Chicken Eggs. The Incredible Edible Egg!

By Chicken Pets on
Chicken Eggs. The Incredible Edible Egg!

The chicken egg is a true marvel of nature, boasting a complex and delicate structure that protects and nurtures a new life. Yet, despite the egg’s ubiquity in modern life – found on grocery store shelves, restaurant menus, and in countless recipes – few take the time to appreciate the incredible intricacies of this humble food. From the way it is formed within the hen’s body to the science of how it cooks, the chicken egg is a fascinating subject that merits our attention. So, get ready to be amazed as we explore the incredible world of eggs and uncover the mysteries behind this tiny but mighty creation.

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What is a chicken egg?

chicken egg yolk

At first glance, a chicken egg might seem like a simple, one-dimensional object – but how wrong you would be! An egg is a complex, multi-layered structure bursting with various components. Let’s take a closer look!

Anatomy of a Chicken Egg:

chicken egg anatomy

  • The Yolk — The yolk is the yellow, oval-shaped center of the egg. It’s full of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals – everything a growing chick needs to get started in life!
  • The White (Albumen) — The white, or albumen, surrounds the yolk and acts as a cushion and source of hydration. It’s made up of water, protein, and mineral ions.
  • The Shell — The shell is the hard outer layer of the egg, designed to protect the precious contents within. It’s made up of calcium carbonate and a variety of other minerals.
  • The Bloom or Cuticle — The bloom is a thin layer of mucus on the egg’s surface, which helps to keep bacteria out and moisture in.
  • Inner and Outer Membranes — Beneath the shell lies a thin inner membrane, followed by a thicker outer membrane. These two layers help to keep the egg fresh and prevent bacteria from getting in.
  • The Air Cell — You’ll find the air cell at the large end of the egg. This tiny pocket of air forms as the egg cools after being laid. As the egg ages, this air cell grows larger, causing the egg to float in water (a handy way to tell if an egg is fresh!).
  • The Chalazae — The chalazae are two thick, rope-like structures that hold the yolk in place in the center of the egg.
  • The Vitelline Membrane — The vitelline membrane surrounds the yolk and helps to keep its shape.
  • The Blastodisc or Blastoderm — The blastodisc (or blastoderm) is the thin layer of cells on the yolk’s surface, from which a chick will eventually develop.

And there you have it! A detailed overview of the many components of a chicken egg. Who knew something so small could be so complex and fascinating?

So, the next time someone asks you, “what’s in an egg?” you can proudly reply with, “Why, just about everything a growing chick needs to get started in life – plus a few membranes, a dash of calcium carbonate, and a pinch of chalazae, of course!”

Chicken Egg Sizes, From Peewee to Super Jumbo

chicken egg sizes

When it comes to chicken eggs, size matters! But just how big or small are they? The answer may surprise you.

Chicken eggs come in various sizes, from tiny quail eggs to jumbo-sized eggs from larger breeds. In fact, there are seven different sizes of chicken eggs recognized by the USDA: peewee, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, and the aptly named “super jumbo.”

So, what determines the size of a chicken egg?

It all comes down to the breed of the chicken. Smaller breeds, such as bantams, lay smaller eggs, while larger breeds, such as Jersey Giants, lay larger eggs. But interestingly, the age of the chicken also plays a role, younger chickens lay smaller eggs than older chickens.

But don’t be fooled by the egg size. Small eggs can pack just as much nutrition as larger ones. The nutrient content of an egg is not affected by its size, so no matter what size egg you choose, you’re still getting a great source of protein and other essential nutrients.

Whether you’re cracking open a small egg for a quick breakfast or impressing your friends with a super jumbo egg, remember that size doesn’t matter when it comes to the nutritional value of your chicken eggs.

Egg-citing Egg Anomalies: Double Yolks and Fairy Eggs!

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Double yolks and fairy eggs are two examples of egg anomalies that can surprise even experienced chicken keepers.

Double yolks (super jumbo) occur when a hen’s reproductive system releases two yolks into the same eggshell. This can happen when a hen is young and her reproductive system is still developing or when a hen is older and her reproductive system is slowing down. Double yolks can be a fun and delicious surprise when cracking open an egg, but they can also indicate health problems in the hen, so watching your flock is essential.

