Do you dream of clean and spotless eggs straight from the backyard coop?
Are you jealous when you see your fellow backyard chicken owners post pictures of their gorgeous polished eggs when yours maybe look less glamorous? Do you just wish your eggs looked like they came straight from the supermarket rather than your backyard? Well, you can have spotless eggs, too.
Read on for best practices, tips, and tricks for clean freshly-laid eggs straight from the coop; for cleaning any dirty eggs; and for storing your flock's freshly-laid spotless eggs.
Follow these four tips to get clean eggs from your flock.
Clean Egg Tip 1: Are your nest boxes in the right spot?
For the cleanest eggs, nest boxes must be hung or positioned lower than chicken coop roosting areas. Chickens will always select the highest possible roost to sleep in the coop. If nest boxes are at the same height as roost bars, or higher than roost bars, your hens will sleep in the nest boxes.
Is it really a problem for hens to sleep in nest boxes? You will soon find out that your hens sleeping or roosting in nest boxes can create amazing amounts of nest box poop.
Chickens poop all the time, and even more at night! Your goal is to eliminate overnight stays (and therefore overnight poop) in the nest box. To make sure your nest boxes are in the right spot, keep them lower than the roost bars so they aren't pooped IN, and away from the roosts enough so they aren't pooped ON.
Clean Egg Tip 2: Are your nest boxes clean?
For good housekeeping in the nest box put clean material in the nest box to cushion eggs. The goal is to keep eggs from rolling into each other and to keep them safe and secure despite hens entering and exiting the nest box.
A mat or a layer of shavings or straw will cushion eggs from potential breakage. A broken egg in the nest box is awful and usually gets over the other eggs unless you have shavings or some other material in the nest box.
For clean eggs, you want to prevent any hard knocks against other eggs, the nest box, and chicken feet. Speaking of chicken feet...
Clean Egg Tip 3: Clean up those muddy chicken feet!
One big cause of dirty eggs is dirty chicken feet. Your chickens will mark up eggs with mud-tracked feet from an outdoor run, a dirty coop floor, or even from free-range travels in the garden. It's hard to keep a run from being muddy since chickens will make any grass disappear quickly.
You can dry out a muddy run with a layer of shavings or wood chips and you can use sand or shavings on the coop floor for cleaner chicken feet.
In fact, you can use an extension of the deep litter method in your chicken run by using a thick layer of shavings or sand. I will empty the bedding from my coop into the run to compost. A second benefit to mulching the run (besides cleaner eggs) is that your chickens are more likely to find worm and bugs to snack on under a mulch of shavings then in a bare run.
Another method to clean up muddy chicken feet is to set your nest boxes further from the chicken door, so that hens will dry their dirty feet as they walk across the coop floor.
Clean Egg Tip 4: Does your chicken have a messy vent?
Messy chicken bums can cause dirty eggs. How can you get those fluffy feather butts back? Give the chicken a bath. If symptoms recur, take the chicken to a vet, since this can be a sign of illness.
Home treatment of a messy chicken bum is a bath to remove the poop, and supplements like yogurt and apple cider vinegar to restore a digestive balance of good bacteria. However, a vet is your best bet to diagnose and effectively treat what may (or may not) be a serious illness.
Why clean eggs are dirty (despite your best efforts and these tips)?
Obviously, the best thing is to have spotless eggs: clean, freshly-laid eggs straight from the hen house are a dream, but we all know that dirty eggs happen. First of all, don't worry. Not only do dirty eggs happen, some people don't clean or wash eggs at all, and store mud-spotted, unwashed eggs.
I've seen Instagram pictures from those who are proud of collecting "authentic" dirty eggs.
We clean our eggs before storing simply because I don't think it's a good idea to store eggs with visible dirt. I spot-clean eggs and I discard any eggs that won't clean up really easily (I crack and then scramble them to feed back to the chickens or my two dogs).
Also, after handling dirty eggs, you should wash your hands. Chickens are lovely, but they poop a lot, and they walk around in chicken poop and mud, and both that and potentially salmonella can get on their eggs. So, seriously... wash your hands (pretty please).
Did you know that each egg has a bloom?
First, if you have to clean an egg, you should know that you will likely be removing part of a naturally protective anti-bacterial coating known as "bloom."
The bloom is actually a damp coating on a freshly-laid egg that, once it is dry, protects the egg and its porous shell from contamination, preserves the egg's freshness, and extends its shelf life.
The natural protective bloom actually allows you to store fresh eggs without refrigeration. So, if you are washing and cleaning dirty eggs, you really should refrigerate them because it is likely that they no longer have a complete bloom coating. Also, if you sell eggs, your state department of agriculture regulates cleaning of commercial eggs, so locate, know, and follow your state guidelines if you are selling eggs.
READ MORE: So Why Do We Refrigerate Eggs?
There are a few different methods to clean dirty eggs:
- Dry cleaning method: use a fine grit sandpaper, a dry abrasive sponge, or dry paper towel to rub any dirt off the egg, and focus only on the dirty spot or spots.
- Wet cleaning method one: use a slightly damp paper or damp cloth towel, or a sponge to rub any dirty spots off of the egg. Allow the clean egg to dry on a towel and then store in the refrigerator.
- Wet cleaning method two: run the egg under water to remove dirt. The water temperature must be warmer than the egg. There is less risk contamination with a warm water wash then a cold water wash. It is less likely that germs will be pulled below the eggshell with warm water; the fluid inside the egg could contract with cold water and draw germs through the porous shell.
I do not use wet cleaning method two. If an egg is so dirty it requires running water to clean, I discard it.
I was feeding discarded eggs to the dogs raw (cracked on top of their dog kibble), but my vet told me that this could lead to a biotin or vitamin deficiency. We now crack them and scramble them rather than giving them raw.
In summary, for clean eggs, nest boxes should be below roost height, there needs to be a soft material in nest boxes to cushion eggs, clean up muddy areas in the run and coop, and raise healthy, fluffy-butt chickens!
Plus, now you know how to clean eggs that (despite all the above) do have a spot or two. That's really all you need to know for the cleanest, freshly-laid eggs!
Do you wash or clean your eggs, or do you use them dirt and all? Let us know in the comments below!
All photos via Daphne Cybele
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