Chicken or egg? If you’ve ever wondered which came first, you’ve likely already answered that. The chicks! You probably started your backyard chicken project with cute little chicks, but when those hens reach just between 5-6 months old, they should start laying eggs. There is nothing better than a farm-fresh egg for breakfast, but there are things you should know about collecting and caring for your eggs before you eat them.
If your hens are living in a stress-free environment, fed a nutritious diet and have a clean coop, they should lay one egg per day, as it takes about 24 hours to produce a new egg. Most hens will lay in the morning hours, but some will lay in the afternoon or early evening. It is best to collect eggs twice a day, to make sure your eggs are gathered when they are their freshest and to prevent them from getting cracked in the nest.
Once you have determined your hens’ laying schedule, you will know the best times to collect eggs. Maybe noon and evening are best, or perhaps they are early morning layers so during morning chores and early afternoon might work better. The sooner you can gather them after they are laid, the better. As you are getting the eggs from the nesting boxes, be sure the boxes are clean with fresh shavings or straw and free of manure or any cracked egg remnants.
Although there are egg baskets and aprons available online and at most farm and home stores, your chickens are not really particular what you collect your eggs in, as long the container will protect the eggs. If you are using a wire basket, be sure the wires are spaced close enough together, so the eggs don’t fall through. If you are using a metal or plastic can, bowl or basket, don’t stack too many layers of eggs as the eggs are fragile, and you don’t want them to break.
Cleaning & Storing Eggs
Once you have gathered your eggs, cleaning is recommended, although it is up to you if you decide to dry clean or wet clean your eggs. All eggs have a thin, protective layer called the bloom or cuticle, that is designed to keep dust and bacteria out of the egg. If you do dry clean your eggs, use a dry towel or sponge to wipe off any dirt or debris from the egg. This will leave that cuticle intact, allowing for non-refrigerated storage of your eggs.
If you prefer to wash your eggs off with water, make sure to wash them in water warmer than the egg, so the shell doesn’t constrict, letting dirt and bacteria through to the egg. Use warm, not hot, running tap water to wash the eggs quickly. Then, pat them dry with a towel and let them completely air dry on the towel or in an open egg carton. Wet cleaned eggs must be refrigerated. All eggs have a shelf life of at least a month but will last longest if stored in the refrigerator. We recommend writing the collection date on each carton and using the oldest eggs first.
With any egg, if you are unsure if it is safe to use, you can always put it to the float test. Use a tall, clear glass of room temperature water. Drop the egg in the glass, if it floats, don’t use it; it is old.
Just like humans, your chickens know a good thing, and also like the taste of a farm-fresh egg. Once they have tasted an egg, they will peck at eggs to try to eat them. That is why it is imperative to keep them laying eggs with hard shells, which are primarily comprised of Calcium Bicarbonate. To ensure the hens are laying the highest quality eggs with good, thick shells, consider supplementing their diets with Backyard Boost® Daily Essentials. Not only will the Backyard Boost Daily Essentials keep your flock healthy by providing Amaferm®, natural protein, and elevated levels of highly bioavailable vitamins and minerals to achieve maximum health and performance. Daily Essentials also contains calcium and other nutrients for natural improvement of eggshell and yolk quality. Amaferm® is a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility and absorption of nutrients. Healthy chickens lead to healthy eggs, and healthy eggs lead to healthy meals for you and your family. Keep your backyard flock flourishing and their egg health optimized with the Daily Essentials from Backyard Boost.