Fairy eggs, also known as wind eggs or witch eggs, are another type of egg anomaly. These small, yolkless eggs are typically less than an inch in size and can be laid by hens of any age or breed. They are believed to be caused by a glitch in the hen’s reproductive system that prevents the yolk from developing properly. While they may seem strange, fairy eggs are usually nothing to worry about and are a natural part of a hen’s egg-laying cycle.

So, the next time you crack open an egg and find a surprise inside, whether it’s a double yolk or a fairy egg, remember that it’s all part of the magic of keeping backyard chickens.

Egg Colors: The Rainbow of Chicken Eggs!

chicken egg colors

It’s not just about size, color also plays a role in the egg-citement! Chicken eggs come in a variety of colors, from classic white and brown to shades of blue, green, and even pink.

So, what determines the color of a chicken egg?

It all comes down to genetics. Different breeds of chickens are programmed to lay eggs of different colors based on the color of their earlobes. Yes, you read that right. A chicken’s earlobes can give clues to the color of the eggs it will lay. Chickens with white earlobes typically lay white eggs, while those with red earlobes lay brown eggs. And if you’re looking for something a little more exotic, breeds such as Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers can lay eggs in shades of blue and green.

But don’t be fooled by the color of the eggshell, it doesn’t affect the flavor or nutritional content of the egg. White and brown eggs are nutritionally identical, and the color of the yolk can vary based on the hen’s diet.

Yolk It Up: The Colorful World of Chicken Egg Yolks!

chicken egg yolks

When it comes to chicken eggs, the yolk is the star of the show. The most common yolk color is yellow, resulting from a diet rich in yellow and orange pigments such as xanthophylls. These pigments can be found in foods such as corn, marigold petals, and alfalfa meal, which can be included in a chicken’s diet to produce a deeper yellow yolk color. Hens fed a diet high in greens can produce yolks that are a deep shade of green, while those from Araucana or Ameraucana chickens may contain shades of blue and green!

If you want to encourage darker yolks in your backyard flock, add pigmented foods to their diet. Options include dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, alfalfa meal, and marigold petals. Beets are another great option. Simply grate them and mix them into your chickens’ feed.

While the color of a chicken egg yolk can vary based on the hen’s diet, the nutritional content of the yolk is not affected. The color of the yolk does not necessarily indicate the quality of the egg. Regardless of the color of the yolk, fresh backyard eggs are a great source of protein and other essential nutrients.

So, whether you prefer your yolks yellow, green, or even blue, yolk it up and enjoy the colorful world of chicken eggs!

The Egg-citing Journey: When Chickens Start Laying Eggs

chicken laying eggs

Welcome to the wonderful world of backyard chickens! These feathered friends are a joy, providing fresh eggs from your backyard. But have you ever wondered when your chickens will start laying eggs? And how long will they lay eggs? Well, wonder no more!

What’s the Cluck? Factors Affecting Egg-laying in Chickens

  • Age — Like humans, chickens have a prime time for laying eggs. Most chickens hit their stride around 5-6 months old.
  • Breeds — Different breeds lay different amounts of eggs; some are egg-laying machines, while others are more relaxed in their egg production. Just like humans, every chicken has its personality.
  • Lighting conditions — Chickens need a certain amount of light to lay eggs. Ensure your coop has enough light for your feathered friends to feel productive.
  • Diet — A balanced diet is vital to healthy egg-laying. Treat your chickens to a well-rounded meal plan, and they’ll repay you with eggs.
  • Health — Happy chickens lay happy eggs. Keep a close eye on your chicken’s health to ensure they are in tip-top shape.

The Egg-citing Average

  • 5-6 Months — Most chickens start laying their first eggs around this age. This is the time to start checking your coop for eggs!
  • Bantams — These little ladies can start laying as early as four months old. They may be small but pack a punch in the egg department.
  • Heritage Breeds — These breeds take their time, starting at 7-8 months. But the wait is worth it. Their eggs are delicious and have a unique flavor that sets them apart from other breeds.

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

Chickens typically lay eggs for 2-3 years; however, some chickens can lay eggs for five years or longer with proper care and nutrition. As chickens age, their egg production may decrease, but getting eggs from an older hen is still possible.

