I’m sure some folks come home from work and say – isn’t this great, I snagged some leftover food from the office party and now we have some great takeout for lunch tomorrow.
Other people married to professional poker players or casino gamblers (assuming they are proficient) hear stuff like ” I doubled my stakes and we are eating steak tonight!”
If you are an urban chicken farmer, except for the dead of winter in Seattle when frankly I don’t blame them for wussing out on the job, the best thing you can hear is your hubby (gently!) treading into the house saying ” I have EGG!”
Like parents talking about their kids’ first word, like dog lovers talking about fleas and shots in the dog park, chicken owners chortle to each other with glee when the egg shows up. It’s about as much cackling as the hen probably did right after she laid it (listen sometime and you can tell), but its this daily reminder that it’s really up to the chickens if they give you the goods or not. Ours are a few years into the egg laying so they are a bit slower to produce than when they first started -and summer is the only time we have enough to give away eggs in any quantities – so there is extra rejoicing because we know the hens will eventually get into the epoch of their lives where they are just silly pets, and we have to either get more chickens or buy from the farmers’ market.
When you think about Easter baskets you see the wisdom of the straw – the main problem as an urban chicken hipster is there’s no straw lying around. We have a Value Village basket stuffed with paper towells, but something like shredded paper or as strawlike as possible would allow for more cushioning of the eggs on the way to the kitchen bowl where we store them.
Many a time I’ve heard J say, “oh, #)%$)(*!” on the way into the house from the coop, because he’s dropped an egg. If he’s only cracked it, but nothing’s come out, the egg MIGHT be salvageable – but usually we just chuck them and wait for another day. A key reason to keep the egg bowl clean inside our coop ( Omlet Eglu) is to avoid the yucky getting on the eggs and possibly making the egg more slippery.
We have a special scrubbing brush at the sink that is ONLY for dirty egg scrubbing – it never touches pots/pans/plates that humans eat from. Be sure to wash your hands each and every time you bring back eggs from the coop with hot water and soap.
Reports on the Internet vary – if asked officially we’ll tell you to refrigerate the eggs once you have cleaned them off, and The Chicken Health Handbook notes the following:
“Eggs produced at home, in a clean environment,collected often and promptly placed under refrigeration (after cracked or seriously soiled eggs are discarded) rarely pose a health problem. “
The book goes on to suggest you clean lightly/dry soiled eggs with fine sandpaper, as there are perils involved with washing eggs. And that if you DO wash the eggs, make sure the water’s at least 20 degrees Farenheit hotter than the egg temperature, because the difference in pressure will cause the eggs to draw bacteria inside, otherwise. Use detergent and not soap, and there’s a recipe for using bleach on the outside of the egg as well.
But to be honest, once they are cleaned off with hot water and the scrubber we store them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. We eat them so rapidly they do not go bad, and its penetration from the outside to the inside yolk/white that makes eggs go rotten, and we’ve brought gift eggs to work without refrigerating (and nary a friend poisoned yet!).
If the seal the hen laid on the egg still holds ( think about how protected that chick has to be, to hatch) then it shouldn’t go bad for a while. We have followed our pal in the UK’s example – she never feels required to refrigerate her hens’ eggs either.
However, since lawsuits about, and this is the USA, I’m not recommending you do what we do – put the bowl in the fridge in your house after cleaning and that will cause a lot less angst. For an official view of hatching egg sanitation (ie how clean you truly want things to be so actual chickens hatch), see UC Davis PDF here.
For us chicken eaters, there’s a nice test for rotten eggs/egg weirdness at WikiHow with photos – essentially put the egg in a bowl of water at least 2 times as deep as the egg is. If the egg floats to the top, rotten. You can tell age by how much the egg leaves the bottom of the bowl.
We’ve also given some thought to padding our egg bowl in the kitchen as well to prevent cracks/rotting. If you don’t have leftover egg cartons from your non-urban-chicken days to store eggs in, there’s a chance you can crack eggs at the bottom by too cavalierly tossing eggs onto the bowl at the top. J was quite dismayed at the site and smell of the egg cracked the slightest bit on the bottom of one bowl (but had of course had time to rot down there).
It is only since we started raising our own supply of eggs that I’ve felt ok about trying mayonnaise and hollandaise recipes, where raw egg is required for the best result. Again, you do these experiments at your own risk, and you can learn about salmonella symptoms at the Mayo Clinic here.
Eggs are precious! Treat them well!