With warnings and recalls from the food industry, you may be wondering, “How do I know my backyard chicken eggs are safe to eat?” Here are 7 tips we have found helpful in our own practice!
A coop kept relatively clean, dry, and free of rodents will go a long way to help you avoid contamination of your chickens and their eggs. If you like using the deep litter method, make sure there are no rodent droppings or moisture. If rain or snow gets inside your coop, make sure to remove the wet bedding as soon as possible.
Keeping straw or other bedding in with the nesting boxes will help to keep the eggs clean and unbroken once laid. If you have particularly broody hens that like to peck at eggs when bored, try raising the nesting boxes to the chickens eye level to discourage that type of behavior.
If you'd like to ensure that the eggs are most likely laid in the nesting boxes and not somewhere in your yard, try keeping your hens in the coop for the first part of the day. Some of the more moody hens will lay their eggs outside the hen house, which means wasted eggs if you do not find them in time. For extra stubborn hens, try keeping them inside the coop for a week or so to help her re-learn where to lay her eggs.
Make sure you consider the current circumstances of your laying hens. The sooner you gather them, the less chances there are for the eggs to freeze in the winter, get too hot in the summer, or get pecked at by grouchy chickens. You don't have to hover over your hens, but we do recommend collecting the eggs soon after they are laid.
After harvesting the eggs, you may notice a whitish coating. This is known as the "bloom" and protects the inner egg. The shells on chicken eggs are porous, so once the bloom gets wet or washed off, the inside is not as protected. Leaving the bloom on until you are ready to consume should lengthen the life of the eggs, just make sure to wash it off before you cook.
Just like the rest of your food in your house, make sure to store the eggs from oldest to newest. This ensures you wont use really old eggs down the road. If you carton your eggs, try keeping them with the older egg cartons on top of the new egg carton, using the older eggs first.
If you are questioning the freshness of your eggs, you can always use this tried and true method. Simply put the egg in a cup of water and see what happens. If the egg sinks, it is fine to eat. However, if the egg floats, the egg should not be consumed.