Every chicken is different, and their egg-laying journey will be unique. With the proper care, environment, and love, your backyard chickens will start laying eggs in no time. So, sit back, relax, and wait for the eggs to roll in. Happy egg hunting!

The Science of Egg Laying: The Incredible Adventures of Mountain and Her Egg

chicken egg laying process

Once upon a time, there was a plucky little hen named Mountain. Mountain was a hard-working bird who lived on a farm with her friends. Every day, Mountain went about her business, scratching for food and napping in the sun. But there was something special about Mountain. She could lay eggs! And not just any eggs, but perfect, round, tasty eggs that were sought after by the farmer and his family. Join us on a journey as we follow Mountain as she lays an egg and discovers all the significant steps in this incredible feat of biology. Get ready for some egg-citing science and a side of humor as we explore the wonderful world of chicken egg-laying!

Mountain was an ordinary hen with a plump belly, fluffy feathers, and two curious eyes. However, she had an exceptional talent – she could lay eggs. And what an incredible adventure that was!

It all started with sunlight. Mountain knew that she couldn’t lay eggs without a dose of the warm and cheerful sun rays. So, she went outside, basked in the sun, and closed her eyes. Little did she know, the light was entering her photosensitive gland, and laying an egg was about to begin.

A chicken’s photosensitive gland, the pineal gland or the third eye, is a small, light-sensitive organ in the bird’s brain. This gland is responsible for regulating the chicken’s circadian rhythms, or natural sleep-wake cycle, and is particularly sensitive to changes in light. When exposed to light, the photosensitive gland produces hormones that help regulate the bird’s daily activity patterns, including feeding, breeding, and rest. In chickens, this gland is vital for maintaining proper egg-laying schedules, as it helps to ensure that hens lay their eggs during the appropriate season and time of day. The photosensitive gland is one of the many fascinating adaptations that make chickens unique and remarkable creatures.

The first stop of Mountain’s journey was her ovary. Inside, she had lots of egg yolks in various stages of development. One day, a mature yolk was released into the two-inch-long opening of her oviduct, called the infundibulum. And that’s where the magic started!

The yolk traveled through the 25-27 inches long oviduct, and all the other parts of the egg joined the yolk on its way. The yolk first stopped in the magnum, a 13-inch section where it spent three hours while the albumen was added. Then, it traveled to the isthmus, a four-inch area, where the inner and outer membranes were added, and the egg shape we recognize took form.

Next, Mountain’s egg entered the shell gland, a four to five-inch section in the hen’s uterus. This is where the egg’s shell was formed, and the color was determined. The 20-plus-hour process required about 47 percent of the calcium in Mountain’s bones to form the shell. But don’t worry, Mountain’s body processes change some of her bones from structural to porous, making it easier for her to extract the calcium. And once she stops laying, she’ll consume more calcium than she uses up, replenishing her supply quickly.

During the egg-laying cycle, hens require a large amount of calcium to form the eggshell, which results in calcium mobilization from their bones. To meet the high demand for calcium, the hen’s body converts some of her bones to a specialized bone tissue known as medullary bone, which is highly porous and rich in calcium. About 47% of the calcium stored in a hen’s bones is estimated to be used for eggshell formation during the laying cycle. Making bones porous is a remarkable adaptation that allows birds to produce calcium-rich eggshells without depleting their calcium reserves. Once the laying cycle ends, hens can replenish their bone mass by consuming a calcium-rich diet.

Finally, the egg was complete. The shell gland pushed the egg into the four-inch-long cloaca, a muscle that pushed the egg out of the vent (the same opening where eggs and poop come out!). The shell gland gripped the egg so tightly that the organ got turned inside out as it passed through the cloaca and the vent. The blood-engorged tissue will protrude around the edges of the vent as the egg is being laid, then withdraw back inside as soon as the egg drops. This keeps the egg clean.

And with a final push, Mountain’s egg was out! It came out wet because Mountain applied the bloom just before the egg was laid. It took approximately 30 seconds for the bloom to dry, and there it was, a fresh and beautiful egg, ready to be collected and enjoyed.

The “bloom,” also known as the “cuticle,” is a protective coating that is naturally present on the surface of a freshly laid egg. It is a waxy substance secreted by the hen’s oviduct just before the egg is laid. The bloom is a natural barrier that helps to protect the egg from bacteria, moisture, and other contaminants that could penetrate the eggshell.

