Have you ever wondered what to do with your eggs after your chickens have laid them for you? Are you curious about how small-time farmers gather and wash eggs before selling them to their farm customers?
* Start with a LOT of straw in the hen house, especially in the nests where your hens will be laying. Chickens are really messy in a careless sort of way, and it doesn’t seem to bother them if their poop gets smeared all over their eggs. Now I know some people prefer to have their chickens lay in a proper nesting box, but I discovered that a lot of bullying, fighting, and coveting of another’s eggs can happen when using nesting boxes. I let my hens make their own nest neatly in one corner of the stall using lots of straw. That way their natural “chicken-ness” gets used, and they can get away from a bullying, pecking chicken if need be.
* Make sure the outside pen stays relatively dry. Again, chickens don’t care about muddy feet, bedraggled wet feathers that smear everything, and poopy bottoms. They just want to be chickens. I will usually sprinkle some straw around their doorway outside so they at least wipe their feet before they come in.
* Gather eggs every day! I know this seems like something pretty obvious, but there are people who will let egg-gathering go 2 or 3 days. What happens then is that chickens sit on top of the eggs that have already been laid. Their poopy claws smear poop on the eggs and their sheer weight breaks the eggs right on the bottom of the nest. Broken eggs cause even more of a mess and can turn your formerly sweet and adorable hens into flapping, shrieking, pecking harpies as they all attack and gobble up the offending egg pieces. If you have more than 20 hens, twice a day gathering would be even better. I have only 6 hens at the moment, so I gather during the evening chores.
* Start some warm (not hot!) soapy water using a good detergent and a small dash of bleach. Never have the water hotter than the egg (if your egg is still warm) because you’ll crack it. Do NOT soak the eggs in the water! Not even for a minute! Eggs come with a natural “safety layer” that keeps bacteria from soaking in through the shell. If you dunk the eggs in water, you will wash away that safety layer, which could contaminate your eggs.
Some people swear you should never even have water touch your eggs at all. You could just brush them clean with an egg brush and be done with it.
Since I sell my extra eggs, I just feel better scrubbing them carefully with a soapy/bleach water concoction before offering them to my customers. Indeed, my USDA booklet suggests as much.
* So now stand over your soapy water with your egg. Take your brush (I use those nailbrushes that you can buy at the dollar store) and dunk the brush bristles in the water. Now scrub your egg. Carefully! You don’t want to break it or scrub off the special protective layer! Dry off your egg with a clean piece of paper towel. Don’t use a dish towel or cloth as you could leave dirt/bacteria from the previous egg and contaminate the next egg with it. Use a clean piece of paper towel for each egg.
* Place your clean eggs in a plastic egg flat to dry. Air drying is a safe way to dry your eggs. Don’t stick damp eggs into your egg cartons as they will stick to the carton where they’re still damp and will probably break when your customer tries to take them out.
*We store our eggs in a spare refrigerator that we have downstairs. In order to keep track of which eggs need to be sold first, I use a left-to right rotational schedule. The eggs on the top shelf on the left-hand side need to go first. Everything to the right of them goes afterwards. I slide the cartons over to the left as eggs are used or sold. To be safe, I buy long rectangular postie notes from the dollar store and cut them up into squares. As each carton of eggs is moved to the left, I stick a square of postie note onto it so that I know for sure that those eggs need to be sold first.
* Farm fresh eggs are good for a really long time in the fridge. If you do not wash them (such as for your own use and the eggs have stayed nice and clean) they will be good for up to 8 months! However, once you wash them, they must be kept in the fridge and should not be used after six months. Of course, your eggs won’t stay in the fridge for that long anyways. Who can resist marvelously delicious farm-fresh eggs straight from the chicken? I know my customers rave about the wonderful, rich taste and the marvelous deep orange of the egg yolks after they buy our eggs, and there are times of the year when our eggs are sold almost before they are even put in the fridge!