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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs
You've built your coop and raised your chickens, and now they're FINALLY laying eggs! But what do you do with all the eggs your girls start to lay? After the eggcitement of the first egg is all over, its time to find a routine for collecting, cleaning, and storing your fresh eggs. Here are some tips to get started with the right habits.
COLLECT DAILY, PREFERABLY IN THE EVENING Chicken eggs are a commodity for animals as well as for humans. The smell of chicken eggs will likely attract pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons which you don't want near your chickens. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from coming around at night.
It's also a good idea to collect chicken eggs every evening to prevent the chickens from dirtying them, breaking them, and eating them. Chickens sometimes sleep in their nesting boxes, or walk all over a nest of eggs with dirty feet, making the eggs harder to clean. If they accidentally break one while climbing over a large nest of eggs, they will eat it out of curiosity. They may even begin to eat eggs out of boredom during the winter months when they're stuck inside. Once they begin to eat their own eggs, they can form a bad habit that is really destructive, and really hard to break.
Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a 'cuticle' or, more commonly, a 'bloom.' The bloom protects the egg from bacteria and controls the amount of water and air that is passed through the shell. This naturally keeps the eggs as fresh as possible without refrigeration, which is why you can keep fresh eggs in a cool, dry place such as your counter or cabinet rather than a refrigerator. However, they do stay fresh even longer if they are unwashed and refrigerated. Once the bloom is washed away with water, they do require refrigeration to keep them from going bad. We recommend collecting your eggs and keeping them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and then washing your eggs just before using them.
KEEPING THEM CLEAN
The saying "prevention is better than cure" goes for dirty eggs as well. In addition to collecting daily, the easiest way to have clean eggs is to keep a clean nesting box. Routinely check the nesting boxes and remove or replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent and chickens have no manners to wipe their feet! Discouraging your hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes also helps tremendously. Keep roosts away from nesting boxes, and preferably in a higher place than the nesting boxes.
If you must wash your eggs before you store them, it is best to dry wash them. Dry washing uses an abrasive, such as sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, a sanding block, or other abrasive utensil to scrape or rub off any dirt or poop. This leaves the majority of the bloom intact and keeps the egg as safe as possible while still removing the yucky stuff.
If you must wash them with water to remove the dirt and poop, be conscientious about the way you wash! Be sure the water you're washing with is at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs as washing with colder water creates a vacuum which sucks bacteria into the egg. It's best not to soak them in water, but rather to wash them under running water. If you must use detergent, it is best to use natural dish detergent rather than antibacterial soaps.
HOW LONG DO EGGS LAST?
Eggs should last approximately 45 days from the date they were laid if kept in the right conditions; however you should use them as soon as possible for maximum freshness and taste. After eggs are approximately one month old, it is best to test them for freshness before using them.
FLOATING EGGS TO TEST FOR FRESHNESS
To test for freshness, you can float your eggs. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. The older the egg, the more air fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. Place your egg in a large bowl filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays laying on its side, it's still fresh and good to eat. The higher the broad side of the egg floats up, the older it is. If the broad side of the egg floats straight up and leaves the egg standing on the pointed side, its nearly a month old and should be eaten before it goes bad. If the egg floats right to the top, it's old and probably is no longer good to eat. FOR MORE TIPS ON EGGS AND MORE BACKYARD CHICKEN TOPICS Visit the Care Guide section of our website at www.dare2dreamfarms.com. If you have any tips you'd like to share with your fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts, leave a comment below!