Chicken Egg Laying Behaviors

chicken egg laying behaviors

Eggstravaganza! From physical transformations to behavior alterations, nest-making to vocalizations, this section will guide you through the egg-citing journey of egg production. So grab a basket of eggs, sit back, and let’s get egg-ucated!

Egg-cellent Physical Changes: What to Look For

It’s time to turn your attention to your hens and look for tell-tale physical changes that signal they are about to start laying eggs. Get your egg-specting glasses on because we’re about to lay out (pun intended) the fundamental physical changes to watch for in your chickens.

Red Hot Comb & Wattles: A Sure Sign of Egg-citement

Have you noticed that your hen’s comb and wattles have become redder than a rooster’s behind in a fire truck? This is a classic sign that she is getting ready to lay eggs. The increased blood flow to these areas results from hormonal changes accompanying egg production. It’s like a ‘laying signal light’ has turned on!

Feathers & Fluff: An Egg-travagant Transformation

Another physical change to look out for is a fluffier behind and more glossy feathers. Your hen is getting ready to lay eggs, and she’s preening herself to look egg-cellent! This is a sure sign that she’s prepared to lay eggs and show off her new and improved look.

Chest Puffs & Softening Breast: The Egg-panding Stage

You may also notice that your hen’s chest has become broader and softer. The breast area will feel less bony as the reproductive system prepares for egg production, and this is a clear signal that your hen is ready to lay eggs.

So, as you can see, these physical changes are the chicken equivalent of a billboard advertising that she’s ready to lay eggs. Keep an egg-cited eye out for these changes; before you know it, you’ll enjoy fresh eggs for breakfast!

Behavioral Changes: Are Your Hens Hatching Plans for Laying Eggs?

Now that you’ve learned about the physical changes that signal your hens are about to start laying, it’s time to look at the behavioral changes before the big event. Your feathered friends will act differently in the lead-up to laying, so let’s explore what to look out for.

Increased Restlessness and Appetite

One of the first things you might notice is that your hens seem a little more restless and hungry. They may start to scratch around more or look for extra food. This is all part of preparing their bodies for laying, so don’t be surprised if you see them being a little more active.

basket chicken eggs

A Change in Vocalization

You might also notice that your hens make a few more noises than usual. They may start to cluck more loudly or make a higher-pitched sound. This is all part of the excitement leading up to laying, so don’t be alarmed if your backyard is a little more vocal than usual.

Squat Squad

One of the most significant behavioral changes you’ll notice is the increased squatting frequency. Chickens will squat submissively, with their butt sticking up and their wings perched backward when you come up behind them. This is a great time to pick them up and cuddle them, as they’ll be much more relaxed. If you notice your hens squatting more, it’s only a matter of time before they start laying eggs.

Nesting in the Chicken Coop: A Real-Estate Hunt

Regarding egg-laying, chickens know what they want in a nest – a quiet, secluded, and comfortable spot. As the big day approaches, your feathered friends will start spending more time in the nest boxes, checking out the available options and making their final decision. Keep an eye out for circular prints in the nest box, as this indicates your chickens are getting cozy and making their nest ready for the eggs to come.

If you want to push your chickens in the right direction, put some fake eggs in the nest box. This can give them a sense of what’s expected and help them choose the right spot for their real eggs. After all, chickens are intelligent creatures and want to ensure their precious eggs are in good hands.

But what makes a nest box suitable for egg-laying? A few factors influence the chickens’ choice, such as the size, shape, location of the box, and the material used for bedding. The nest box should be big enough for the chicken to stand in but small enough to feel cozy and protected, and the entrance should be low and face away from the main coop area to ensure privacy. As for bedding, it should be soft, absorbent, and made of materials like straw or wood shavings.

So, what can you do as a backyard chicken owner to provide suitable nesting options? Make sure you have enough nest boxes for the chickens in your coop, and place them in a quiet and convenient area. Offer a variety of sizes and shapes, and change the bedding regularly to keep it clean and comfortable. These simple tips will give your chickens the perfect place to lay their eggs and enjoy the egg-laying process.

