Updated: Aug 5, 2019
Ready to fill that egg basket with fresh eggs from your chickens? Check out these 4 tips for safe and easy egg handling and make sure you're always collecting clean and fresh eggs.
TIP #1 Keep nesting boxes clean
The only way to collect clean eggs is to keep the nesting boxes clean. Check their nests routinely and replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent, and the chickens spend more time in the coop. If the nesting boxes get soiled with feces daily, the chickens are probably sleeping in them or directly above them. Encourage chickens to sleep on a roost higher than, and away from, the nesting boxes.
TIP #2 Collect daily
Eggs left in the nesting boxes for more than a day are at a higher risk of being broken or eaten, and they'll also get much dirtier. Once chickens get a taste for their eggs, they might be eaten out of boredom, to mitigate a nutritional deficiency of protein or calcium, or simply because they're delicious. This habit is maddening and nearly impossible to break.
The smell of chicken eggs also attracts pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from sniffing around at night. It also reduces your chances of the flock cannibalizing their own eggs.
TIP #3 Store them unwashed and refrigerated
Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a 'cuticle' or 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 fresh without refrigeration, which is why you can keep unwashed eggs in a cool, dry place, such as on your counter or in a cabinet. Once the bloom is washed away with water, the eggs must refrigerated to prevent them from going bad.
However, eggs will stay fresh the longest if they are both unwashed and refrigerated. Collect your eggs and store them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and wash them just before cracking them open.
TIP #4 Float eggs to test for freshness
If you're not sure how old your eggs are, or if they're safe to eat, you can measure their quality by floating them in water. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. As the egg ages, the natural decomposition of the egg creates more air that fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. The same happens with eggs that are cracked. To test an egg, place it in a large bowl or glass filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and lays on it's side, it is 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.