You’ve finally bought or built that amazing chicken coop. Then you picked out your chicks and waited for them to grow. And after waiting for 5-6 long months, your flock started laying eggs! It’s pretty darn fun when that happens and you experience the thrill of finding fresh eggs in the nest boxes!
But then comes the next part – how to store those eggs? Depending on how many chickens you have, the number of eggs can pile up quickly. There can be a huge advantage to storing your eggs in the open since it leaves extra room in your fridge! But is this safe? Do fresh eggs need refrigeration?
There is a fair amount of debate out there whether or not eggs need to be refrigerated at all. For those of you who don’t live in the US, this article may seem silly since you may have NEVER refrigerated your eggs. And when you buy them at the stores, you’ll find them on a shelf in the grocery store (not in the refrigerated section like the US).
I will clarify here that I am not a scientist, doctor, or researcher. I’m just a concerned consumer like you, who happens to raise my own eggs and wants to make sure I’m storing them safely for consumption!
We’ll take a look at all the information and boil it down. After that, YOU can make the call whether you want to refrigerate your eggs or not!
Wikipedia talks about eggs as food here, and also weighs in on the subject.
The Egg Shell
An outer part of the egg shell has a protective layer called “bloom,” which is a natural coating which helps to seal the egg and prevents bacteria from entering into the egg. One such bacteria is Salmonella.
The reason there is so much debate about whether or not to refrigerate is because we ALL want to avoid getting salmonella, a nasty little bacteria that can invade your digestive system and make you very sick. In some case, it has been fatal!
The egg shell itself is porous and without the bloom (or cuticle as it’s also called), the egg is more susceptible to getting salmonella or other bacteria.
Just how to know if your eggs are safe (or not) depends a lot on where you live.
Differences Between The US And The UK
In the US, the USDA requires poultry farmers to wash the eggs in hot water and coat them with a chlorine type of spray, which greatly helps in preventing salmonella. The theory is to protect the eggs from the outside, preventing bacteria from entering altogether.
The process of washing eggs this way will take off the bloom, leaving them prone to bacteria. However, when the eggs are refrigerated salmonella cannot grow.
In the UK, the hens are vaccinated against salmonella and the eggs are otherwise untouched. This leaves the natural bloom of the egg as protection. Thus, the theory here is to protect the eggs from salmonella from the inside out.
Because the hens are vaccinated and the bloom remains intact, there is no need to refrigerate. Clearly this has been working fine in the UK for many years.
The eggs are often cleaned at the point of collection so the focus is on keeping the collection area clean, free of excess poop etc.
After that, the eggs are simply stored at room temperature.
What Should Backyard Chicken Farmers Do?
The above discussion is great and all, but what about the average chicken owner living…well, in ANY country? I’m talking about those of us just raising a few eggs to eat for ourselves, or those who sell a few dozen eggs on a roadside stand.
We live in the US and have stored eggs both ways and not experienced any problems either way. Years ago when we didn’t refrigerate our eggs, it was great having the extra room in the fridge for other foods. But after doing the research, we’ve now decided to refrigerate them, just as an added precaution.
Maybe it’s overkill, but we have a large family and we’d rather be safe than sorry! Not only that, we live in the US where chickens are not immunized against salmonella, so refrigeration just makes sense.
To be ultra safe, you could avoid washing the eggs and simply rubbing off any extra poo, dirt etc., which is more likely to leave the bloom (mostly) undamaged. Then store them in the refrigerator.
By using this method, you’ll likely have the least chance of inviting salmonella into your eggs since washing and then storing them in the fridge (or in the open) can still potentially introduce bacteria. Washing the eggs removes the bloom, leaving the pores of the shell exposed.
Again – so much of this discussion will depend on your geographic location (US vs UK or other parts of the world) and your own personal conscience. In other words, whatever makes YOU feel best when storing and eating your eggs.
Just know that if you decide to refrigerate your eggs, you cannot later change your mind and store them outside the fridge because they will get rotten.
Care Of Your Eggs
So whether you decide to refrigerate your eggs or not, what is the best way to care for your eggs prior to eating? There are a few guidelines which can be useful to remember and can reduce the chance of introducing bacteria in your eggs:
Keep Your Coop Clean
Although raising chickens is fun, they do require some clean up right? They seem to poop all the time and wherever they please which can mean your nest boxes will get soiled too.
For the coop flooring area, you can using whatever your bedding you want. To keep the smell down and make it so that the hens won’t carry dung on their feet, the deep litter method works great.
But this method can’t be used in the nest boxes (sorry). Great bedding options for your nest boxes are straw (the best) or hay. Pine shavings can also work but I find they tend to flatten out too much.
Another great bedding idea we’ve used is artificial turf that can be cut to match the size of your nest box and then stapled down. It’s soft enough that the chickens like to lay on it, yet still provides enough cushion that the eggs won’t break.
We were lucky enough to find some turf at Goodwill, but any hardware store should have some. You can also buy it online. Another major bonus with the turf is that it’s easy to clean, which is great when trying to keep your eggs free from poop! We like to add a bit of straw on top of the turf for even more cushioning, but it’s not necessary.
Rub Off Any Poo Or Debris With A Cloth
This goes along with the above point…the cleaner you keep your nest boxes, the less you’ll have to worry about them getting contaminated! And with less contamination is a decreased likelihood of bacteria infecting your eggs. However, it’s easier said than done because chickens are pretty messy. So keeping up with this as much as you can will definitely help.
Wash Eggs RIGHT BEFORE Consuming, And Not Before
If you believe you need to wash your eggs, we totally get it. Even if you’ve rubbed the poop off the shell, there is a chance there is some residual left on the shell that you don’t want in your frying pan! Just leave the washing until right before you’re ready to eat them. If you wash the eggs right after collection and then store them in the fridge for a few days, it may give bacteria an opportunity to take hold.
Label Your Eggs By Date Of Collection
This will, of course, help you to remember which eggs were collected first so they get used first. How you decide to organize your eggs is up to you. We have separate cartons that we keep for each day of the week to help with this. It may not be the most efficient method since we don’t get a full dozen per day, which leaves a few slots open. But it’s an easy way to keep track.
I was surprised to find there were a lot of egg organizing systems that can be bought online too!
Do A “Float Test” To Check For Rotten Eggs
If you’ve had your eggs refrigerated for around 3 – 5 weeks, you may want to do a simple test to make sure they are still safe to eat. Just fill a bowl with water and gently place the eggs in. If any of them float, they are bad. DO NOT EAT THEM. When eggs get rotten, a gas builds up inside the egg, causing them to float. If they sink, you’re good to go.
We hope you have enough information to make an informed decision on whether refrigerate your eggs or store them in the fridge! There is a lot of information on the subject – our opinion is that refrigeration is the safest way store your eggs but feel free to laugh at us if you live elsewhere in the world and store your eggs outside the fridge!
Thanks for visiting us here and please share your thoughts below on whether you think refrigerating eggs is better than storing them in the open. We can all learn from each other!