There will probably always be a debate on whether or not to wash the eggs from your backyard chickens. I’m firmly in the ‘do not wash’ camp. In the U.S., we tend to be germaphobes and as a people, we are used to refrigerating our eggs.
However, as a backyard chicken keeper, I’ve discovered two things.
1. You should not wash your chicken’s eggs
2. You don’t have to refrigerate your eggs
Chicken eggs are porous, even though it looks solid to the naked eye. It actually has microscopic pores that allow for the transfer of moisture, gases, and bacteria. (hello there, salmonella) between the outer and inner eggshell.
It turns out though, nature is pretty awesome and during the last step of the laying process, a hen’s body deposits a protective coating, known as the “bloom” to the outside of the egg. This protective coating in essence seals the eggshell, preventing the transfer of bacteria.
What is also important is that washing the egg removes the bloom, thus exposing the egg to bacteria. Even more alarming is that washing eggs in cool or cold water creates a vacuum effect that pulls unwanted bacteria inside the egg more quickly.
So, if you are like me and don’t wash your eggs, you also don’t have to refrigerate them.
a hen’s body deposits a protective coating, known as the “bloom” to the outside of the egg. This protective coating in essence seals the eggshell, preventing the transfer of bacteria.
In fact, the U.S. is one of the only countries that require commercially produced eggs be washed. Most European countries legally restrict commercially produced eggs from being washed. This is why most Europeans store their eggs on the counter instead of the fridge.
That’s not to say you can’t refrigerate your unwashed eggs, you just don’t have to. More importantly, if you do decide that you must wash your eggs, then you have to refrigerate them to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Unwashed eggs can last weeks on the counter, but with six hens, mine don’t last that long. We eat about a dozen or so each week and sell two dozen.
Guess what? Poop happens.
Sometimes the eggs get a bit dirty. Even though my nest boxes are clean and dry. And I break up the poop in the deep litter henhouse that is filled with industrial hemp. Plus, in my American Coop, the roost bars are higher than the nest boxes, so they are only used by my girls for laying. Even with all those measures, sometimes there’s a mark on an egg or two.
If this occurs, I usually leave it alone and don’t sell that egg. You can also scrape it with your fingernail or lightly sand it with sandpaper.
If you feel that you must wash your eggs, they can be washed in warm water that is at least 90° Fahrenheit. Washing eggs in warm water will cause the inside of the egg to expand and therefore push dirt and possible contaminants away for the shell’s pores.
Again, I repeat, if you insist on washing your eggs, you must dry them thoroughly and then refrigerate them.
I realize some people will just never get used to unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs, but for me, who eats food straight out of my garden regularly, I feel this is the way they are meant to be eaten.
If you do sell your eggs, please look Google ‘egg laws’ for your state to see if washing or not washing is required. Mostly do whatever you feel is best. And keep in mind, this statement from Countryside Daily:
“With chicken eggs, the eggshell is exposed to Salmonella usually after the egg has been laid as a result of poor animal management practices (i.e. the bird is living in a feces infested condition) and not necessarily from backyard chickens.”
Until next time,
Ingrid — Crazy Chicken Lady in Training