One of the most exciting things about raising your own chickens is collecting fresh eggs.
Once you have tasted fresh chicken eggs you will never want to go back to eating store bought eggs. From shell and yolk color to flavor and texture, fresh backyard eggs really do rule the roost!
However, because your freshly laid eggs are processed differently than commercial eggs, they also need to be stored differently.
Unfortunately lots of people skip important steps between collecting and eating their fresh eggs.
Keep reading to learn how to safely clean and correctly store your farm fresh eggs…
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Collecting Eggs From The Nesting Box
You want to collect your eggs as early and often as possible.
Most hens will lay in the morning but occasionally you get the late comer who lays in the afternoon.
You should check your nesting boxes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Checking your nesting box and collecting eggs as often as possible not only keeps your eggs clean from any potential feces laying around, but also limits the chances of your eggs banging against each other.
Although hens are usually gentle, eggs can bang into each other enough to cause hairline cracks. The longer your eggs remain in the nesting box the more likely they are to undergo an accident.
Not only do cracks allow bacteria to enter your eggs but broken eggs will encourage chicken egg eating. Once this habit is established within a flock it is unfortunately very difficult to break and causes far more issues down the line.
Seasons also affect the durability of your eggs.
Extreme winters may cause your eggs to freeze which makes the shells more prone to cracking, while extremely hot summers will decrease your eggs’ quality faster. Again, quickly collecting your eggs helps to prevent these issues.
Another reason why you should collect freshly laid eggs quickly is because it makes it less likely the eggs will be stolen by predators. While your chickens may have the ability to run away from predators, your eggs do not have the same luxury!
Finally, you should make sure to keep the nesting boxes well maintained and clean. This reduces the chances of soiled eggs and also encourages your hens to lay in their nesting box.
How To Store Fresh Backyard Eggs Properly
Freshly laid eggs are good for up to 3 months starting from the day they have been laid.
However, the freshness of your eggs is only as good as your storage method.
Your freshly laid eggs are stored much differently than those you might buy at the grocery store. Eggs you buy from the store can be up to 8 weeks old when purchased and only remain fresh for around a month if they are refrigerated.
Fresh backyard eggs on the other hand are not typically put through a washing process like store bought eggs, so they still contain their natural protective coating.
These eggs can be kept on the countertop at room temperature for around 3 weeks given the weather is not exceptionally hot. After these three weeks the eggs should be placed in one of several various storage methods.
- Fridge: Refrigerating your fresh eggs will give you an additional 3-4 weeks in terms of freshness. Although your eggs will keep for much longer than 4 weeks, you can expect them to dry out and lose their taste.
- Cold Storage: Those who cannot access or do not have room to refrigerate their eggs can revert to cold storage. Cold storage consists of keeping your fresh eggs at a temperature of around 50°F. The area in which you store your eggs should be as dry as possible. This method allows for up to three months of storage.
- Freezer: Do you want to keep your eggs fresh past 3 months? Try a freezer. Because eggs are more prone to cracking under frozen conditions, eggs cannot be frozen inside of their shell. You will need to either mix or separate your yolks from your whites before pouring them into ice trays. Eggs kept in the freezer can last for around one year.
- Water Glassing: This is a cheap and often successful method of egg storage and preservation that is becoming increasingly popular with homesteaders. As long as your fresh eggs have an intact bloom and you have access to sodium silicate or calcium hydroxide, you will be pleasantly surprised with the storage life of your fresh eggs.
- Pickling: One of the most popular methods of preserving fresh eggs is pickling. This easy method of preservation includes hard-boiling and then pickling using whatever recipe sounds best to you. It preserves eggs for up to 4 months but the pickled flavor may not be popular with everyone.
- Dehydration: This is an especially useful form of storage if you have lots of eggs and not enough space. You can dehydrate your eggs to create a powder for the winter months when you won’t have as many fresh eggs.
Washed vs Unwashed Eggs: The Bloom Explained
Fresh and store bought eggs have a different shelf life and need to be stored differently.
But why is this?
