August 25, 2010

Fresh Eggs?? How do I Know?

I figured it was about time I answered once of the most popular questions I get. How long will eggs stay fresh?

Here's the Europe and Australia eggs are kept at room temperature on the grocery shelves. Here in America we always refrigerate our eggs. In fact, now you hear "don't put them in the egg keeper that sits in your fridge door keep them in the carton on a shelf". So what's a careful consumer to do?
When an egg comes out of the chicken's vent it is warm. In fact, it's the body temperature of the chicken, which pretty much makes sense when you think about it. Our bantam chickens, Goldilocks and Lovey lay small eggs, whereas our big girls lay large eggs. You can see the size difference in hens below. That's Goldilocks on the right side and Lovely in up above in my blog header photo.

Then there is Roxanne, she lays the monster ones! I'm in pain just thinking about it. She's the black and white Barred Rock above headed towards me in the photo above. She's always looking for treats. Roxanne is huge, but those eggs are a feat! I just imagine her sitting there thinking - get this thing out of me!! Kinda like childbirth.

We recently added four hens to the flock thanks to our friends Pete and Lisa. Those youngsters have just started laying. One of them is Autumn seen above (she's named in honor of our departed gender mis-identified rooster). She is an Ameraucana and lays green eggs! Some people call the breed easter-eggers cause who needs to dye those beauties.

Check out our egg selection below. Notice the huge dark brown one, that's Roxanne. And see the little light brown one on the right side - that's either Lovey or Goldi. I'm not quite sure who's laying the brown speckled eggs, but I have a hunch it's one of our Buff Orphingtons - the older one Penny.
The kids collect the eggs everyday and when we bring them in, they do not get washed. We might have to wipe off some hay, but that's about it. This is the biggest difference between egg handling in the US and other countries. When you wash the eggs in water you wash off their "bloom" which is a protective barrier. This barrier keeps the germs from invading the porous shell making them more tolerant to room temperature storage. However, this doesn't mean that eggs kept in the pantry will last longer. Eggs deteriorate as much in one day at room temp as they would in a week in the fridge. I'm guessing those other countries sell their eggs at a faster rate, rotating their stock more often. Of course, we Americans like to shop in bulk, so we go the store less often. Typically your eggs that you store in the fridge will stay fresh for two weeks at room temp and four to five weeks in the fridge. It's best to keep them in their original container and store in the main part of the fridge, but if you must use the egg keeper in the door, be aware they will not last as long.

If you want to hard boil eggs, they need to be your eggs need to be a few weeks old (you can hard-boil fresh ones, but they are a pain to peel and most of the white will stick to the shell). The simplest method for sure-fire hard boil eggs is like this:

Hard Boiled Eggs
Put eggs in a pot covered with cold water. Bring the pot to a full boil and then turn down the heat so the boil continues but not causing massive splatter everywhere. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the eggs softly boil. When the timer goes off at the end of 10 minutes, drain the hot water into the sink and fill with cold water. Add ice cubes to the pot to really cool it off quickly (this is what keeps the eggs from getting that green ring). Swish it all around, adding more ice cubes, until the eggs are cooled off. Store the hard boiled eggs in the fridge (labeled of course!) and peel when needed.

I'd like to share some thing I've learned while raising chickens:
  • what you feed the hens will change the color of the yolk from dull pale yellow to bright orange, but the difference does not affect taste
  • brown, white, or green shells the eggs will taste the same and have the same nutritional value
  • a fresh egg's yolk will sit up high when cracked making for beautiful sunny side up eggs
  • a standard large grade A egg measures 1/4 cup, which is handy to know when your eggs are all different sizes
  • when baking, bring eggs up to room temp before using
  • egg shells will range from pointy to smooth on the ends
  • if you are unsure how old some eggs are, put one in a bowl of water and if it floats or tilts upwards, it's too old and most likely is rotten
  • most hens are pretty happy to "share" their eggs, they don't put up any fight when you take the eggs out, even if they are sitting on them - roosters however, are another story!
  • hens lay more often (daily) in the spring and fall - they don't love the freezing cold or the steaming hot weather - I can't say I blame them on this one
  • chickens love to brag about their egg laying feats - they have a special squawk after they lay to announce the egg to the world
  • the hens will sit on each other's eggs all the time, which means several hens can use one nesting box and you never know how many eggs you'll find under a sitting hen
  • my children won't eat plain eggs - what's up with that?? I have to create egg dishes or serve scrambled with cheese and lots of grits. Here's one they all like...
Eggs in a Basket
4 eggs
1/4 c milk
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
optional add ins: shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, diced cooked ham, crumbled cooked bacon, diced cooked veggies, fresh diced mushrooms or tomatoes, etc
4 King's Hawaiian rolls, tops cut off and a little of the inside pulled out to make a cavity

Whisk together, eggs, milk, and seasonings. Pour into a hot oiled or buttered pan. Turn heat down to med-low. Let set for a minute and then scrape the bottom of the pan to turn the eggs. Sprinkle in optional add-in's. Cook till desired doneness (do you like them soft or firm?). Spoon 1/4 portion into each hollowed roll. Serve with top on.



  1. Just found your blog.. am now following!
    We also have chickens.. I've lived on a farm for over 36 years but have only had chickens that we got eggs from for the past 2. My grandkids love to collect the eggs.
    I see we have lots of the same questions asked.. and lots of the same kinds of chickens!
    Oh, by the way, one of my daughter in laws and my son in law both graduated from UNC. We're in NC, living only 30 minutes from Chapel Hill!

  2. Cyndi,
    If it's one thing I have learned through this blogging thing - it's a small world!! So what kind of hens do you have? I would love to see photos - I'll go check out your blog.

  3. Hi Aimee!
    I have loved reading about your adventures in Chickenville ;) What kind of chicken is Roxanne? She's a beauty? I did have a question for you about the egg laying. At what age can I expect to start getting eggs from my hens? Or does that vary among breeds?

    1. Anne,
      Roxanne is a Barred Rock and we do love her even if she doesn't care one iota about us! The standard answer on hens laying is 4-6 months, so you have a while to go. The eggs may start out small, but they bigger the hen is the bigger they will get. Maybe not like Super Roxanne, but def bigger. Are you past the bottom wiping stage yet? Pasty butt was NOT a joy in our house when we had chicks ;)


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