I’m pretty laid-back when it comes to my home-grown foods.
I’ll eat unwashed veggies from my garden (we’re 100% organic, of course), raw milk straight from Oakley the cow, and raw eggs from our chickens.
Buuut, some people aren’t quite so, shall we say, accepting. And sometimes when you give people a carton of chicken eggs to take home that have bits of shavings and feathers stuck to them, it kinda grosses them out.
But no big deal, just give the eggs a good scrubbing and send them out the door. Right?
Believe it or not, there is more to washing an egg than you might think.
Egg shells are porous, but God designed them to have a micro membrane coating on them called “bloom” to keep potential baby chicks and their environment safe and clean.
Bacteria has a hard time getting inside a dry egg. Washing dirty eggs removes the bloom and invites bacteria to be drawn inside the egg. And washing eggs in cool water actually creates a vacuum, pulling unwanted bacteria inside even faster.
(Of course, not all bacteria is bad, but you never know what may be lurking on the outside, so better safe than sorry.)
So, what do we do with those less-than-shiny eggs?
First off, the easiest solution is to prevent dirty eggs in the first place.
1. Clean your nesting boxes often. Personally, I’ve found that keeping a constant supply of fresh shavings in each box goes a looong way in keeping my eggs clean (though, I’ll freely admit that this does not happen every day at my homestead!).
2. Place your roosting areas HIGHER than your boxes. Chickens like to roost in the highest part of the coop that they can. Build roosting areas higher than your nesting area to discourage them from roosting in and soiling their boxes. (I really wish I had known this tip BEFORE we built our roost set-up… darn it.)
But, even with the cleanest boxes, you will still end up with a dirty egg from time to time.
So your options are: (a) throw them at cars (b) practice your juggling technique (c) carefully clean them.
Let’s go with (c), shall we?
Egg Wash options:
1. Sandpaper. Use a fine grit sandpaper to gently sand off any soiled areas of the egg. While this still damages some of the bloom coating, it keeps the egg dry, helping to prevent the “vacuum” effect.
2. Warm/Hot water. Wash the dirty eggs in water that is approximately 20 degrees (or more) hotter than the egg. The hotter the better, and I try not to allow my eggs to soak in any standing water. I moisten them until the dirty spots soften, wipe, and dry. Also, it’s probably a good idea to use washed eggs before unwashed ones.
3. Bleach/Dish Soap. I’ve seen many sources mention bleaching or cleaning eggs with “solutions”. I try to steer clear of any of these methods, especially the bleach. I suppose if you are running a commercial egg operation, then this is something you need to consider, but for my informal egg collecting? I just use plain ol’ hot water. (If I WERE to use some sort of “soap,” I would definitely stick with something on the natural side that isn’t antibacterial… In fact anything that says “antibacterial” isn’t allowed into my house…)
My personal method? I only wash eggs that are visibly soiled. Anything that comes in the house already clean is left alone. If they have a bit of dry manure or shavings stuck on them, I try to flick those things off before bringing them inside. The less washing the better, I say!
So, my egg cleaning routine is informal, but I’m happy with it. Another factor that gives me peace of mind is knowing that our chickens are healthy, happy, and fed a better quality diet than commercial chickens. Those things go a long way in keeping your eggs safe to eat. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Do you wash your backyard eggs? What is your method?
A Few more Egg-y Posts: