Here are some guidelines to follow for proper egg handling and storage for fresh  eggs from backyard chickens.

One of the nice things about raising your own chickens is knowing what they are eating and what is going into the eggs they lay.  Another nice thing is knowing that your eggs are fresh.

Fresh eggs are super important when you're poaching or frying especially, so here are some tips to help keep your eggs fresh for as long as possible.

Proper Egg Handling and Storage 

Keep the Eggs Clean

The cleaner your chicken coop, the cleaner your eggs will be. Nesting box bedding should be changed often so it is always clean and thick enough that eggs don't break.

Eggs should be collected as often as possible, as least twice a day.  Any loose feathers or dirt/debris should be removed with your fingers or a fingernail.

Roosts should be scraped clean each morning and coop litter should be replaced as needed. That way the eggs should be clean and not caked with mud or chicken poop.

Don't Wash Fresh Eggs If you Can Help It

If any eggs ARE dirty, I rinse them immediately with warm water (cool water can cause bacteria to be pulled into the egg through the pores in the shell) and scramble them up for our dog or to feed back to the chickens or let them air dry then refrigerate them and use them first.

Note: Eggs are a super nutritious treat for the chickens and won't lead to egg eating in your flock.  I promise you !

As a general rule though, fresh eggs should not be washed immediately after collecting them.

There is a natural bloom on the surface of the shell that keeps out air and bacteria.  Its important to leave the bloom intact in order to keep your eggs fresh.

Washing will remove that bloom and leave the egg more vulnerable to bacteria and air getting in.

But DO Wash your Hands

Since there is the probability of bacteria on the outside of the eggshell, it's important to wash your hands after handling your fresh eggs. Even if they look clean, it's best to practice good hygiene and wash your hands with soap and warm water after you collect eggs.

Don't Necessarily Refrigerate Fresh Eggs

Eggs don't need to be refrigerated, but one day out on the counter at room temperature is equivalent to about a week in the refrigerator, so if you aren't planning on eating your eggs for awhile, it is best to refrigerate them.  They will keep about seven times longer.

An egg will generally be fine to eat for about 3 weeks out at room temperature, compared to 4 months or so if they're chilled.

The decision to refrigerate or not is a personal one. In the UK, Ireland and many European countries, eggs aren't even refrigerated at the grocery store. My grandmother never refrigerated the eggs from their chickens. She also left butter out on the counter...and lived to be almost 100 years old.

Refrigeration does preserve egg quality. It also helps to slow down the growth of bacteria. A temperature of about 45 degrees is optimal for egg storage.

Quick Tip: Eggs separate better if they are cold, but whites will beat higher and stiffer if they are allowed to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Proper Short-Term Egg Storage for Fresh Eggs

Eggs should always be stored with the pointy end down and the blunt end up. The air sac in the blunt end helps keep additional moisture from being lost and the yolk centered in the egg white.

Since eggshells are porous and will absorb odors, they should be stored in a carton or covered container on a shelf in the refrigerator, not on the door where they'll be exposed to temperature changes every time the fridge is opened. 

A bowl with plastic wrap over the top works fine in a pinch if you don't have any egg cartons.

Proper Long-Term Egg Storage for Fresh Eggs

When you have too many eggs than you know what to do with, you might think about preserving some for later when production slows or stops, whether due to the molting season, shorter winter days or old age of your flock. 

According to the FDA,USDA and Extension service, there are only two approved methods for preserving eggs for long-term storage: Pickling and freezing.

A Warning about Water Glassing 

Although water glassing has been used in the past as a very traditional way of preserving eggs for months and months, it is no longer considered a safe way to store eggs due to concerns about botulism.

Canning eggs is also not considered safe for the same reason. Canned eggs are not shelf-stable. 

Despite what you might see on YouTube or Tiktok, water glassing is NOT an approved method of storing eggs long-term.

For more details, here are some resources:

Approved Methods of Long-Term Storage

But you can pickle eggs quite easily in vinegar and store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. One of my favorite recipes is here.

Eggs also freeze well, so I like to always freeze any extra eggs during the summer to use through the fall and winter when production drops. Frozen eggs are good for at least 6 months.

Of course, if you live in a cold climate, there's a danger of the eggs freezing outside in the nesting boxes in the winter and possibly cracking, so try to collect your eggs more frequently.

Not Sure if an Egg is Good?

If you are in doubt as to how old an egg is, just do the Float Test.  Drop the egg into a glass of water.

A fresh egg will lay on the bottom of the glass. An egg that is two to three weeks old will start to rise up off the bottom of the glass.

It is still perfectly good to eat, just not quite as fresh. It will also hard boil better/peel easier, but I like to steam eggs instead - that way I can use freshly laid eggs and not have to wait for our eggs to 'age' to peel easily.

An egg that is two months old will start to angle up a bit more and by three months will stand up straight in the glass, but as long as one end is still touching the bottom, it's still perfectly good to eat.

Wash Eggs Just Before Using

When you are ready to use your eggs, simply rinse them under warm tap water.  There is no need to use any soaps, detergents or commercial egg washes. Plain tap water works fine. Just be sure its warm water to avoid drawing bacteria in through the shell.

Save the eggshells, dry and crush them to feed to your chickens as a free source of much-needed calcium.

So, in summary:

  • Don't wash your eggs until just before you are ready to use them. Once you have removed the 'bloom', you have removed the protective barrier against air and bacteria
  • UNwashed eggs will last at least two weeks UNrefrigerated and three months or more in the refrigerator
  • If the eggs are soiled and MUST be washed, use warm water and try to use them immediately or at least refrigerate them right away
  • Washed eggs will last 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator but won't taste as fresh as unwashed eggs of the same age
  • When in doubt, do the float test before using the egg  
Following these few tips, your eggs should stay fresh and delicious for as long as possible. 

Although if your household is anything like mine, they don't hang around long enough to be anything BUT fresh! 

I like to leave a dozen or so eggs on the counter to be used first and then refrigerate the rest. Partly because they look pretty and partly for the convenience.  

The bowl or basket of eggs out on the counter is a visual reminder of our wonderful, simple farm life. Just seeing them makes me smile.

©2012 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc.  and updated in 2024 for Coop to Kitchen. All rights reserved.