3 Ways to Keep Farm Eggs Fresh
You’ve seen to your hens’ every need for months. Their coop is clean, they’re well fed (treats included!), entertained, and have finally shed their adolescent feathers and donned laying-age hen skirts. At last, your efforts are finally rewarded in a clutch of farm fresh eggs.
Your hands, basket, or apron (if you’re feeling fancy) are now full of those smooth cackleberries, and ready to go…where? You could keep them in store-bought containers, custom ordered cartons, or displayed on a countertop egg skelter. But where is the best place to keep them after that? Should you wash them? Leave them be?
From backyard flocks to large commercial operations, all chicken-keepers need to research the best methods for keeping fresh eggs, well, fresh!
Methods and misconceptions
Here are some of the most common methods of keeping freshly-laid eggs:
- Unwashed, on the countertop
- Washed, then refrigerated
- Sealed for long-term storage in an air-tight container at room temperature
There are some common misconceptions regarding these methods and the freshness they are able to sustain. You might be thinking:
Who wouldn’t wash their eggs?! I love my chickens, but I don’t love their mess!
When I buy eggs at the store, they’re refrigerated – surely that’s the best method?
I don’t want to find a partially-formed chick when I crack a room-temperature egg!
Fortunately, there are easy (and even scientific!) answers that can put your mind at ease and help you decide where to keep those nutrient-packed eggs!
Eggs on display
Let’s start with the most common method for small-batch chicken egg gatherers:
Fresh, unwashed eggs kept on the countertop at room temperature.
It’s a common fear that keeping eggs at room temperature will allow a fertilized egg to continue developing into a chick. However, fertilized chicken eggs need to be kept around 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit, maintain a humidity level of 65-70%, and be turned several times a day for 21 days in order to develop! Unless your countertop meets these requirements (and therefore be the largest incubator in your state!), fertilized eggs will not develop unless they remain under a broody hen, or placed promptly in an egg incubator.
The importance of unwashed eggs being kept at room temperature however, cannot be understated. Why is this so important? When eggs are laid by a hen, they are bathed in a protective barrier of the hen’s natural flora, called the “bloom.” This good-bacteria keeps the embryo safe from external bad-bacteria while it develops. Eggs also have semipermeable shells, which allows nutrients in and out of the membrane to nourish a growing chick. If the bloom is removed by washing, good and bad bacteria are able to move freely into the egg.
So what does this mean for egg-keepers? Simply put: if you wash the eggs you gather, you remove the natural, hen-given barrier that not only keeps the egg fresh longer, but may even push harmful bacteria into the egg.
This doesn’t mean that eggs stored on the countertop need to be filthy! You may want to keep a designated (emphasis on designated!) toothbrush or rag to remove large debris from the egg. There are also DIY or store-bought varieties of egg wipes that will loosen caked on messes without compromising the integrity of the bloom. Just remember- if an egg comes in contact with water, the bloom is compromised!
An added bonus of keeping eggs on the countertop is the visual appeal. Egg skelters are one of the many ways to artfully display the fruits of your girls’ labor!
If you’re a casual egg-consumer, or saving up for some holiday baking, refrigerating your chicken’s eggs may be your best option. Eggs can go straight into the fridge from the nesting box, or they can be washed first.
Fresh eggs can be washed in store-bought or homemade solutions, or under warm, running water. The water needs to be warmer than the egg you’re washing, and needs to remain in motion so that eggs aren’t soaking in a dirty rinse- both of these factors reduce the chance of bacteria being pushed into the egg. Once washed, eggs can be patted dry and placed in the fridge. All washed eggs need to be stored in the refrigerator or eaten promptly!
Refrigerated eggs (washed or unwashed) will remain fresh longer than their room temperature counterparts – several weeks longer, in fact. But it’s important to note that once eggs are refrigerated, they need to stay that way! Just as store bought eggs need to be kept chilled, fresh eggs (especially washed eggs) will spoil much faster going from fridge to countertop.
The last storage method is for long-term storage. Really long term!
You can “water glass” your eggs.
Water glassing is the method in which our ancestors used long before refrigeration or other preservation techniques were used. This method is simple and effective, and can be beneficial when needing to store eggs over the “fussy” season when hens aren’t feeling particularly productive!
To water glass eggs, you’ll need:
- Unwashed, freshly gathered eggs
- An airtight storage container
- Pickling lime
- Distilled or natural spring water
Once sealed, “glassed” eggs will remain fresh for up to 18 months!
If this method seems intriguing, be sure to do some research on the ratios needed for each ingredient, depending on how many eggs you plan to store.
Quality control: egg-checks
No matter which method you employ in storing your farm-fresh eggs, it’s always a good idea to do freshness-checks on any eggs you’re about to consume. One of the easiest methods is to place an egg in a glass of water. If the egg sinks, it’s fresh. If it turns on end (standing up), it might not be the freshest, but should still be safe to eat. If it floats – toss it!
Eggs become filled with gasses as a by-product of aging. Egg whites lose their viscosity and become watery. These lighter, air-filled eggs will float when placed in water!
If you don’t want to float your eggs, you can easily check their freshness by cracking them into separate containers before adding them to your skillet or mixing bowl. This method is particularly helpful when children are the primary gatherers and may be bringing in older eggs, or after going on vacation. You’ll know a rotten egg when you crack one!
- Fresh eggs can be stored a variety of ways, depending on quantity and duration needed.
- Eggs kept in the fridge need to remain in the fridge.
- Do not wash room temperature eggs.
- Once rinsed or cleaned with a solution, eggs must be refrigerated or used promptly.
- Check the freshness of your eggs by floating them in water just before using them, or by cracking individual eggs into a bowl before adding to dishes.
There you have it! Three simple and effective ways of storing your hens’ edible artwork.
Drop a line or a picture below to show how you store your farm eggs!
Please note: if you are offering your farm fresh eggs for sale, be sure to check your state’s guidelines for selling eggs. Some states require that farm eggs be sold unwashed, while others require washing and refrigeration. Additionally, some states may require eggs be given a “grade” before being sold to notate freshness.
This entry was posted in Chickens