My husband and I had owned chickens for about three years when we decided we wanted to start making a little side income from our chicken eggs.
We took several steps in order to ramp up our egg production.
Not only did we switch chicken breeds, going from our classic New Hampshire to a hybrid breed known as the Golden Comet, but we also invested in a hoop house so we’d have warm housing for them during the winter.
The upgrades were smart. We were able to scale up our egg production to the point that now, about nine months after buying the Comets, we get about three dozen eggs each day.
That sounds like a lot, but as we quickly discovered last summer, three dozen is nothing if the eggs are so dirty that they’re impossible to clean.
Luckily, there are several simple ways that you can prevent dirty eggs. You just need to initiate some simple preventative measures.
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Why Clean Eggs Are Important
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you already know where your eggs are coming from.
A chicken’s butt.
And yes, I know it’s not technically the “butt,” but for comedic value and purposes of efficiency…let’s just say the egg comes from the butt.
Since the egg comes from the butt, it’s very easy for it to be dirty.
Not a problem, you might be thinking. I know that the eggshell protects the interior of the egg from bacteria. I don’t need to wash it!
There are several reasons why clean eggs are important.
If you’re like us, and you’re selling your eggs, you definitely don’t want to hang a customer a carton full of nasty, poopy eggs.
Ok, so I’ll scrub them. Problem solved?
Not so fast. Eggs contain a protective coating known as the bloom, which not only protects a potential baby chick but also makes it more difficult for bacteria to get inside. Scrub your eggs, and you’re going to encourage bacteria to enter inside that membrane.
How do you solve this dilemma?
You need to encourage clean eggs from the get-go.
Plus, not having to clean eggs will save you a ton of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
5+ Ways to Prevent Eggs from Getting Dirty
A clean coop is a happy coop, and a happy coop is a healthy coop. Take the time to clean your coop on a weekly basis. Even if you are employing the deep litter method of bedding, it’s vital that you take the time to add new bedding, both to the floor of the coop and the nest boxes.
Don’t think you can scrape by with just cleaning the nest boxes, either. Chickens will pick up dirt and manure on their feet from the dirty floor and drag it into their nesting areas with them.
Situate Your Roosts Away from the Next Boxes
Get those roost bars as far away from the nests as possible. Chickens are prone to roosting in the highest section of the coop as possible. If you build your roosting areas away from the nesting spots, you can discourage them from sleeping in (and subsequently soiling) their nest boxes.
Add Extra Padding
Even when you’re diligent about keeping the nest boxes clean, you might have chickens soiling the nest boxes (and even eating eggs when they become broken or dirty).
Use nest pads or straw to keep your boxes padded and to prevent the likelihood of eggs becoming broken and creating a further mess. Trust me, crusted-on egg yolk is way harder to get off an eggshell than manure!
Use Sand as Litter
There are many advantages to using sand in the litter. Not only can it eliminate a lot of odor and moisture issues, but it dries up quickly, keeping the feet of your chickens cleaner. Your chickens are more likely to step into their nest boxes with dry feet – and without manure and mud.
Invest in Rollaway Nest Boxes
Rollaways are helpful because they are designed so that, as soon as your hen lays an egg, it rolls away from the chicken. She can’t get to it. These handy devices not only can prevent dirty eggs, but also broken or eaten ones, too.
Don’t Let Your Birds Sleep in the Nest Boxes
Whatever you do, don’t let your chickens sleep in the nest boxes. This is a bad habit that’s next to impossible to break.
When we first got our Comets, we had them in chicken tractors. I could go on and on about how much I love chicken tractors – and I do, in this article – but the downside is that the model ew built did not have any nest boxes.
So they slept on the ground.
No harm no foul, we thought, as we had raised broiler birds like this in the past.
But the difference here is that broiler birds won’t ultimately live as long as egg layers, and they won’t live long enough to develop bad habits. By learning to sleep on the ground, the Comets assumed that they could sleep anywhere they wanted.
As a result, when we moved them into their winter housing, we had a hell of a time convincing them not to sleep in their nest boxes. Now, we block off the nest boxes each night with some scrap OSB. That helps, but it would have been much easier to avoid this problem in the first place.
Make Sure You Have Enough Nest Boxes
The proper nest box ratio is one box for every four hens. If you don’t have enough nest boxes, there’s a good chance that your hens will lay their eggs outside of the coop, where you can’t control for sanitation.
Check Nest Boxes Regularly
If possible, collect eggs several times a day. This way, there’s a reduced likelihood that your hens will step on the eggs and break them, soiling the rest of the eggs in the nest box in the process. It will also give you an idea of why your nest boxes keep getting so dirty!
As an added bonus, collecting eggs several times a day in the winter can prevent frozen eggs, too.
Kick Out Broody Hens
Broody hens are awesome – if you can let a Mama Hen do all the work of hatching chicks for you, why would you not want to? However, a broody hen won’t leave her nest for practically anything – including when nature calls. She’ll do her business right there, making a mess of the rest of the eggs in the process.
If you have a broody hen, move her to a separate, dedicated nest box before her eggs hatch.
Watch for Cleanliness
If possible, check your chickens on a regular basis to make sure their feathers and feet are clean and free of droppings and infection. If your hens have soiled feathers near their vents, you should clean them up as much as possible.
Often, dirty vent feathers are caused by parasites or diarrhea. You can use natural dewormers like garlic and apple cider vinegar, or you can even add a probiotic supplement like Rooster Booster– to their water.
What If I Have to Wash My Eggs?
Even with the best precautionary measures, your eggs are still going to get gross from time to time. Luckily, you still can wash your eggs if necessary. Try to use water that is about 20 degrees warmer than the egg – the hotter the better – and don’t let our eggs sit in standing water. Simply moisten them, remove the dry sports, and dry.
And if you have to wash your eggs, use the ones that you washed before the unwashed ones. They won’t last quite as long.
What other tips do you have for keeping your chicken eggs clean? Let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about raising chickens? Be sure to check out these articles!
- How to Butcher Chickens
- How to Keep Predators Away From Your Chicken
- The Best Egg-Laying Chicken Breeds
- The Ultimate Guide to the New Hampshire Chicken Breed
- How You Can Make Money Raising Chicken
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