Now that you have chickens, what in the world do you do with all of those eggs?!?!
Over the years, I have read various opinions on how to collect, wash, and store farm fresh eggs. There is so much information out there, it is hard to know what to believe. Here's the scoop on all things eggs:
In average weather conditions (45-80 degrees) you can collect eggs ONCE daily with no issues. If colder or warmer, you should check your nests more often. In colder temps, the eggs can freeze and the shell can crack. These eggs would still be edible, but since bacteria has been introduced, it is better to not serve these. I cook them up and feed them back to the hens, shell and all, mixed with oatmeal. Alternatively, they can go to the dogs. In warmer weather, the yolk can get fragile or runny if the eggs sit too long.
Leaving eggs for longer amounts of time poses two risks: you will encourage hens to go broody, and you may develop an egg eater. Eggs that sit too long, and too often, will lead to these behaviors.
Collecting eggs for hatching isnt any different than for eating, with a few exceptions. The first is that they need to remain unwashed. This means that your nests and hens must be kept clean, so the eggs you collect are mostly clean. We use sand as a bedding and coop material to reduce the mud in thr run, and keep eggs cleaner. The second is that they should be stored on an egg turner, fat end up. The third, and there is some leeway on this, is that they need to be kept cool but not refrigerated. Humidity also plays a role in the waiting hatching eggs. Hatch rates start to decline after 7 days, so we set our eggs in the incubator weekly.
The big debate- where to store your eggs. The countertop is just fine for several weeks. I read all the time that counterop eggs must be unwashed. In all of the years I have kept table eggs on the counter, I've never seen a difference between washed and unwashed. The eggs do not tend to "go bad" faster on the counter, but they do lose that freshness. The yolks break more easily, and the white is runnier. This is, of course, after a couple of weeks. Refrigerated eggs, by contrast, hold their texture, but tend to lose flavor quicker. I prefer to keep eggs on the counter, and just use them up quickly.
Using or Storing-
What to do with all of those eggs? This is always a popular question in the Spring! If only those hens would lay steadily all year round! They don't, of course, so the glut of eggs occurs. It's no wonder why the symbol of Easter and Spring is the egg.
You can find any number of recipes to help you eat up those plentiful eggs, so I won't list them here. My solutions are to save the eggs, and find other uses when we have so many.
Our dogs always appreciate eggs. If you have dogs, and would like to supplement their diet, there's two things you should know. The first is that you should probably cook the egg. Not because of bacteria! Because there are anti-nutritional factors in eggs which are eliminated by cooking. More importantly, more than 1 raw egg tends to cause diarrhea in lots of dogs. The second thing to know is that an egg has a perfectly balanced calcium/phosphorus ratio for dogs, but only if you also feed the shell! Crush that shell right into the cooked egg. In this manner, you can feed a good portion of their diet as eggs and not cause much of an issue with deficiencies.
Preserving eggs is something not many people mention. Eggs stay edible for a lot longer than most people think. When they float, they are stale, but not necessarily a source of bacteria. You have more time to eat them than you would think.
For longer term saving, there are generally 4 methods: Pickling, freezing, water glass, or Lime preserving.
Pickling is simple to do, and if you like this alternative way to eat eggs, can be a wonderful winter food.
Freezing eggs is a great way to preserve them for baking. The yolk should be scrambled into the white for best results when thawing. We freeze 4 eggs scrambled into small plastic bowls, then pop those out, and store these discs in one big bag in the freezer. An alternative is to save them in ice cube trays, with one cube being the equivalent of 1 egg for baking purposes.
Homesteaders that want to get a bit more authentic can try out Water Glass preserving. This method uses Sodium Silicate (available online) in the water to preserve the eggs in the shell. Bacteria cannot develop in the bath, and cannot spoil the eggs. Use cleaned, fresh eggs for this.
Similar to Water Glassing, preserving in slaked lime is a tried and true method that dates way back. The whole eggs are submerged and preserved in the crock or bucket of lime water. Simple, and inexpensive to do, it is easy to find directions and instructional videos online.