As a hen lays an egg she will deposit a natural coating around the outside of an egg’s shell. This is known as the egg bloom or cuticle and it acts as a protective layer for the porous shell.
The bloom acts as your fresh egg’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria and contamination. This protective coat is the hen’s way of protecting her chicks during the egg’s development. If it can keep a growing chick safe, you can be sure it will keep your unfertilized eggs safe for consumption.
When a fresh egg is cleaned, the bloom is washed away which leaves the egg more susceptible to contamination and spoilage. The bloom can often be felt as a waxy or wet coating. You can usually feel the bloom of your egg(s) coming off as a slimy residue when rinsed under warm water and soap.
Commercially sold eggs are required by the USDA to kill any existing pathogens, but, in the process, this also eliminates the shell’s bloom.
This is why commercial eggs need to be stored in the refrigerator.
Only eggs with their bloom in tact can be stored at room temperature.
So when you gather your fresh eggs, if you want to store them at room temperature then you should not wash these eggs.
Dirty eggs can be cleaned without damaging the precious bloom by dry cleaning. You can brush or rub your dirty egg(s) with a sanding sponge, or paper towel in a gentle rubbing motion. Make sure to keep your hands as clean as possible especially around clean/cleaned eggs to avoid contamination.
When To Wash Fresh Backyard Chicken Eggs
You should only wash your backyard eggs when they are extremely soiled.
Whenever possible it is recommended that you do not wash your freshly laid eggs until you are ready to use them. This preserves your egg’s precious bloom.
If your eggs are extremely soiled they should be wet washed and immediately placed into the refrigerator for storage.
Eggs should be washed individually rather than soaking them all in water.
You should use warm water to wash the eggs. Warm to hot water will cause your eggs to expand which helps to prevent bacteria from being introduced inside of your egg through the pores.
After washing and rinsing your eggs they are ready to be used. If you are storing them inside of the refrigerator it is important to sanitize your eggs.
A sanitizing solution can be made using a ratio of 1 tbsp of bleach to 1 gallon of water.
Eggs should be dipped into the bleach solution and then rinsed and dried before being placed into your refrigerator.
It is incredibly important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the eggs. Feces from poultry can carry harmful organisms harboring diseases such as salmonella which can be ingested if proper hygiene is not maintained.
How To Test If An Egg Is Fresh?
The egg float test is a fool proof way to test an egg’s freshness.
All you need to do is fill a bowl about 4 inches high with cold water and gently drop your egg in.
Any eggs at the bottom of your bowl are fresh enough to eat. Eggs that have floated to the top are very old and likely rotten. These eggs should be discarded right away.
Remember that as more time passes, the more time air has to enter your egg through the shell’s pores. This is why those old eggs float because they are full or air. Fresher eggs have less air in them which is why they do not float.
The second easiest method is the plate test.
Crack an egg onto a plate and examine the yolk as well as the albumin (the “white part” when cooked). A fresh egg will have a fully intact albumin and the yolk will have a good color and sit upright.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do Farm Fresh Eggs Last Unrefrigerated?
Depending on where you live, farm fresh eggs with their bloom intact can be kept at room temperature on your countertop for up to 3 weeks providing that temperatures are not too hot.
After three weeks your farm fresh eggs should be refrigerated and can be kept in this environment for around 3 months.
Now you should know exactly how to store and clean your fresh backyard eggs.
Fresh eggs should not be washed until they are about to be used as removing the egg’s bloom can result in contamination if left unrefrigerated. So you should only wash heavily soiled eggs and this should only be done in warm water.
Unwashed eggs can last up to 3 weeks at room temperature and 3 months in the refrigerator.
Washed eggs can last up to 3-5 weeks though the iconic fresh egg taste will have most likely long disappeared by that point.
And remember if you are unsure about the freshness of your eggs, do the egg float test.
Although farm fresh eggs do not usually hang around long enough for owners to have to worry about the freshness of their eggs, it is important to keep in mind preservation dates and methods as well as safe forms of washing and maintaining your freshly laid eggs.
Let us know how you collect and store your fresh eggs in the comments section below…