Harvesting Eggs 101: How to Take Your Eggs from Coop to Custard without Contaminants

So, you’ve built the coop, brooded your babies, and spent countless hours worrying about predators and whether or not you’re “doing it right.” Now we anxiously await the day that these ladies start “earning their keep.” And then it happens! You walk into the coop and find it lying there -that dazzling matte finished shell, the radiant oval shape glowing from within the nest, the prize that we know is filled with the omelets of future brunches, meringues of pies to be, and nogs of holidays to come- the EGG! You rush to it, snatch it from its bed and scrutinize it’s every inch. You’ve gathered your first egg! Now what?

Well, if this is what you asked yourself, or are still asking yourself as you wait, read on for some of the best tips and tricks for gathering, cleaning, and storing your bounty.

First off, be sure to gather your eggs every day, even twice a day if you can. Your vivacious ladies will eventually eat the eggs that are left to lay around, and once your hen gets a taste for eggs, there’s no turning back. No doubt, she’ll lead others in her evil ways as well, so be sure she doesn’t get that chance. Keeping your eggs gathered and your coop free from broken eggs, or the egg’s content, will prevent egg-eaters within your flock.

Eggshells have a special coating that protects the egg from bacteria, called a “bloom,” Avoid washing, and therefore removing the bloom, if you can; instead, wipe with a dry, rough cloth. If the eggs have a little manure on them, you can wipe with a damp cloth for small spots. A really dirty egg can be submerged and scrubbed with a vegetable brush. Always use warm water; cold water will make the egg shrink inside the shell and will draw in bacteria. Washed eggs should be refrigerated right away, but do allow them to air dry thoroughly before hand.

Using an Egg Skelter ( a spiral device used to serve the oldest eggs first) or dated, new egg cartons, store your eggs on a shelf of the fridge that won’t allow them to be jostled like they would if stored in the door. Store eggs in egg cartons like the ones you get with store-bought eggs. However, because cardboard (yes, styrofoam, too) can easily absorb contaminants from the eggs, it’s important that you use brand new cartons for each batch of eggs. Place eggs “upside down,” with the small ends down, in each carton.

Fresh, unwashed eggs are good for up to 2 weeks (conservatively) on the counter top and  5 weeks or more in the refrigerator. I like to use a pencil and mark the shell of the eggs themselves to best know which eggs need to be used and when. If you’re unsure of the freshness of your eggs, an easy way to figure out if an egg is fit for consumption is the float test: Simply put the egg in a cup of water. If the egg sinks, it’s fine to eat; if it floats, that is a bad sign, and the egg should not be consumed.

So now you know! Once your female flock members start paying it back in fresh, scrumptious eggs, you will know exactly how to get them from hen house to Hollandaise! Happy Gathering!