The last step in a chicken's egg laying process involves the application of a thin, nearly invisible film on the surface of the eggshell called the 'bloom'. This bloom helps to keep air and bacteria from penetrating the eggshell, thereby ensuring the egg's freshness and edibility.
Washing the egg removes the bloom, so optimally you don't want to wash the eggs from your backyard flock unless absolutely necessary. Once an egg is washed, it has to be refrigerated, but unwashed, an egg will last out on the counter at room temperature for several weeks, or refrigerated for several months, far longer than washed eggs.
Chicken coops and runs aren't necessarily the cleanest places and no one wants to be bringing eggs covered in poop, mud or even material from broken eggs into their kitchen, so how do you ensure that your eggs are clean when you collect them?
Of course you need enough boxes for the size of your flock. Rule of thumb is one box for every 3-4 hens, but in reality all your hens will want to use the same one or two boxes! However, these five tips will help ensure clean eggs:
1.) Don't allow your hens to sleep in the nesting boxes. Roosts should always be positioned higher than the nesting boxes, since chickens will seek the highest perch on which to sleep. Allow 8" of roost space per bird. If hens persist in sleeping on the boxes, lift them out and place them on the roosts after dark to condition them to roost, or block off the boxes completely in the afternoon once all your hens have laid their eggs. For my nesting box block hack, click HERE.
2.) Refresh the nesting box bedding each morning. As part of my morning chores, I fluff the straw in each nesting box and add more if necessary. Too little bedding can result in eggs broken on the hard nesting box floor.
3.) Locate your nesting boxes on the wall opposite the coop pop door. Often it's not chicken poop, but instead mud from the run, that is dirtying the eggs. By positioning your nesting boxes across the coop from the pop door, you force your hens to walk the length of the coop to lay their egg, and hopefully rub the mud off their feet in the process.
4.) Discourage broodies from sitting on nonfertile eggs. If your eggs aren't fertile, don't let your hens sit on them. Broodies hog the nesting boxes and often skirmishes will break out, resulting in broken eggs. No only will you have broken eggs, you'll have yolk and white all over all the other eggs. For tips on breaking a broody click HERE.
5.) Collect eggs as often as possible. The more frequently you can collect your eggs, the less chance they will get inadvertently broken, stepped on by another hen with muddy feet or poop on. So try and check for eggs at least a few times a day if possible.
These tips should help ensure that your eggs are nice and clean right from the coop. Fore more information on the handling and cleaning of eggs click HERE.