Monday night I gave a workshop on backyard poultry owning for our local town’s Adult Education program.
This is the second time I’ve given this workshop and many who attended are also signed up for the advanced class next week on “now that you have a flock, what’s next?”
Monday’s class covered the basics. How to get chicks, what’s the difference between a straight run and sex-linked birds (a very important thing to know), and what to feed your birds as chicks and then as egg-laying hens.
We talked a lot about eggs.
First of all, when the eggs are laid, they are covered with a thin film of oil that acts as a barrier protecting them from bacteria and water loss (the water content of an egg is high, if the water evaporates from inside, you’re going to have a bad egg.) If you don’t wash the egg, it can sit on your counter for a few days un-refridgerated and still be good. Think about it, in colonial times, they didn’t have refrigerators, most often the eggs sat in the kitchen until they were ready to be used.
Once you wash that oil coating off, however, the egg must then be refrigerated. In the refrigerator it can last up to a few months, but a washed egg on the table will only last a few days.
There are a few questions that I always get asked, one of which is how do you clean the eggs?
We’ve tried a few methods in our house to wash eggs but the one we like best is as follows:
Fill a large flat bottomed bowl (we have a red plastic one) about halfway with warm (not hot) water.
Let the eggs sit for a few minutes to let any poop or dirt that may be on them soften.
Discard any eggs that don’t fully sink. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP. This is very important, if an egg is old and some of its contents have evaporated or has a small crack, air will get into the egg. It’s not worth taking any chances with eggs whose shells have been breached. If the egg floats it gets thrown out, no questions asked. Sorry little egg.
Once the remaining eggs have soaked for a bit, pick up each egg and wash them gently with a soft sponge.
The absolute best sponges to use are those very soft mushy ones that come in packages of 6 at the dollar store. They’re soft (much too soft for dishes) and are very fluffy making them perfect for your delicate eggs. Use them and when they fall apart (which they will) grab a new one.
That’s it. Clean your eggs and then put them in the fridge.
A few notes on the eggs:
Even with precautions, I’ve still gotten some bad eggs (probably a total of 3 in my entire life, but when you’re looking at a bad egg, 3 is enough.) When I cook, I ALWAYS crack my eggs into a separate bowl and not directly into the batter. That way if the egg is bad, I don’t have to throw everything away, I just need to grab another egg. This is probably a good move for anyone who uses eggs to cook.
Some of your eggs might break when you clean them. Sometimes this just happens but sometimes this is an indication that your hens might need a little more calcium in their diet. Just keep track of how often this happens and if it shows up often, go out and give your birds some more calcium in their feed.