If you are new to keeping chickens for the eggs they produce, it's important to clean those eggs before eating them. Egg cleaning methods are helpful to know for your personal needs or if you want to sell eggs at the farmers market or direct to consumers. Learn a couple of ways you can make sure freshly laid eggs are clean, safe, and attractive to buyers.
Dry Clean the Eggs
The best method for washing your eggs is to dry clean your eggs. To do this, use something dry and slightly abrasive to rub off any dirt or feces until the egg is clean. With this method, you do not use water or any sanitizer. Use a sanding sponge, loofah, fine sandpaper, or abrasive sponge of some kind to dry-clean the eggs. Periodically sanitize the sponge or loofah or discard the old one in favor of a new one.
This method preserves the natural antibacterial coating called the "bloom." Washing the eggs with water removes the bloom and encourages bacteria.
The main bacteria you want to avoid with eggs is salmonella, which is food-borne and can lead to food poisoning. You only run the risk of getting a salmonella infection if bacteria is present on the eggshell, and you intend on eating the egg in a raw preparation. Some popular dressings have raw egg, such as fresh mayonnaise, hollandaise, and Caesar dressing. However, cooking kills bacteria.
Sometimes eggs are just too grimy or unpleasant to dry clean. It is not uncommon to get unsightly smears or splashes of feces or dried egg yolk (from broken coop eggs).
If you cannot seem to get them clean with the dry-clean method, then you need to wet-wash the egg. Use water that is warmer than the egg's temperature. Keep it at medium warmth, not hot but not tepid. Avoid cold water entirely. Cold water can cause the pores in an eggshell to suck bacteria from the surface and into the egg where you don't want it. Never immerse or soak the eggs in water.
Wash the eggs under running water from the faucet or spray the eggs in washer flats or wire baskets with warm water. Let them sit and wipe dry with a dry paper towel one at a time. Place the clean eggs in another basket or flat.
To sanitize the eggs, spray the cleaned eggs with a diluted bleach-water solution. Allow the eggs to dry on a rack, in a basket, or a washer flat. If the water and sanitizing spray are not enough for particularly stubborn stains, you can remove those stains by dipping the eggs in warm vinegar.
Storing Your Eggs
If you are planning to use the eggs yourself, you can store unwashed eggs on the countertop for several weeks. Wash them just before cooking.
Store eggs pointed-side down to keep them fresh longer. Some people say unrefrigerated eggs taste better, but once you have washed them, refrigerate your eggs immediately if you are not cooking them right away.
Preparing Eggs for Sale
If you are preparing fresh eggs for sale, check with your cooperative/county extension office to find out the cleaning and safety procedures mandated by the state before you can sell the eggs.
After washing with whichever method you choose, store your eggs in clean cartons or racks. A cloth moistened with cooking oil can give the eggs an appealing shine while also prolonging the shelf-life of unrefrigerated eggs by sealing the egg's pores.
Keep Coop and Chickens Cleans
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure that your eggs are clean is to keep the nesting boxes clean. Also, check the nest boxes early and often. Remove the eggs as soon as you spot them.
Make sure there is a clean layer of straw or bedding for the dropping egg. If the layer is too thin, the egg may fall onto a hard surface, crack, and the yolk gets everywhere. Keep in mind that the hens may also toss out the straw from the nest box, so replace it regularly and remove droppings as you go. Also, discourage your chickens from sleeping in the nest boxes. That's the primary reason for the poop problem.
If you do notice one of your chickens has a soiled vent area (where the eggs come out) or those feathers appear dirty, it's time to bathe your chicken. Much like you wash a cat or dog, put the bird in a tub or basin, use warm water, a mild pet shampoo, and clean the soiled area. Towel dry the bird. For your safety during the washing process, use rubber gloves and sanitize the washbasin with a mild bleach solution.
Bulletin #2257, Food Safety Facts: Facts About Eggs. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension.