Washing and Refrigerating Eggs – is it necessary for your own eggs?

According to egg sales regulations in this country, eggs have to be kept refrigerated at or below 45 degrees F. If you are in the business of selling your eggs, you should legally abide by this rule. Your state’s Agriculture and Markets Department would be where you should visit for specific regulations for your state if you are considering selling your eggs.

But do you have to refrigerate your eggs from your own hens for your personal use? If you have walked into a grocery store in most other countries, you’ll find that the eggs are not refrigerated. They’re sitting out at room temperature just like the bread.

The answer has to do with washing the eggs or not. A freshly laid egg has a clear coating over the shell. That clear coating seals the shell, which is quite porous. The coating keeps the egg fresher and keeps bacteria from entering the inside of the egg. If you wash the egg, you wash off that coating and the egg is no longer protected and therefore needs to be refrigerated.

All eggs sold in the United States have to be washed before being sold to the public, so they also have to be refrigerated.

But the eggs from your coop are probably pretty clean especially if you are consistent with cleaning and refreshing the bedding in the next boxes. And if there are a couple stains or a bit of poop on them do you really care that much? Especially if you know that not washing them will allow them to stay fresh longer? It is really not necessary to scrub down and wash your eggs. If the eggs still have the protective coating, they can sit on your counter at room temperature and still be fresh after 2-3 weeks. Just don’t keep your egg basket directly over your dishwasher or next to your coffee maker or toaster – you don’t want to heat them up past 70-80 degrees or so. In the hot days of summer, I usually refrigerate all the eggs.

Colorful chicken eggs in glass bowlOne thing to note is that keeping your unwashed eggs in the refrigerator will also lengthen their shelf life. They will stay fresh over 50 days and sometimes can still be usable up to four months.

The one big rule of thumb though is to not allow your eggs to experience fluctuating temperatures – once they have been put into the fridge don’t start leaving them out.

And don’t feel like you have to put all your eggs into one basket! I keep a skelter or basket on the counter and use those eggs quickly. It is very convenient, especially when baking, to have room temperature eggs at the ready. Room temperature eggs also seem to cook up for breakfast smoother and more consistently than when I use cold eggs. I keep a larger basket of unwashed eggs in the fridge for long-term storing. I usually have a small bowl of eggs in the fridge that got dirty enough that I was compelled to wash them. I keep these washed eggs separate from the unwashed as I know that they won’t last as long. Also, without their coating the washed eggs really shouldn’t be in close contact to the unwashed, possibly a bit dirty, eggs.

Another thing to note – if you have a rooster in your flock, your eggs are probably fertile. This means that if you heat up the eggs to 100 degrees F, they will start to develop into chicks. When I want to incubate some eggs for chicks, I gather up the prime candidate-eggs over a week’s time.

I keep them at room temperature but separate from my eating eggs. Be very wary of temperature fluctuations! You want to keep these eggs for incubation some place in your house that is at a steady temperature – not in a spot where the sun will hit them or that will get chilly at night.

Also, do not wash eggs that you want to incubate – that coating will protect the developing chick. However, do not choose eggs that are very dirty for your incubator. Once you have the number of eggs you would like to hatch, start up your incubator. Let the incubator come to a steady 100 degrees, and about 60-65% humidity, then pop in your eggs. They will hatch in 21 days, with proper turning, temperature and humidity regulation.