Backyard Poultry

How Long Do Eggs Last? Facts About Farm Fresh Eggs

Flock Management : Layer Nutrition

Flock Management : Egg Benefits

Flock Management : Egg Production

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Your dream to raise your own farm fresh eggs has come true! But, now what do you do with all those beautiful, delicious eggs? Learn everything you need to know about safely collecting, storing and enjoying farm fresh eggs.
Those first eggs from your backyard flock are one of the most anticipated events of the year! Most chicken raisers can’t wait to eat their first eggs and don’t worry about storing them. But as your chickens lay more and more, you’ll probably have many questions like:
  • Is washing chicken eggs necessary?
  • Do eggs need to be refrigerated?
  • How to wash fresh eggs?
  • How long do eggs last?
  • How to store fresh eggs?
  • How to tell if eggs are good?
  • And advanced questions like, why are my chickens eating eggs?
List of commonly asked questions about collecting farm fresh eggs, such as, ‘Do eggs need to be refrigerated?’ and ‘Why are my chickens eating eggs?’To take the worry out of what should be an egg-citing time, we have answered these common questions:

Is washing chicken eggs necessary? Do eggs need to be refrigerated?

These questions go hand in hand because if you do one, you must do the other. There are valid points for both washing and not washing farm fresh eggs, so it comes down to personal preference. But you’ll have to store the eggs differently depending on which choice you pick.
Unwashed eggs have a protective layer called a cuticle (also referred to as the bloom) and can be stored on the counter. This protective coating works by sealing the shell’s pores and preventing air from penetrating it, helping to keep bacteria out.
Washing eggs removes the cuticle. As a result, washed eggs must be refrigerated to prevent contamination.

How to wash fresh eggs?

If you choose to wash your farm fresh eggs, follow these guidelines:
  • Be gentle and quick, using water only. Water should be warmer than the egg.
  • Brush any foreign material off the shell with your finger or a soft brush.
  • Remove any signs of manure from the shell, since feces can harbor bacteria which can get into the egg.
  • Dry and cool eggs as quickly as possible and then refrigerate between 32- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit.

How long do eggs last?

A general rule, unwashed eggs will last around two weeks unrefrigerated and about three months or more in your refrigerator. If you’re experiencing an egg boom, it’s smart to refrigerate any unwashed fresh eggs you aren’t planning to eat immediately. This will help them last longer. Or give them away to friends or family.
Washed eggs must be refrigerated and will last around two months in the refrigerator.

How to store fresh eggs?

Whether you store fresh, unwashed eggs on your countertop or washed eggs in your refrigerator, you’ll need good containers to protect them.
Many backyard chicken raisers buy strong plastic or glass egg holders for their refrigerators to help cut down on waste from disposable cartons. A decorative bowl or basket for your countertop will keep unwashed eggs handy and safe.
The most important rule about storing fresh eggs is to always use the oldest eggs first! Some chicken raisers write the date of collection on their eggs with a pencil or organize them by labeling their egg cartons. Figure out a method that works for you and stick to it so you’re always using up the oldest eggs.

How to tell if eggs are good? What is the egg float test?

First and foremost, if you’re concerned whether an egg is safe to eat, just throw it out. Don’t take chances. Your chickens will lay more eggs.
You might have come across articles about the “egg float test.” This is not a “freshness” test to determine if your eggs are still safe to eat. Rather, the egg float test simply gives you an approximation of how old an egg is. It does not tell you whether the eggs are safe to eat.
The inside of an egg is water and moisture. As an egg sits in the refrigerator or on your counter, it begins to dehydrate. As it dehydrates, the shell membrane pulls back from the shell and air fills in the space. If you leave an egg sitting out long enough, all of the moisture will evaporate, and you will be left with a dehydrated yolk ball inside the shell.
The egg float test helps “measure” the air pocket inside an egg by dropping it into a glass filled with water. Very fresh eggs, which have not dehydrated much, will have less air and sink to the bottom and lay on their side. Conversely, old eggs that have dehydrated over time, have larger pockets of air and often float on top of the water. But again, don’t rely on this test to determine whether you should eat an egg!

How often do chickens lay eggs?

You can collect about one egg per hen per day when egg production is in full swing. Most eggs are laid early in the morning, usually within a few hours of when the sun comes up.
It is important to collect eggs regularly and store them properly. Gather eggs two to three times per day – many flock raisers collect eggs once in the morning and once in the evening. Collect even more often during extremely warm or cold weather. Frequent collection helps keep eggs clean and reduces the chance for egg cracking due to hen traffic in the nests.
Always discard eggs with noticeable cracks because cracks can allow bacteria to enter the egg. Cracks can also result from an inadequate diet. Safe eggs start with strong shells. To form strong egg shells and maintain bone strength, laying hens need 4 grams of calcium each day, all of which must come from their chicken feed.
All Purina® premium layer feeds are infused with the Oyster Strong® System to ensure your laying hens achieve a consistent supply of calcium through a blend of oyster shell, vitamin D and manganese. These three ingredients work together to help your chickens produce strong-shelled, delicious eggs each day.

Why are my chickens eating eggs?

Wondering how to stop chickens from eating eggs? Start with regular collection.
Egg eating generally occurs when a hen finds a broken egg, tastes it, likes it and begins searching for other broken eggs. Hens can even learn to break them intentionally. Collecting chicken eggs frequently can help prevent hens from eating their eggs.
If you notice your chickens eating eggs, first find the culprit. Look for remnants of the egg yolk on the skin and feathers around a hen’s head and beak. Consider separating the culprit hen from the flock to avoid other hens picking up the habit.
Here are more tips for how to help stop chickens from eating eggs:  

If I’m hatching eggs, how should I store them before incubating?

If you’re collecting chicken eggs and storing for incubation later, wash any foreign material off the shell and refrigerate at 55 degrees Fahrenheit with 70-75% humidity. Wine refrigerators set at the white wine setting of 55 degrees Fahrenheit work great for this! Store eggs with the narrow end pointing down prior to incubation. Hatchability is reduced as the storage time increases. If kept at the proper temperature and humidity, you can wait a couple weeks without too much reduction in hatchability.
Store eggs at an angle and change the angle once a day. This will keep the yolk from sticking to the side of the egg and help the developing embryo stay safe before hatching.
It’s always a good idea to write the date of collection on hatching eggs so you know how old they are. You may also want to write the breeds on the eggs if you know what birds it came from. Good records can help improve your breeding program.
Let the eggs warm to room temperature when you’re ready to incubate. Then, give the eggs to a broody hen or place in an incubator. After eggs have been stored and incubated, 70 percent hatchability is considered very good.
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