Living off the grid and being self-sufficient is a goal that many of us share. Not only is it gratifying to produce your own food, but knowing where your food comes from gives you peace of mind.
There is little risk associated with eating the fruit and vegetables you have planted. However, what can you do to ensure that your backyard chicken eggs are safe to eat?
To ensure that you are eating safe backyard chicken eggs, the coop your chickens stay in must be clean and dry. Create nests for your chickens to lay their eggs in. Provide a perch for the chickens to roost. Collect eggs at least twice a day. As far as possible, do not wash eggs with water.
Eggs are packed with nutrients and can be added to almost any dish. If you are raising chickens to produce your own eggs or considering getting a few hens, there are certain guidelines you must follow to ensure your chickens are healthy and the eggs they produce are safe to eat.
Follow These Tips To Ensure You’re Eating Safe Backyard Chicken Eggs
It is a genuine concern that eggs can become tainted with listeria, E Coli, and salmonella. However, if you follow these guidelines, you can look forward to eating fresh, delicious eggs that you collect from your own flock of chickens (ditto for turkey or quail)!
Keep The Chicken Coop Clean
This may be obvious, but the place the chickens will be roosting and laying their eggs must be clean. Ensure the coop’s floor is in good condition and keep it dry. Remove all wet straw and bedding if rain gets into the coop.
Keep an eye out for rodent droppings or any signs of mice. If you notice signs of rodents, take measures to remove them immediately and keep them out of the coop.
Buy a good quality disinfectant from your feed store and ensure that you disinfect the coop at least once a year.
Create Large, Comfy Nests
Use straw, fabric ribbons, wood chips, or bedding to make nests for your chickens to lay their eggs in. Ensure there is adequate space between each nest. A well-created nest will ensure that the eggs are kept clean and protected once laid and will prevent them from getting cracked or broken.
Clean out the nests at least once a week, removing any dirt or droppings, and replace the straw or bedding with a fresh lot if necessary.
Install A Perch
Chickens should not roost in the nests. To prevent this from happening, install a perch above the floor, away from the nests. Add a dropping tray under the perch for ease of cleaning. This will also keep droppings away from the nests and your eggs.
Gather The Eggs Often
Ideally, you should gather the eggs as soon as they are laid. This will prevent them from being spoiled by the elements, particularly if you live in a very hot or very cold climate. Or from being damaged by being pecked at by other chickens or animals.
Get to know your chicken and when they lay eggs, and try to collect the eggs two to three times a day.
If you notice any cracks on the eggshells, discard them immediately.
Don’t Wash Your Eggs With Water
Eggshells are porous and have a natural, protective coating called a ‘bloom .’The bloom protects the inner part of the egg and prevents bacteria from getting in. Using water to wash the eggs removes the bloom.
If you have collected eggs that appear dirty, use a brush, fine sandpaper, or a dry cloth to clean away dirt or debris that may have been collected on the egg.
If you have to use water to clean the eggs, ensure the water temperature is warmer than the egg. Wash quickly and gently. Dry the eggs and then store them in the fridge immediately. Eggs that have been washed with water should be eaten within two weeks.
Store Eggs Correctly
If you live in a scorching climate, eggs, even if unwashed, should be stored in the fridge. Eggs that have not been washed with water and stored in the refrigerator can be kept for six to ten weeks.
You can store eggs on your countertop, out of any direct sunlight. Eggs stored on the counter will last between six to eight weeks, depending on how warm the room temperature is; the colder the temperature, the longer the eggs will last.
Place the eggs in cartons and rotate the cartons often so that the eggs are not sitting in the same position for days.
It is essential that you date your eggs and eat the oldest ones first.
Are Eggs From My Neighbor’s Chickens Safe To Eat?
Your neighbor has kindly brought you a basket of eggs, freshly laid from her flock of chickens. Backyard chicken eggs taste so much better than their store-bought counterparts, but how can you be sure that they are safe to eat?
Check Out The Coop
If you have yet to see your neighbor’s coop and its condition, try to strike up a conversation about her chickens. Ask questions about how she cares for her chickens, maintains the coop, etc. This will give you an indication of the hygiene standards that she has in place.
Do The Water Test To Test For Freshness
Fill a bowl with cold water and carefully place the egg inside. If the egg sinks to the bottom and lies on its side, you will know it is very fresh. If it lies on its small end, it is not as fresh but may still be eaten.
If the egg floats to the surface, it is too old and must be thrown out.
Other Things To Check Before Eating The Eggs
As a last and final measure, take a bit of time to check the eggs and never eat them undercooked or raw.
- Carefully check the eggs looking for any cracks. If you notice any cracks, discard the egg.
- Before cooking, crack the egg into a bowl and check to see if there are any irregularities.
- It is advisable to cook the backyard eggs that you have been given. If a recipe calls for raw eggs, instead use eggs that have been certified.
Do You Need To Wash Eggs From Backyard Chickens?
Do not wash backyard chicken eggs with water. If you do, you will remove the protective bloom coating, preventing bacteria and air from entering the egg. This could lead to the egg being contaminated and not safe to eat.
If you notice dirt, droppings, or debris on your eggs, use a brush, fine sandpaper, or a dry, rough cloth to clean them.
How Do You Sanitize Backyard Chicken Eggs?
It is best to dry-clean eggs. To do this, rub off any dirt or droppings with a dry, rough cloth or brush.
However, sometimes eggs are very dirty, and dry cleaning does not work to remove the grime and smeared dropping that cover the eggs. In this case, you will have to use water. Do not use cold water. Instead, use water that is warmer than the temperature of the eggs.
Don’t immerse the eggs in water. Rather damp a cloth with warm water and wipe away the dirt on the eggshell. Alternatively, wash the eggs under warm, running water from a tap. After cleaning, carefully wipe the eggs dry.
If you need to sanitize the eggs, make a solution by mixing bleach with warm water. After you have cleaned the eggs, spray them with this bleach solution. Then place the eggs on a rack to dry.
Can Homegrown Eggs Make You Sick?
If homegrown eggs are contaminated or have gone bad, they can make you sick.
Salmonella can get into the egg when it is laid if the eggshell is cracked. Salmonella can also get into the eggs from the chicken’s droppings. Eggs that are laid in random places, rather than a nest that has been created, are more at risk of being contaminated with salmonella.
Salmonella can be on the eggshells or inside the eggs. But this bacteria cannot be detected just by looking at the egg.
To avoid getting sick, do not eat eggs that have dirty eggshells. If you notice cracks or any damage to the egg, discard it. Ensure eggs do not go bad by storing them correctly. Always cook eggs before eating them.
Raising chickens to produce your own fresh, nutritious, and delicious eggs can be so rewarding. It is essential to maintain a certain level of cleanliness and hygiene to ensure that the eggs your chickens lay are safe to eat.
Once laid, the eggs must be collected as soon as possible so that they don’t become damaged. Care must also be taken to ensure the eggs are cleaned and stored correctly.