There are a few ways you can store fresh eggs from your chickens so they last longer. How we do it here is by collecting them in cartons or buckets with straw in. Then we put some in an egg skelter to be used within days and store the rest in the fridge.
How To Wash Fresh Eggs
After collecting eggs from your coop, nesting boxes, and wherever else your hens lay them, it’s important to clean them before storing.
The chance of contracting any bacteria or anything like is very small, but the risk of salmonella and some other bacteria is present.
Whether you’re going to use them yourself, sell them, or pass them on, you want the shells to be nice and clean. So, it’s good housekeeping to clean them when you bring them into your home.
The good is that it’s quick and simple. Most people do what’s known as “dry cleaning”, which means just wiping the eggs with a cloth.
For most eggs, this will do the job just fine. You won’t need any water or cleaning agents, and you’ll notice any dirt, debris, feces, and feathers just wipes away.
This is because eggshells have a natural antibacterial coating called the “bloom”.
What Is the Bloom Coating on Eggs?
The bloom is an almost foamy-like substance that you’ll see on freshly laid eggs. The purpose of the bloom is to keep bacteria from contaminating the egg while the hen is passing it.
Eggshells are actually porous, despite not being visibly so to the naked eye. They need to be to allow the exchange of gasses as the embryo develops.
So, the bloom will naturally dissipate after the egg has been laid. Not before you’ve been able to wipe the egg over and remove all the surface dirt though.
Washing Eggs That Are Too Dirty
Sometimes a dry clean isn’t going to get the job done. Let’s not play this down, sometimes chickens poop on their eggs.
In this case, a little warm water should always do the trick. Avoid very cold or very hot water as this can cause the pores to open more and you risk reducing the shelf life of the egg.
How Long Do Fresh Eggs Last in the Fridge?
In the U.S. and many other countries, it’s recommended eggs are kept in the fridge to keep them good for longer.
The main reason for this is because shop-bought eggs are washed, which reduces the natural protective coating called the bloom as I covered above.
Dry cleaning is often better with your own backyard hens. But wet cleaning is the quickest way for egg farmers to clean and package eggs for sale so they’re looking clean and appealing.
Keeping eggs refrigerated slows the growth of bacteria and keeps them fresh for longer. If kept below 40 F(4 C), Healthline says that eggs can typically be kept in a fridge for 4-5 weeks and still be perfectly edible.
Eggs do reduce in quality and absorb more bacteria over time, however. The longer you keep them, the less fresh they will be. Any longer than 4-5 weeks, and you risk a case of food poisoning.
How To Store Eggs Without Refrigeration
Interestingly, in most European countries supermarkets do not sell eggs in the refrigerated area and people do not keep them in fridges at home.
This is because they are farmed, cleaned, and supplied to supermarkets in a different way.
In the UK, for example, a lot of egg farmers do not wash the eggs with water or any other substances before packaging them up for sale. So, the bloom is protecting the egg from bacteria.
However, in the U.S. eggs are washed before sale. Meaning they need to be put into refrigeration as the protective layer on the egg is immediately removed.
So, the right answer is that you shouldn’t store eggs without refrigeration if they were being stored in a fridge or chilled when you bought them.
If you picked up fresh eggs that have not been wet washed and chilled, you can store them at room temperature.
Healthline states that eggs taken from refrigeration and kept at room temperature can spoil in a matter of hours. While eggs that were never refrigerated are good for 1-2 weeks.
How Long Are Chickens Eggs Good for in the Coop
If for some reason you’re not collecting eggs from your nesting boxes daily, you risk a number of things happening:
- Your chickens might end up pecking at and eating their own eggs
- Predators like snakes and rodents might realize there are free eggs for the taking and start taking them
- Your hens go broody and start sitting on clutches of eggs to try and hatch them (are they even fertilized?)
- The eggs will eventually go off if left long enough
As to how long it takes for eggs to go off, spoil, or go bad when left in a coop or nesting box, it’s hard to say exactly.
I’ve seen it estimated to be as short as 2 weeks, and as long as 3 months!
Obviously, the temperature in the coop, if hens are sitting on them, etc plays a part in how long eggs stay good enough to eat.
It’s also difficult to tell exactly how old an egg is unless you noticed the day it was laid. So, to be on the safe side, you should always perform a float test on eggs before eating them.
The float test is an age-old, simple way to get a good idea of how fresh an egg is. Simply place an egg in a glass of water, if it sinks, it’s fresh. If it floats, it means it’s old and lots of gases and air has seeped into the egg.
If it stands up and is somewhere in between sinking and floating, it could come down to a judgment call and how desperate you are to eat it!
Related - Here how and why hens produce eggs without roosters in the flock.
There you have it, I’ve explained how to properly clean, store, and use fresh eggs from backyard chickens as well as shop-bought eggs.
As well as why some people (or countries) refrigerate their eggs, and why we don’t in the U.S.
Who would have thought there was so much involved in such a simple task of storing eggs! The bottom line is, as long as you do it right and pay attention to the age of your eggs, you’ve nothing to worry about.
Image credits - Photo by Julianti on Unsplash
Effect of Egg Washing and “Bloom” - NCBI.nlm.gov
How Long Do Eggs Last Before Going Bad? - Healthline