How to Clean and Store Backyard Chicken Eggs

No other chicken topic – well, besides “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” – gets debated more heavily than how you should clean and store fresh eggs. Should you wash them or not wash them? Should you leave them on the counter or store them in the fridge?

We attempt to settle this debate once and for all!

Should You Wash Eggs?

Don’t wash your eggs, especially if you plan to store them for some time before use. The reason why you shouldn’t wash your eggs is because you would wash away the “bloom”, a protective membrane on the shell that keeps moisture in and bacteria out. Without this protective layer, your eggs become porous and won’t be able to stay fresh.

You shouldn’t have any reason to wash your eggs if nests – and therefore your eggs – are kept clean. But stuff happens. For instance, chickens are not unknown for laying eggs in the most random of places. Eggs get dirtied all the time. Dirty eggs can and should be washed before consumption.

How to Wash Chicken Eggs

The right way to wash eggs is to use water that’s warmer than the egg itself. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln suggests using water that is at least 20°F (or 11°C) warmer than the egg. A good temperature is between 90 to 120°F (32 to 49°C).

By using warm water, the contents of the egg expands and “pushes out” invading microbes. The opposite happens when you use cold water: the contents of the egg shrinks and “pulls in” unwanted microbes. That’s why you never want to use cold water.

Along with warm water, you should use unscented detergent to wash your eggs. Scented detergent will give your eggs an off flavor! Either dishwasher or laundry detergent can be used.

After cleaning with water and detergent, dip the egg into a sanitizing solution of one tablespoon bleach to a gallon of hot water before rinsing off with plain water.

For eggs that aren’t visibly dirty: it’s not a good idea to wash them before storing, but not a bad idea to wash them before eating to prevent food poisoning. After all, an egg exits the hen’s body through the same passageway as feces get expelled! You can minimize risks of Salmonella poisoning by cooking eggs to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.

For eggs that are visibly dirty: wash them as soon as they’re gathered, and use washed eggs as soon as possible. In fact, we suggest using them right away.

Chicken Eggs with Poop on Them

Many people wonder: is it OK to eat eggs with poop on them? Some people say it’s fine to eat them as long as you wash them properly. But our opinion on this matter is that there are no guarantees.

An egg that’s covered in poop – or mud for that matter – is unsafe to eat and should be thrown out. There’s a real risk of Salmonella poisoning. If your eggs always seem to have poop on them, it’s time to step up your cleaning game! Make sure all areas are clean at all times, and remember to collect your eggs two or three times a day, which can help keep them clean.

How to Store Eggs

Eggs can be stored three ways: on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer.

If you’ve ever visited a supermarket in the European Union, you may have noticed that their eggs are always stored at room temperature. You’ll never find them in the fridge. Their reasoning is that, since they don’t wash their eggs, the protective bloom keeps the eggs fresh and prevents bacteria from entering the egg. So refrigeration is unnecessary.

But in the United States, Canada, and Japan (where eggs are often consumed raw), concerns about foodborne illnesses have prompted these countries to wash their eggs and store them in the fridge to keep them from spoiling. Without refrigeration, washed eggs will spoil. That’s why – if you wash your eggs – you should put them in the fridge or, better yet, eat them right away.

How Long Do Eggs Last Unrefrigerated?

Some chicken owners follow the European way. They leave their eggs on the counter. Of course, that means their eggs must be unwashed. When left on the counter, unwashed eggs can last up to 2 weeks.

How Long Do Eggs Last in the Fridge?

Other chicken owners collect and put their eggs in the fridge right away. This is the method we recommend, especially if you can’t consume all your eggs within 2 weeks.

Eggs stored in the fridge can keep fresh for up to 5 weeks. That doesn’t mean your eggs will “expire” beyond this point. But they won’t be as fresh – the whites get watery and the yolks break easily. Eggs that aren’t as fresh are better used for hard-boiling, scrambling, or baking rather than frying or poaching.

How Long Do Eggs Last in the Freezer?

It’s a good idea to freeze the summer surplus for consumption in the winter, when your hens tend not to lay well. You can keep eggs in the freezer for up to 1 year.

To freeze eggs, you should remove them from their shells. Otherwise, the contents inside will expand and the egg will crack. Scramble the eggs and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt or 1 teaspoon of sugar to prevent the eggs from becoming pasty. Freeze the eggs in ice cube trays and transfer them over to a freezer bag, or use a freezer-safe container to store.

You can choose to store egg whites and egg yolks separately too. But you only need to add the sugar or salt to the egg yolks. The egg whites won’t need it.

You’re a Cleaning and Storage Egg-spert

To recap, you shouldn’t wash your eggs because they stay fresher that way. That said, it’s not a bad idea to wash them right before you eat them. Dirtied eggs should be washed right away, and then eaten – or at least stored in the fridge – right away. You can store your eggs on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer. But if left on the counter, eggs must not be washed.

You’re now officially an egg-spert on cleaning and storing eggs!

Have Fun Out There!