jake to enter his eggs. She encouraged Jake to watch the videos on how to pick his best dozen. “I needed kids in the county to know to try new things even if it is new to them and they are scared,” she said. Stephanie encourages hands-on learning with kids and adults.
In second place—Alaina Knight of Lamar County 4-H received just one additional point over the third place dozen, earning 88 points. Her brown-shelled eggs yielded a slightly higher exterior grading score. She entered a size small dozen, which should tell you that the best eggs aren’t always the largest.
Alaina was been working hard with her 4-H Avian Bowl team to expand her knowledge of her chickens. She was on a team with her sister and one other and they place second at the state contest.
Alaina’s 4-H agent overseeing Pickens and Lamar counties, Chelsey Gann, has really enjoyed expanding her knowledge of poultry subjects. She said her incentive for learning more was driven by the passion of her 4-H members to do their best.
Alaina and her sister will soon be old enough to compete in the Senior Avian Bowl or Senior Poultry Judging Contest and will no doubt he headed to nationals in due course.
Our First Place winner!
The best dozen eggs in Alabama 4-H was won once again by Alyssa Rios of Marengo County 4-H. Alyssa took the contest title in 2022, but this year she won with white-shelled eggs. She also entered brown-shelled eggs, but they did not place as high as her white dozen which garnered 90 points.
Alyssa has a self-proclaimed chicken addiction! Her family says that chickens are all that she thinks about. Alyssa wants to attend Auburn University to study Poultry Science, so her parents try to get her onto the AU campus as much as possible.
She has an interest in becoming a hatchery manager. Alyssa has expanded her flock and fully intends to give all the members of Alabama 4-H a run for their money in this contest for years to come.
Sharp-eyed readers may realize that Marengo County 4-H has won this contest four times. The 4-H agent in this county is Elizabeth Yates. She attributes success purely to the 4-H members who are serious about learning and doing well.
Both Mrs. Yates and Alyssa’s mom offer one piece of advice to any 4-H member entering this contest: Watch and follow the 4-H Golden Egg Contest videos on YouTube. She says the success of her 4-H poultry program in Marengo County is due to having great 4-H members who strive to improve their skills and knowledge.
Adversity builds adaptability
Remember, competition challenges 4-H members to become adaptable. Adaptable youth are more resilient, which is one of the many skills learned by 4-H members.
Adult volunteers in Alabama are few and far between. So whether you are in Alabama, or another state, and you enjoy poultry, consider becoming a 4-H poultry project volunteer and help youth get excited about chickens!
About the author
Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD, is a poultry scientist who has worked with small flock owners for more than a decade. Her expertise is being utilized at Auburn University in the development of curriculum for 4-H Youth Development's Animal Programs.