picture of 3 dozen brown, green and white eggs in cartons
Homestead Animals

Dealing with Dirty Eggs

Mud season (also knows as spring in some areas) is in full swing in northeast Ohio.  In addition to dealing with muddy boots and shoes, we also have muddy eggs.  With the chickens continuing to insist on laying eggs in the barn rather than the nice nest boxes in their coop, they trek back and forth all day through the path they have worn, which is now…sticky, thick mud.

The Bloom

Most of us know that eggs are best left unwashed.  Just prior to being laid, the eggs are covered with a layer of protective bloom.  This coating seals the shell, keeping any harmful bacteria out.  Once wet, however, the egg’s bloom is washed away, leaving the egg susceptible to contamination, and reducing the shelf life of the egg.  The bloom is essential in the case of fertile, hatching eggs–in order to protect the growing chick from bacterial contamination.

Washing Dirty Eggs

Most of the time, our eggs do not need to be, and are not, washed.  Rather, they can be kept safely at room temperature on the counter for up to two weeks or so, or refrigerator for much longer.  But, with wet, muddy chicken feet pattering around on top of the eggs until they are collected toward evening each day, I often find it necessary to wash them.

Although you may have heard of washing eggs with soap or even bleach, these options are generally too chemically harsh for the delicate eggshells.  Instead, I use this:

This cleanser contains gentle, natural enzymes to help remove the dirt from the eggs.  I add two capfuls to enough water to just cover the eggs in the sink.  The instructions say to let the eggs soak for 10-15 minutes, but I have not found that to be necessary.  The less time the eggs are in water, the better.

Eggs soaking

The water temperature is important.  Eggs should not be washed with cold water.  Cold would cause the egg’s contents to contract, potentially drawing in contaminants from the water/dirt.  Instead, eggs should be washed with water that is about 20 degrees warmer than they are, or around 90 degrees.

After soaking the eggs in the warm water and cleanser for 2-3 minutes, I use a soft brush to remove the dirt.  They are thoroughly dried and placed into cartons in the refrigerator.  Kept refrigerated, they should be good for at least a month.

I am looking forward to drier weather (known as summer)…not washing eggs saves me valuable time for other projects, and is better for the eggs.


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