Should You Wash Your Farm Fresh Eggs

Unwashed farm fresh eggs

Should you wash your farm fresh eggs?? That is the question! I have heard a lot about this topic and know the basics about washing or not washing. I decided to research it and find out the correct information regarding if you should wash, how you should wash and how long to store on the counter versus the refrigerator. A lot of people are getting into backyard chickens or buying fresh chicken eggs lately, so this would be good information to know.

Should you wash?

The short answer is no, at least not until right before you want to use them. Why? The answer to the question is that right before a hen lays an egg, the egg is coated in a “bloom” or cuticle. The egg bloom is a thin coating of protein that covers the entire egg and it acts as an outer barrier and protects the insides from harmful bacteria. It seals the egg and protects the chick from the elements before it hatches.

This protective layer also helps to keep bacteria out of the egg and it keeps the egg fresher by keeping air coming through the pores in the eggshell. The bacteria can cause Salmonella bacteria poisoning. The egg contains thousands of pores which allow for the exchange of gases as the embryo develops. This is a good article about the bloom, if you want to know more details.

Below is an example of a heavy bloom of one of my farm-fresh eggs that actually made the egg look purple! The egg would originally be the same color as the brown egg.

Purple Egg Bloom
Example of a heavy bloom that made the egg look purple

Also washing eggs greatly reduces the shelf life of an egg.

When to Wash Farm Fresh Eggs

If you are grossed out by dirty eggs and have to wash them right away, the best way to do it is below. If you do wash, the egg needs to go in the refrigerator as it no longer has the protective coating.

But basically the best choice is that the egg should not be washed until right before you are going to cook the egg.

How to Wash Farm Fresh Eggs

First of all, DO NOT wash in cold water or soak your eggs. Washing in cold water creates a vacuum effect pulling bad bacteria inside the eggs. Soaking eggs is not good because the bloom is immediately washed away once it comes into contact with the water and the pores are opened up allowing the contamination in your wash water to absorb into the inside of the egg.

The best thing in my opinion is to scrape any dirt or debris off of the egg with your fingernail, rough cloth, paper towel or scrub sponge.

Some people think that unwashed fresh eggs need to be washed before you cook them no matter how clean they look. Personally, I don’t wash mine unless dirty and have never got sick.

For egg washing, the best method is to hold them under very warm running water for a quick wash to rinse them off.

Washing Brown Egg

If you are not going to cook them immediately the egg needs to be thoroughly dried off with a towel or paper towel and then stored in the refrigerator. Putting eggs away wet can cause the transfer of any bacteria on the eggshell to the inside of the egg. Another method to wash the egg safely, is to place them in a colander and spray them off with very warm water.

Washing with warm water causes the egg’s contents to expand and push contaminants and any dirt away from the eggshell’s pores.

Never use bleach, soap or other chemical sanitizer to wash eggs. When the protective bloom is removed from outside of the egg, these substances can pass through the shell’s pores and be consumed.

How to Store Farm Fresh Eggs

Once an egg has been washed, the bloom is gone and the egg does need to be refrigerated.

Unwashed eggs as a rule of thumb can be stored on the kitchen counter for about 3 weeks and in the refrigerator for about 4 months. Refrigeration does preserve egg quality.

Eggs in Cartons
Farm Fresh Eggs in Cartons

Also, once eggs have been refrigerated, they must be kept refrigerated to prevent condensation from forming on the shell if they warm up. This moisture makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate the shell.

It is interesting to note that the United States is one of the only countries that requires commercial eggs (store-bought eggs) to be washed. Most European countries legally restrict commercial eggs from being washed.

To reduce the risk of salmonella, most grocery store eggs are washed with 110º to 120ºF water, then sprayed with a sanitizing solution. Some are pasteurized, which takes this process a step further, heating the eggs to 140ºF to kill bacteria on both the insides and the outsides of the shells. While the process kills most contaminants present on the shells, it also removes the shells’ natural coating, leaving them porous and more susceptible to harmful bacteria.

How to Keep Farm Fresh Eggs Clean

The best way to keep your eggs clean is to keep your chicken coop clean and have clean nesting boxes. But even if your coop is clean, there is no guarantee your eggs will stay clean, I know that for a fact! Especially duck eggs, they lay them everywhere, and usually the dirtiest muddiest place possible.

Also, have something over your nesting box so that chickens cannot roost above the box and poop into it.

Collect eggs early and often.

Have nice nesting boxes that your chicken will want to use. This is an article on some DIY nesting boxes. I kind of have to laugh at this, because I do have a nesting box I bought on amazon in my coop, but they lay right next to it in the pine shavings. It is under a little shelf so that helps protect it. This is a picture from this week.

Eggs next to nesting box Should You Wash Farm Fresh Eggs
Eggs Next to Nesting Box

Also the thing about chickens and having nice nesting boxes is demonstrated in the pictures below. These show some of the places my chickens have chosen to lay recently of.

So I guess another good tip on keeping clean eggs would be to not allow them to free range. My chickens are in a large run, but it is not covered, so they fly out at will, usually to go find a good hiding place to lay their eggs. Here are some good ones

Hiding Eggs in an Old Tire
eggs by cage
Eggs in New Hiding Spot

Other Things to Know about Farm Fresh Eggs

  • You do not need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs, I know that may seem obvious to most, but some people do not know a lot about chickens.
  • It is fine to eat fertilized eggs. For the most part, you cannot tell the difference.
  • To check to get a rough idea how old an egg is, perform a float test. Use warm water in a jar and gently drop the egg into the water. Freshly laid eggs will lie flat on the bottom of the glass. After 1-2 weeks, one end of the egg will begin rise off the bottom of the glass. After 2 months or so, the egg will likely be standing straight up with just the pointy end touching the bottom of the glass. Eggs older than 3 months will likely float and these old eggs should be tossed out.
  •  The color of the egg yolk is determined by the food eaten by chickens. It has nothing to do with the nutritional value of one egg over another or a commercially produced egg over a farm produced egg. According to this article marigolds, kale and greens will turn the yolk deep yellow and tomatoes, red peppers and carrots will turn the yolk dark orange to red.

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