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Cleaning and storing fresh eggs

Cleaning eggs




Sometimes, in spite of our efforts to provide a nice clean spot for our feathered friends to deposit the rent in, we'll get a dirty egg or two. That brings with it the question: to clean or not to clean and if so, what is the best way to clean it? In an informal survey on the forum we found that our members' opinions are 50/50 on whether or not to clean eggs and everyone has reasons for their preference. Some are worried about hygiene, some are not hassled about a little dirt, other don't want to sell/give away soiled eggs to friends and neighbours and others are worried that dirty eggs stored in the fridge will contaminate other foodstuff, such as milk. The best way to solve the dilemma of the dirty egg is to prevent it from happening in the first place. That being said, it's often easier said than done, but a few basic preventative steps can make a huge difference:


- Make sure the nest boxes are filled with clean straw/shavings/whatever your preferred material. Check and remove soiled material and droppings often.

- With the exception of broody hens, don't allow your birds to sleep in the nest boxes. Nest boxes are for laying eggs in and perches are for sleeping on. Make sure perches are placed higher than next boxes in the coop, to minimise temptation.

- Try to keep dirt and mud in the coop and run to a minimum. Hens with dirty feet visiting the nest boxes to lay will mess the boxes and any eggs already in there up quickly.


If, in spite of these precautions, you get a dirty egg and you really want/need to clean it, here are some tips: Washing the egg will take care of the dirt, but... it will also remove the natural, anti-bacterial coating on the shell, called the "bloom" making it more susceptible to bacteria and spoilage. So, if possible use a dry cleaning method, for example give the egg shell a light buff with an abrasive cleaning pad (keep a special pad in the kitchen for this purpose only). If the egg is too dirty, for example, if an egg broke in the nest box and the intact eggs have yolk and worse smeared all over them, wash the eggs under warm, running water. Cold water will cause the contents of the egg to shrink, creating a vacuum that will pull bacteria and other nasties into the egg through the porous egg shell. Warm water, on the other hand, will cause the contents to expand against the shell, preventing bacteria from entering. Do not soak eggs in the water and after washing store them in a cool place, preferably the fridge and use them before any unwashed, clean eggs. It is not necessary to use soap, bleach, vinegar or any cleaning materials when washing eggs. Warm water is enough.


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Storing eggs




According to an old joke, the best way to keep an egg fresh, is to keep it inside the hen. Unfortunately that is not an option! Most chicken owners get fresh eggs daily and use them within a week. Fresh laid eggs will be quite fine sitting out on the kitchen counter for up to a month, depending on the temperature in your kitchen, but after two weeks the quality will have dropped noticeably. For longer storage and for washed eggs, storage in a cool place, like the fridge, is recommended. Eggs will stay fresher even longer in the fridge if stored in egg cartons, which will minimise moisture loss through their porous shells. 


**Did you know commercial egg farmers have 30 days from the day an egg is laid to get it to stores. Then, the stores have another 30 days to sell the eggs. The USDA recommends a maximum of 5 weeks in your refrigerator before you discard your eggs. What does this all boil down to? On April 1, you could be eating an egg that was laid on Christmas :ep Another good reason to keep your own hens for eggs! But it goes to show that under correct storage conditions, eggs can last and stay quite edible for months.


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Another long term storage option is freezing. This method works quite well, but freezing and defrosting wreaks havoc on the quality of the egg contents.


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For more on eggs, egg laying and storage visit our Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying and Egg, Chicken, & Other Favorite Recipes forum sections.



Comments (52)

