Having a healthy flock of hens is just the first step to having a strong supply of fresh eggs. Once the eggs are laid, you need to ensure you collect them properly, clean them properly, and store them appropriately so that they are not only fresh, clean and safe, but they look and taste their very best.
When to Collect Chicken Eggs
You need to check your nesting boxes for fresh eggs every day – first thing in the morning is ideal. It’s best to collect eggs twice daily as this helps keep them clean and reduces the risk of them being broken (and eaten) by your hens.
Get into a routine of checking the nesting boxes when you are feeding your chickens and when you are locking them up for the night in their coop.
On warmer days you will need to collect regularly, so that they are not sitting out in the heat for too long. Collect the eggs in a basket or plastic container and don’t stack them too high, thus keeping them clean and preventing any breakages happening.
Keeping Eggs Clean
The longer you allow eggs to sit in the nest box, the more likely it is that they will be broken or become stained or covered with feces. Gathering eggs more often avoids this.
Having nesting boxes that are designed for the egg to roll away to an area where the chicken can’t reach them is a good idea too.
You can also ensure the nesting boxes are ideally feathered – with plenty of lining in the form of straw or shavings. Clean and replace this frequently, especially if an egg has been broken in there. A clean and fresh nest is going to be more appealing to your hens and they will lay better, too.
How to Clean Dirty Eggs
Clean eggs are not only aesthetically-important; it is also important for the health and well being of people consuming them. Eggs should be cleaned soon after being collected and not left sitting around on the bench.
Eggs Taste Best if Eaten Within Two Weeks of being Laid.
There are Two Methods for Cleaning Dirt and Hen Feces from Eggs:
Dry cleaning is the preferred method as is preserves the bloom, or natural antibacterial layer on the eggs. If the bloom is intact, eggs can be stored at room temperature. Simply wipe each egg very carefully with a loofah or very fine sandpaper to remove all debris.
Very dirty eggs with yolk or lots of feces stuck to them will require wet cleaning. Wash them under running water that is warmer than the egg but not hot. You will probably feel the bloom come off – it feels slimy. Each egg should then be dried with a clean paper towel and placed in an open, clean carton (a wire rack will also work).
When cleaning your eggs and preparing them for storage, check the shell for any cracks or imperfections, as this can lead to bacteria being able to penetrate into the egg. You need to discard these eggs as they won’t be safe to use.
Storing Fresh Chicken Eggs
As mentioned above, dry-cleaned eggs with an intact bloom may be stored at room temperature, however, refrigeration is a better option. Wet-washed eggs must be refrigerated. Refrigeration extends the life and freshness of your eggs.
- Package eggs in a wire rack or egg carton and label the date/s they were laid/collected. Eggs should be stored in a carton with the pointy end pointing downwards. This is because of the air pocket which needs to be at the top, so that it doesn’t try to come up through the yolk if the egg is stored the other way up.
- When refrigerated from the collection, eggs are good for one month.
- If kept in a sealed container in the fridge (e.g. a sealed lunchbox), eggs will last for several months.
- After one month, eggs kept in the open in the fridge may be OK for another few weeks – make sure older eggs are not used raw but are hard-boiled or used for baking.
- Dry-cleaned, non-refrigerated and freshly-laid eggs can be kept safely for a month at room temperature but must be washed thoroughly immediately before they are used.
- To store eggs long-term in the freezer, yolks and whites must first be separated.
- Eggs that have been stored in a refrigerator should be used soon after being removed from the fridge, usually within two hours of the eggs being at room temperature. This is due to the egg sweating which can allow bacteria in.
How to Test Your Eggs For Freshness
Float your eggs to test their freshness. Fill a bowl with cool or cold water and place the eggs in it. An egg that sinks to the bottom is fresh.
An egg that floats has too large an air pocket within it, and the egg is most likely spoiled. It should be discarded or composted.
If your egg sits in the bowl below the surface but not on the bottom, it is best used only for hard boiling or baking.
You can also listen to your egg – shake it gently by your ear – if you hear it moving within the shell, it’s old and no good.
If your eggs are pretty clean on collection and you’re using them promptly yourself, a little bit of dirt and an errant feather attached is not a big deal. But if you’re giving them away, selling them, or if feces are present, you must clean them.