Lesson 986 – Dirty Chicken Eggs


In a recent Forbes article, I finally read the exact procedure that United States grocery store eggs go through in order to get cleaned for selling:

The USDA requires producers to wash eggs with warm water at least 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the eggs and at a minimum of 90°F. A detergent that won’t impart any foreign odors to the eggs must also be used. After washing, the eggs must be rinsed with a warm water spray containing a chemical sanitizer to remove any remaining bacteria.  They are then dried to remove excess moisture.

This last step is crucial because bacteria cannot penetrate a thoroughly dry egg shell. Add a thin layer of moisture, however, and not only is there a medium that promotes bacterial growth, but the water also provides an excellent vehicle for pathogens such as salmonella and other critters to pass through via the tens of thousands of pores on the surface of the egg shell.

In my chicken workshops, there are always questions about how to properly clean eggs.

There are as many ways to clean eggs as there are chicken owners, is my answer. Some people use soap, others don’t. Some don’t even clean the eggs and just let them sit until they are ready to be used – still others use expensive “chicken-egg cleaners” to make the eggs look spotless.

I, personally, collect the eggs and wait until I have enough to justify cleaning them (usually at least a dozen, which in the summertime is pretty much every day.)

I then water-test them in warm (not hot water) – if they float they get discarded, if they sit on the bottom of the bucket they are kept.

While they are sitting in the warm water, all “dirt” gets soft and so all I do to clean them is to lightly rub a sponge over the egg and then rinse it under cool water. These cleaned eggs then go into the fridge.

I don’t use soap and I don’t use sanitizer (if truth be known I have never even bought a bottle of that hand-sanitizer stuff that everyone thinks should be in every classroom.)

I’ve always said that if you use common sense then you shouldn’t have a problem with backyard eggs, and that common sense includes:

  • Water testing all eggs
  • Washing the eggs with warm water
  • Refrigerating all eggs that have been washed
  • Cracking all eggs into a separate bowl (not into any baking mixture) in case it is a bad one
  • And finally, washing your own hands with soap and warm water *every* time you have handled any eggs

Chickens and eggs have been around forever. Our ancestors didn’t have access to sanitizers when they went to use and store their eggs.

But they did have access to a big dose of common sense and for many, many years, that appears to have been enough.


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Holidays, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Personal, Quotable Chicks, The Family

6 responses to “Lesson 986 – Dirty Chicken Eggs

  1. We are a little distracted right now because of the helicopter crash at Seattle Center a couple of hours ago. We haven’t been raising chickens as long as you have. We don’t wash our eggs. We are still alive. Anyone reading this, use your own best experience and judgement. Watch our for falling helicopters, but you just never know what’s going to come out of the sky. Oh, no! There’s a giant hen claw coming down at me from the sky.

    • Wendy Thomas

      I’ve been following that helicopter crash! So near to the needle.

      From initial reports it looks like it clipped the side of a building. Anyway, it’s a terrifying situation.

      Glad to hear that you are both still alive (even though you don’t wash your eggs.) 🙂


      On Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 12:44 PM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:


  2. We don’t wash our eggs but then I am a “foreigner” and in Europe we don’t refrigerate eggs. Walk into any store and you will see stacks of eggs sitting out. Washing removes the protective covering.

  3. Peculiar article, totally wwhat I needed.

  4. Pingback: Date stamping eggs at Entropy Acres

  5. Pingback: Area Woman Thoughtfully Fondles Eggs | Nevada County Scooper

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