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The first thing you need to is make sure your hens have a nice clean area to lay their eggs. Chickens have natural instincts that tell them where to look for a nest. They like places that are dark, quiet and clean. Provide your hens nest with a nice layer of pine or cedar shavings. I like this better than straw or hay because it is more cozy for the hens and makes cleaning easier. If an egg happens to break, the shavings will absorb most of the egg and the nest will dry faster. Be sure to clean up any broken eggs immediately after finding them. This will not only keep laying area clean but also discourage egg eating hens.
If there is any manure that tracks into the nests, clean it out when you see it. Watch your hens for the first little while when they start laying eggs to get an idea of the time they lay. Eggs can sit in the nest boxes for hours without going bad, you only need gather the eggs once toward the end of the day. Watch out for egg eaters though, if you notice any hens with yolk stuck anywhere to her beak or feet, you may need to gather eggs more often.
Do not allow your hens to sleep in the nest boxes. This will dirty up the nests overnight from the chicken droppings and then you have a messy area for the eggs in the morning. You might have to block the nests with something at night before they go in to roost. Make sure there is enough room for all your hens to roost, overcrowding can cause some to sleep on the floor or in nests.
** If you find an egg that is cracked when you are collecting them from the nests, toss it!
Cleaning Chicken Eggs
Eggs come out very clean, surprising to some, and it is important to know a few things about cleaning eggs to keep them fresher, longer. First of all eggs have a natural antibacterial coating on them called the bloom. This coating protects the egg from bacteria getting to the inside. If possible, dry clean your eggs. Use an abrasive cleaning pad (without soap in it) to buff the egg. You only need to do this if you see something noticeable on the egg, like a small piece of dry manure or shavings that flakes off easily. Make sure you sanitize the cleaning pad occasionally, you want to clean the egg with a clean pad! I like to use the abrasive pads that do not scratch appliances. I want to buff the egg but not scratch it up to keep as much of the bloom on the egg as possible.
If your eggs look really messy, (which they shouldn’t if the nests are clean) or if it has egg yolk stuck to it from another egg that broke, they might need something more than just dry cleaning. Rinse the eggs in running water from the faucet, (without soap) just warmer than the egg. Washing eggs in cold water makes the inside of the egg shrink, pulling the water and the bacteria it carries inside the egg. If water is warm it expands the inside of the egg against the shell and bacteria cannot enter the pores of the egg. Keep the eggs out of the main flow of water (do not immerse) or let them stand in water. After washing the eggs, set them out on a towel to dry. Allow eggs to completely air dry before putting them in the carton and into the fridge. I do not wash my eggs unless they look like they need it. My personal preference is to keep the bloom on the egg as long as possible.
Benefits of Free Range Hen Eggs
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
It has also been proven that free range hens also have 4-6 times more vitamin D than supermarket eggs! (I love our hens! Way to go girls!)
Storing Chicken Eggs
When you are done cleaning the eggs and they are dry, you can move them into an egg carton and place them in the refrigerator. From the day you gather the eggs, they will stay fresh for about 8-1/2 weeks. Farmers sometimes have eggs 30 days before they go to the market, when you buy the eggs the expiration is usually 30 after that…so eggs can stay fresh for a good couple months. The key to freshness is keeping the temperature consistently the same. To test an egg for freshness you can do an old trick with a glass of water. Gently place the egg in room temperature water at the bottom of the glass. If the egg stays on its side at the bottom of the glass, it is a good egg. If the egg floats up at all or floats on its nose, it is a bad egg. Floating means that gasses (air) has entered the inside of the egg and it has begun to break down. You can also use a light behind the egg to see if there is any air inside…this is called candling. Another way to tell if you have a good egg, is to look at the white part of the egg after you crack it open. The whites of a fresh egg is nice and perky, it has a thicker consistency. White parts of bad eggs are flat, spread out and runny.
It is said that one can preserve eggs for about 36 days if refrigeration is not available by coating the outside of the egg with vegetable oil, cottonseed oil or coconut oil. I have not tried this method but have heard many success stories and methods of preserving eggs without refrigeration.
Here is an article from the Classic-Cooking-School. This article goes over Preservation of Eggs using lime water and water glass.
PRESERVATION WITH LIMEWATER – “To prepare limewater for the preservation of eggs, dissolve 1 pound or 1 pint of salt and 1 quart of finely slaked lime in 3 gallons of water, stir the solution at frequent intervals for a day or two, and then allow the liquid to settle. Place the eggs in tall stone crocks or kegs with their pointed ends turned down, filling the receptacles to within a few inches of the top. Pour the clear limewater over the eggs so arranged, allowing it to rise an inch or two above the top layer. Then stand the vessel in a cool place where the temperature will not exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Eggs so treated will keep for at least 6 or 8 months. The only objection to this plan is that the eggs preserved by it sometimes acquire a slight lime taste.
PRESERVATION WITH WATER GLASS – Putting eggs down in a solution of water glass is without doubt the most satisfactory method of storing them in the home. So effective does this method prove that the housewife who has a convenient and proper storage room should not fail to take advantage of this way of laying up a supply of eggs.
The commercial form of water glass is usually a mixture of potassium and sodium silicate, which, besides being cheaper than that which is chemically pure, is the kind that is preferred for the purpose of preserving eggs. A good quality of it either in a syrup-like solution or in the form of a powder retails in drug or grocery stores for about 10 cents a pound. To make a solution of the desired strength to preserve eggs satisfactorily, dissolve 1 part of water glass in 7 parts of warm water that has first been boiled to drive off bacteria, mold, spores, etc. One quart of water glass will make sufficient solution to cover about 12 dozen eggs. With the solution thoroughly mixed, it is ready to pour over the eggs.
In selecting eggs for the purpose of storing, be careful to choose only those which are clean, fresh, and perfectly sound, and, if possible, infertile. It is advisable not to wash them before they are put into the preservative, for they will keep better if their bloom is not removed. Place the eggs in receptacles in the manner explained for preserving eggs in limewater, and over them pour the water-glass solution until they are all covered. If the eggs so prepared are stored in a cool place, they will keep as long as those preserved in limewater; besides, there will be no danger of their acquiring any foreign flavor.”
One person’s experience with this method of water glass preserving (for two years in a row) said their eggs lasted 4-5 months. They used a less concentrated water glass solution than the one mentioned above. This is also an older article, maybe from the 1920’s, so prices are different now than they were back then. I really like the easy to follow instructions this article had and the method is the same now as it was then. I also found a link to a site that sells water glass. Check your local stores to see if water glass is sold in your area. Visit lehmans.com to buy water glass. Click on the details tab to read directions for preserving eggs.