The Musical Melodies of Laying Hens

Chickens are talented birds – they can sing a tune of at least 24 distinct sounds, each with its special meaning. Some of these tunes will start to play as the time for laying an egg draws near. Let’s look at some of the most common clucking creations.

Understanding chickens’ noises during egg laying can help minimize stress and create a peaceful environment for your feathered friends. So, grab a notebook and jot down these tunes – they’ll come in handy when figuring out what’s going on in the coop!

“Growling” – the Protective Parent

Chickens can growl, just like dogs! This low, guttural sound is used when a hen feels threatened by an invader or a perceived danger to her eggs. Broody hens are the ones who growl the most as they fiercely protect their nest. If you hear a growling hen, it’s best to give her some space. She’s trying to tell you she’s unhappy with your presence and may start puffing up her feathers and pecking at you if you don’t heed her warning.

“Buck-buck-buck” – the Solo Act

When a hen wants to lay an egg, she might give a soft “buck-buck-buck.” She tells the other hens to provide her with some personal space and quiet time for laying. It’s also a sign that an egg is on the horizon.

“Buck-buck-buck-ba-gawk!” – The Big Finish, The Egg Song

When your hen finally manages to lay that egg, she might feel a bit giddy and burst into a joyous cackle. This is what is famously known as the egg song! This song can last from a minute to several minutes, and it’s the hen’s way of letting the world (or at least her feathered friends) know that an egg has been laid.

There are several theories as to why hens sing the egg song. Some believe that the song is a celebratory announcement – after all, who wouldn’t be happy to have laid an egg? Others think it’s a way for the hen to call out to her friends, who might be wandering around elsewhere, so they can find each other. Then some believe that the egg song is a clever ruse – by singing, the hen draws attention away from her precious eggs and toward herself, thus sacrificing herself to protect her eggs from potential predators.

While the theories abound, one thing is sure: the egg song is a unique and fascinating aspect of hen behavior. If you’ve ever seen a hen break out into an egg song, you’ll understand why it’s a treat for the ears! And when other hens join in the singing, it’s an extraordinary moment. After a bit of singing, the hen will often leave the coop and head straight toward her feathered friends, and the egg song continues until they are together.

So, if you hear a chorus of cackling and squawking from your coop, don’t be alarmed – it’s just your hens belting out their egg songs!

Gathering, Cleaning, and Storing Chicken Eggs

gathering cleaning storing eggs

Gather ’round, fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts! It’s time to dive into one of the most exciting parts of owning your hens – gathering, cleaning, and storing their eggs. Not only is this a fun task, but it’s also crucial in ensuring the health and happiness of your feathered friends. We’ll cover all the tips and tricks you need to know to become a master at hen housekeeping.

Collecting Eggs – Uncovering Your Hen’s Hidden Treasures

Gathering fresh eggs from your backyard chickens is a delightful experience requiring some detective work. Start by checking the coop and nest boxes as soon as possible after the eggs are laid to prevent any breakage by other hens. However, discovering where your hens have cleverly concealed their eggs is one of the challenges of backyard egg collection. Scour every nook and cranny to ensure you’ve found all the eggs.

And if you come across any broken eggs, don’t fret. Remove and dispose of them properly to avoid any health hazards or odors. Now, get ready to bask in the glory of your backyard egg bounty!

Cleaning and Storing Fresh Eggs

Once you have those eggs, how do you store them to maximize their freshness and longevity? Let’s look closer at the best practices for storing fresh eggs!

Can I Store Fresh Eggs at Room Temperature?

Yes, you can! Unwashed, freshly-laid eggs can be stored at room temperature for several weeks. This is especially true if you have backyard chickens or purchase local eggs from a farm stand or farmer’s market. Remember, if in doubt, always store eggs in the refrigerator to be safe.

Wash Them or Not?

I recommend waiting to wash your fresh eggs until you’re about to use them. That’s right. Giving them a spa day is unnecessary until you’re ready to cook with them. By avoiding washing the eggs, you’re helping extend their shelf life and freshness. But, if they’re covered in dirt or poop or need a rinse, go ahead and wash them – make sure to store them in the refrigerator after that. To wash eggs, rinse them under warm water and gently rub them. No need for soap, vinegar, or bleach!

