Getting farm fresh eggs to scramble, bake, or cook with is just one of the many joys that come from keeping a flock of chickens or ducks. But, when and how you both collect and store eggs plays a massive role in their longevity.
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How Often Should You Collect Chicken Eggs?
Collecting chickens eggs should be a daily chore if you do not want to lose any, because they get cracked by poultry birds moving about in the coop or run. Ideally, you should do it twice a day, once in the morning, and a second time in the evening.
During the winter months, when temperatures dip well below freezing, you many need to check for eggs up to three times per day to avoid cracking caused by extreme cold.
Some farmers and homesteaders do not collect eggs more than a few times per week during the winter months because all breeds of poultry birds slow down their production cycle when the temperature dips below 50 degrees.
How to Collect Chicken Eggs
In any television show or movie you have watched that depicts farm life, folks are often shown simply opening up a door on a nesting box, and easily reaching in to retrieve nice clean eggs quickly without a threat to bodily harm.
Oh, the magic of Hollywood.
The eggs you will be collecting on your homestead are not going to resemble the ones in the feature photo I snapped for this article until after you have washed away the “bloom” left on them by the laying hen – as probably a teaspoon or so worth of bird feces and mud.
What the cameraman also neglects to capture on screen is the violent tendencies of broody hens. A nice normally docile hen that does not want a human reaching in and snatching one of her eggs can truly be something to contend with folks.
Some chicken keepers don their leather work gloves when collecting eggs not because they are afraid of getting their hands dirty, but to prevent the hen from drawing blood.
The eggs below were laid by one of my Bantam hens – her name was Soup. She was an all-star layer, easy keeper, and great little momma. She was the first chick we hatched on our survival homestead. Soup very courteously laid eggs in her nest and immediately wanted to sit them
I had to have someone else snatch them when she left her nesting box to get a bite to eat during turnout in the morning – otherwise she would have fought to keep them.
If I wanted to hatch eggs from another hen breed that refused to sit them, I would just slip the eggs into her nesting box when she went out for food or water. Soup was the only hen that would actually lay eggs in her nesting box with any regularity.
A broody hen is a female bird that wants to keep all of her eggs (even if she is sitting on 30 or more!), and to raise her chicks. Some breeds of chickens are far more prone to going broody than others.
Once a hen is prone to broodiness and you have forced her to relinquish her eggs at least one, she will likely stop laying her eggs in the easy to reach nesting box and start dropping them elsewhere in the coop or run – often in a corner.
If you are forced to expose your whole body to a broody hen – and her protective rooster, when collecting chicken eggs – never, ever do so with uncovered legs and arms.
That sweet little hen that would sit on your shoulder and loved to be petted can go into full Jeckel and Hyde mode over her clutch of eggs.
Unless you have a small chicken coop and run, the type that are assembled from a kit and placed in a suburban or small town backyard, hunting for eggs will no longer be only an Easter tradition.
Expecting the chickens to cooperate and lay eggs only in their nesting box often leads to great frustration among keepers. If you are also raising ducks, it really is best to assume NEVER to find an egg in the nest.
Ducks tend to just drop an egg wherever they happen to be when the urge comes over them. Only one Pekin duck hen (out of the nearly 30 I have kept) ever laid eggs in a nest, and she only did that one time.
It has been said that “nothing ever happens in the country”. But that old phrase really isn’t true, we just make our own fun out here. Collecting chicken eggs can be quite the adventure.
To show you what it really looks like attempting to collect eggs from a large poultry coop, I shot a little video footage this morning.
While I was thankful my helper was able to not yell curse words when my protective rooster tried to thwart his efforts, I am still not sure how he pulled remaining tight lipped off quite so well during this encounter.
This is what you should expect the collected chicken eggs to look like most of the time when you go to the coup each morning:
How to Clean the Eggs
Cleaning them is easy. If they’re not that dirty, you should definitely dry clean them, because ti will preserve the eggs’ natural coating. Simply wipe the egg off with a cloth or a sponge. This will allow you to keep it unrefrigerated.
If the egg is too dirty, you many need to wash it under running water for a little bit, then use a dry towel or a paper towel to remove moisture.
Egg Laying 101
Hens can start laying eggs as soon as they are six months old. Once a female chicken begins laying eggs she is no longer considered a pullet – young female. She will continue to lay eggs throughout her lifetime, but the laying cycles slows down significantly when the hen hits approximately 18 months old – and during the winter.
The initial eggs a young hen lays will be smaller than those she produces later. Duck eggs are much larger than chicken eggs, even those laid by breeds that produce large or extra large white eggs.
The white egg screen left is a duck egg and the brown egg screen right was laid by a mature Buckeye chicken hen:
If you notice production shortages when collecting chicken eggs that are not due to hen age or winter weather, the birds might be in a molting stage or experiencing a health problem. Molting can last from 60 to 120 days, on average.
I highly recommend keeping a record of not only egg production but the number of eggs each hen produces (if possible to determine) when completing the daily chicken eggs collection chore.
Such a record will help you determine if laying is off and may alert you to a possibly contagious health problem among the flock members.
What About Salmonella Poisoning?
This foodborne sickness should be taken seriously, as it can be deadly. Both commercially raised and farm fresh chicken eggs you collect yourself, can carry the salmonella bacteria.
When a hen lays an egg it comes out of her body through the same tract that excretes feces. The eggs you buy at a grocery store have been extensively washed to remove all of the fecal matter and dirt that can be on the shell of the egg. This also washes away the protective bloom or film that covers the egg when it is laid.
The bloom regulates how much oxygen gets through the shell of the egg – making it possible to store the egg at room temperature. Cleansed eggs have no protection against oxygen or bacteria and must be kept refrigerated to ensure they are not exposed to temperatures over 45 degrees – or bacteria can grow on and ultimately inside the egg.
Ideally, you can keep your farm fresh eggs in a cool dry place if you do not cleanse them until each individual one is about to be used. If you are unsure how old the collected egg may be or if it has been stored at low enough of a temperature and the bloom has remained intact, do the sink or float test to find out before eating.
How Long Are Chicken Eggs Good For?
Typically, you can keep chicken eggs or duck eggs out at room temperature for about 30 days before they need to be eaten or placed in a refrigerator for quick use. Generally, it is recommended to consume eggs in two weeks after being laid when kept out at room temperature for both increased safety and tastee.
One old fashioned trick to test the viability of eggs to determine if they are safe to eat may or may not be backed by scientific evidence – but has never steered me wrong. The sink or float test WILL remove the bloom from the farm fresh egg, making it no longer viable to sit out at room temperature and remain safe to eat.
Chicken Egg Sink Or Float Test
Test your collected chicken eggs to see if they are fresh enough to eat. The test is as simple as it is quick to complete.
Simply fill a bowl with enough cold water to cover about two inches above the eggs. If the eggs float, they are cracked or too old to eat. If the eggs sink, they are likely only one to three days old and farm fresh enough to eat.
Should an egg remain submerged but stand up in the water, it is not generally considered too old to eat but is not exactly fresh and should be consumed within days.
Once the eggs have been placed in water to do the float test, their bloom has been washed away and they must be refrigerated.
Although egg production varies by breed, many hen varieties are capable of laying approximately 250 to 280 eggs per year.