Posted by Sue Landsman on Oct.20, 2009
Nothing can beat fresh eggs, especially eggs fresh from your own backyard flock. With your own chickens, you can control what they’re fed and how long the eggs stay in your refrigerator. It can be quite a shock for new chicken owners, however, when the eggs just don’t look like what you get at the store. Store-bought eggs are all the same shape and color, and either perfectly white or perfectly brown. Backyard chicken eggs can be all sorts of colors depending on what hens you have, and vary in size. “Real” eggs aren’t always clean; sometimes they have hay stuck to them. Sometimes even chicken poop.
Dirty eggs can be a problem and a health hazard if you handle them improperly. You can’t sell them dirty, and you’re likely to find yourself not wanting to eat some of the worst ones either. So if you raise chickens, you’ll find yourself needing to know how to clean them properly.
There’s different opinions on how to do this, but fairly uniform opinion on one thing–it’s easier to make sure that your chicken’s eggs are clean when you gather them than to worry about having to clean them later.
Eggs will usually be laid clean if the you keep the chickens’ facilities properly. Make sure that there is a next box for every few birds and that the boxes are lined with a good amount of clean shavings. Replace the shavings when they get dirty and encourage your new layers to use the boxes by putting in fake eggs.
Collect the eggs daily. One major cause of dirty eggs is leaving the eggs in overnight, because the chickens will step on them and poop on them. If you collect them twice or even three times daily, you’ll have even cleaner eggs.
If your eggs are dirty, you have to be careful when you clean them. Eggs have a natural antibacterial protective covering on them called “bloom”, so you’re better off washing your eggs only just before you’re ready to use them. Bacteria will have a hard time getting through a dry shell, but much less trouble when the shell is wet. A little dirt on your egg isn’t going to hurt you and is the sign of a fresh egg.
In fact, you’re better not wetting them at all. If possible, use a scrubby, a loofah, or sandpaper to rub off the dirt, as this will preserve most of the protective covering. Some people recommend 3M sanding pads that you can find easily at a hardware store. If this doesn’t work, then use water that is warmer than the eggs, but not hot. Eggs are porous, and you need to be careful to keep the stuff on the outside of the egg from coming inside. Cold water will pull bacteria through the shell’s pores because it shrinks the egg’s contents and creates a partial vacuum. Detergents or other cleaning products will also rub off the bloom and potentially enter the egg.
Wash each egg individually, and never let them soak or sit in a bowl of water. Run the eggs under the water, or use a wet paper towel to clean them, throwing out the towels after each use. Use your fingernails to scrape off any stubborn dirt. Never use cloth towels, because you’ll keep using it when it’s dirty.
Once you have cleaned your eggs, store them in clean cartons, especially if you only wash some of your eggs. You don’t want to put washed eggs in a carton that has previously contained unwashed eggs, as any bacteria remaining in the carton will easily pass through the eggs that have had their protective coating removed.
Article By: Sue Landsman
Profile: “I am a freelance writer with a background in science and technical writing. I currently enjoy writing about parenting and education with the occasional extremely short story thrown in. Or not. “
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