our girlies will hopefully start laying soon... so this article came at a perfect time! thanks!
We have found that if you check and clean out nesting boxes daily, the eggs stay clean.  Any soiled eggs we use a paper towel with warm water on eggs directly taken out of the nest to remove any spots.  We only wash an egg if needed just before using them to keep them fresh longer!
Good article, our girls will be laying in the fall and I've been debating about rising and buffing for the neighbors, the folks in our town who we get ours from, don't and that's fine, they just don't look quite as pretty.  Will make an extra effort to keep the boxes clean!
Nuts...I've been washing mine with soap. Glad I read this article. >_<
I clean mine immediately under a cold tap and scrub with a stainless steel pan scourer.  The I leave them to dry in a cardboard egg tray and then put them in a refridgerator.  In the bottom of the fridge are two plastic boxes for vegetables.  In the front of one is a piece of green coated pipe lagging.  In the front of the other a red one.  My wife and I know to take eggs for use from the green one and I put the fresh eggs in the red one.  When the green one is empty I transfer the red ones to the green and the oldest are then on top.  I call this my Egg Rotation System, or ERS for short.
Nice, helpful article; thanks. Expect first eggs late August.
Yay! My chickens will lay in July.
The time frame you mentioned - "Did you know commercial egg farmers have 30 days from the day an egg is laid to get it to stores. Then, the stores have another 30 days to sell the eggs. The USDA recommends a maximum of 5 weeks in your refrigerator before you discard your eggs" -  was an eye-opener for me!!!    And I felt like two weeks from the time laid was getting old!!    Good info, thanks!
Good article!  I wasn't washing my eggs, but now I know I can safely do it using warm water and a gentle scrub.
Unless I missed it ... eggs should always be stored pointed end down.  I was shocked as to how many people in my back yard poultry class did not know that.  Why point down?  Just like a bottle of pop with air in the top of the bottle and you turn it over where does the air go?  Back to the top so goes for eggs.  You want them to stay fresh make sure the point is down.  Now if you want to hard boil the eggs the day before you hard boil flip your eggs so the small or pointed end it up.  That should center your yoke for better or deviled egg or even in hard boiled eggs.
Great info. I'm new and learning quite a bit from this site. Thanks to all of you who contribute to the articles. Keeps is takes to a minimum.
Great tips for a novice chook owner . Thanks !!! My girls are laying each day but at the moment only have 2 chooks so looking forward to adding to my hen house this weekend.
I have enough hens that I sell my surplus eggs.  The state I live in requires you to dip/wash your eggs for sale in a clorox/water solution to sanitize them if you sell them. 
great info on the store eggs.  Never would have even guessed that they were that old b4 getting them in the fridge. thanks
Great info.  Now i won't get so worked up when i get a little behind on getting them in the fridge.  Sometimes life gets too hectic and it might be 3, 4, or even 5 days before i get to them and i used to toss the one's that were 5 days old but i won't anymore.  I'm also going to stop buying expensive egg wash and just use the warm water.  Talk about a money and time saver right there.  Mine have to be washed here before i can sell them but there are no sanitation requirements so water it will be.
I have always cleaned my eggs exactly the way that the article suggested.  No bad eggs ever .  I have a new flock of 15 Buff pullets and can't wait for the first egg.  It should be late July.  Very nice breed of birds, even the roosters (2) are friendly.
Thank you for the great info!  I always wash my eggs in cool to warm water because I give them to neighbors, etc. But I guess I won't anymore, unless one is dirty.  And as for how long an egg stays edible?????  Wow!  That's good to know.
I wash eggs if needed.  I usually have a washcloth that I roll all eggs in.  One side has a cloth type of netting the other side is terrycloth.  This works well to remove any dry matter that you do not see.  I have one dry and one wet plus a small tub of warm water.
One thing that I talk about in my backyard poultry class is how to test the quality of the egg.  Most people do not know how you test an egg to see if it is good or not.  Pretty easy, pour cool water in a bowl and place your egg into the water.  All good eggs will lay on their side at the bottom of the water.  If the eggs starts to rise from the bottom use it as soon as possible.  Should the egg float to the top of the water or half way between depending on how deep your tub toss or use it in your baking but I mainly toss them because I have so many eggs.
Complaints about hard boiling eggs in another thing I hear about.  There are I am sure 101 ways to do it some say use a push pin, other say run cold water over them, use baking soda in the water and more.  What I have found is the major shock value method.  Boil your eggs as you usually do.  Have a bowl of ice water ready to put your eggs in as soon as you are finished boiling them.  The ice water is much better than just cold water because it shocks the membrane and separates it from the shell.  This usually works 90-95% of the time.  There is always that one egg that no matter what you do it just does not want to peal.  I also usually peal mine as soon as I can and usually under cold running water.
Great information. I always have to clean eggs, ducks won't lay in nesting boxes and they will drop an egg anywhere.
My ducks usually would lay in the nest box I provided them.  I had to give them at least 6 to choose from, always low on the ground, keep it full of straw, and then I also hung socks down over the opening so they would think they were in hiding their eggs.  Cleaning duck eggs is a royal pain because they have that extra layer on them.
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