My favorite part of keeping chickens is gathering the eggs. There’s just something about going out to the coop in the morning and bringing your breakfast back with you. They’re fresh, nutritious, and so beautifully packaged! Well, most of the time they are beautiful. Sometimes they are covered with mud, poop, straw, shavings, feathers,… and then there are those days when yolk from a broken egg cements some of these nasty things all over your beautiful breakfast. Mmm… Yummy!
I wanted to share some comprehensive and easy tricks I’ve learned over the years for preventing mess, properly cleaning, and storing fresh eggs.
How to prevent your eggs from getting dirty in the first place:
- The best way to have nice clean eggs when you gather them is to have a nice clean coop and nesting boxes. If they are not walking in poop and mud they won’t be dragging it into the nesting boxes with them. I know, I know, easier said than done; and some of the mess can not be helped no matter how much you clean.
- Roosts should not be above the nesting boxes. All night long they sit on their roosts and do nothing but sleep and poop. Obviously you don’t want this on or in your nesting boxes.
- If you have a hen that decides she likes to sleep in the nesting boxes fetch her out and put her on the roost with the other chickens. If she’s allowed to stay in the nesting box all night,… well,… you know,… the poop thing again.
- Try to gather the eggs shortly after they are laid. My coop has 10 nesting boxes in it but all twelve hens lay eggs in only one or two boxes, so if the first chicken doesn’t make a mess of the egg it’s likely the 3rd, 4th, or 8th chicken will. So collecting them often (if possible) is a good idea.
To wash or not to wash?:
Simply put, if it’s gross, wash it, if not, don’t wash it. When eggs are laid they have a natural protective layer called bloom on them to protect the egg from bacteria and air seeping into the porous egg. If you wash the egg you will wash the bloom off and then that egg should be refrigerated and eaten before the eggs that are not washed. If you can get the gunk off with a dry clean rag, scotch brite, or even some fine grit sand paper they will preserve much better than getting them wet.
How to wash eggs:
So you have a couple of eggs that got gross and a dry rag is not going to do the trick.
Take your dirty egg and hold it under warm, running tap water (warmer than the egg) and rub gently until all the dried gunk comes off. Dry the eggs and either use them or refrigerate them right away.
What NOT to do when washing eggs:
(1) Do not use cold water. As I mentioned before the shell is porous, and if you use cold water it will shrink the insides of the egg and suck whatever is on the outside in through the pores. (2) Do not submerge the eggs in water to soak. Again, the egg is porous so the water will wash away the protective bloom allowing the egg shell to soak up poopy water (nasty!). (3) Do not leave the eggs on the counter after you’ve washed them. After you have washed the bloom off you want to keep them in the fridge and use them up as soon as possible.
Where and how to store your fresh eggs:
This one does not have a precise answer. It’s really a matter of what works best for you, or what you’re most comfortable with (within reason). I’ve tried to find a definitive length of time on how long unwashed eggs can stay on the counter and I’ve seen anywhere from 1 day to 4 months! The most common answer I have found however is no more than 2 weeks. I’m good with that rule given that I’ve never left mine on the counter for more than 1 week. It usually takes about 5 days to fill the basket on my counter, and when it’s full I put them in egg cartons and they go in the fridge.
To keep track of which eggs need to be used first we have a simple rule that the oldest (or washed) eggs go on the left, oldest on top. So whoever needs eggs knows to take the ones on the left and add the newest eggs on the right side of the fridge shelf in a continuous rotation. We are using this method because our hens are laying way more eggs than we can eat right now (we end up giving away about half of them), but if we were eating them all within a few days after they laid them I would just leave them on the counter. It would save room in the fridge, and a nice basket of fresh eggs on your island makes for an awfully satisfying centerpiece!
Some other ways to keep track of which eggs need to be eaten first: Write the date they were laid on the end of the egg carton or on the individual eggs with a pencil. I read somewhere that you can even use a date stamp and use food coloring for ink and stamp the date right on the shell. Whatever works for you!
When storing your eggs in egg cartons put them in with the fat side up. This will actually help to keep the eggs fresh longer. If you’re a fellow chicken nerd and want to know the scientific reasons, here is a good, detailed article about storing the eggs fat side up.
I hope this was helpful, if you have any questions please leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May you and your chickens be blessed, and your eggs be poop free!
Until Next Time,