Collect Them Regularly

Don’t let your eggs linger in the coop for too long! The sooner you collect them, the fresher they’ll be. Try to collect eggs at least once a day or twice a day. If you let the eggs lay in the nesting boxes too long, they should get crushed by other hens. And, if your chickens like to lay eggs in random places, help them get in the habit of laying in the nest boxes by placing some wooden dummy eggs inside, and they’ll get the hint! Finally, change the bedding in the nest boxes as needed.

How Long Can You Store Fresh Eggs at Room Temperature?

According to various sources, you can store fresh eggs at room temperature for no more than 2-3 weeks. However, this recommendation is more about maintaining optimal eating quality than food safety. As eggs age, the protein structure degrades, causing the egg whites to become runnier and the yolks to stand less tall and round. Eggs stored at room temperature will degrade more quickly than those stored in the refrigerator, and the warmer your home, the faster it will happen. So, to be safe, keep eggs at room temperature for no more than a week or just a few days if it’s hot and humid.

How Long are Fresh Eggs Good When Stored in the Refrigerator?

Storing fresh eggs in the refrigerator will significantly increase their shelf life. Unwashed eggs can be safely stored in the fridge for 2-3 months. Washed eggs will lose moisture and quality faster, but they’re still okay to consume within the same time frame. Just make sure to store washed eggs in an enclosed container in the refrigerator to reduce moisture loss and minimize bacteria absorption.

And, once eggs are refrigerated, they should stay that way – according to the USDA, “a cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria.” So, leave refrigerated eggs at room temperature for no more than 2 hours.

Tips for Storing Eggs

Store eggs with the round end up and the pointy end facing down. There’s an air sac within the rounded end, and when it’s on top, it acts like a little balloon of insulation, helping to reduce evaporation and moisture loss. Keeping the air sac at the top of the egg is like giving it a cozy little blanket to snuggle under!

The Protective “Bloom”: Everything You Need to Know!

Every egg has a natural coating called a “bloom” that helps to keep bacteria out. But once you wash an egg, you remove the bloom, making it easier for bacteria to enter the egg. That’s why it’s essential only to wash eggs when necessary or just before use. The bloom helps keep the egg fresher for longer and is an important defense mechanism that allows eggs to remain edible for several weeks after laying them.

Fertilization: To Wash or Not to Wash?

If you’re wondering about fertilized eggs, the answer is still the same: washing them when necessary or just before using them is best. Fertilized eggs have a yolk that contains a developing embryo, which makes them a little more delicate than non-fertilized eggs. So, let’s give that tiny chickens-to-be a little extra TLC by not washing them unless necessary!

Pasteurization: Heat it Up!

If you’re concerned about bacteria, you can pasteurize your eggs by gently heating them in water. This will kill bacteria and remove the bloom, so refrigerate the eggs after pasteurizing them.

Signs of Egg Freshness or Age: The Float Test!

One of the simplest ways to test the freshness of an egg is to perform the “float test.” Fill a bowl or jar with cold water and gently place the egg inside. If it sinks and lays flat on the bottom, it’s a fresh egg. If it stands upright, it’s still good but getting a little older. If it floats to the top, it’s best to compost it and find a fresher egg to enjoy.

With all this information, you can store your eggs like a pro! Whether they’re from your backyard chickens or the grocery store, you’ll know exactly how to keep them fresh and delicious for as long as possible. Happy egg-storing!

Recap: The TLDR of Egg Storage

  • Unwashed fresh eggs can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 weeks or in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.
  • Washing eggs before using them is recommended to extend their shelf life and freshness. Washed eggs can be stored in an enclosed container in the refrigerator.
  • Collect eggs regularly, at least once a day, and store them with the rounded end up and the pointy end facing down.
  • Every egg has a natural coating, or “bloom,” that helps keep bacteria out. Washing an egg removes the bloom and makes it easier for bacteria to enter the egg.
  • It is best not to wash fertilized eggs unless necessary.
  • Bacteria can be killed by pasteurizing eggs by gently heating them in water, but the bloom will be removed, and the eggs should be refrigerated after pasteurization.
  • The “float test” can be used to test the freshness of an egg. The egg is fresh if it sinks and lays flat on the bottom, and it is older and less fresh if it stands upright or floats.
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