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Are backyard chicken eggs safe to eat?

When you buy eggs from a shop they always look pristine and clean with no trace of where they’ve come from, compare this to chickens kept in a backyard or garden things can get a bit messy.

Because we’re so used to seeing clean eggs in shops, when you keep chickens at home or buy eggs from a local smallholding it’s easy to think that they’re not safe to eat, but is this actually the case?

Backyard chicken eggs are safe to eat even when they’re a little dirty because they have an outer ‘bloom’ which protects the inside of the egg. As with many raw foods, it’s important to wash your hands after handling the eggs and to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen.

As well as the eggs being safe they’re also going to taste 100% better than an egg which is laid by a caged hen who doesn’t get the opportunity to graze for natural or to even go outside.

Read on to find out more about dealing with dirty eggs, along with some interesting facts and tips on cleaning and storing eggs.


Can you get sick by eating fresh eggs

As with any food which is raw which has come from or been in contact with animals there is potential for food poisoning, but this doesn’t mean the risk is any higher than a commercially farmed egg.

Providing the egg its self is cooked and hygiene practices are followed in the kitchen, there’s no reason why you should get sick from eggs produced in your own backyard or in a local smallholding.

The difference is that unlike commercial eggs which are produced in a very clinical environment, free-range chickens get dirty and this can be passed onto the egg.

A common concern with chicken keeping for eggs is bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, however, it is rare that these bacteria are passed on to humans via eggs because the eggs are cooked to a temperature where the bacteria can’t survive.

The main problem is handling dirty eggs or letting them come into contact with foods that will never be cooked. This is where good hygiene practices are needed to prevent any issues.


How to avoid getting sick from fresh eggs

If you have an egg which is dirty on the outside there’s always a risk of some bacteria transferring into the inside of the egg when it’s cracked open.

Unless you’re planning on eating the egg raw, any bacteria which is transferred will be destroyed once the egg is cooked and reaches a temperature of 70°c/158°F for a sustained two minutes.

After breaking the egg, dispose of the shells and wash your hands thoroughly to prevent any cross-contamination to foods which are uncooked such as bread.

Read on below to find out more about washing eggs.

It’s also important to store eggs laid by your own backyard hens separately from other foods, especially those which are eaten raw or uncooked.

Keeping the eggs in date order of laying is also a good idea to ensure you’re always using the freshest eggs first. A good way to do this is by using an egg carousel or a numbered tray.


How to keep eggs clean in the coop

The best way to keep eggs clean is by not allowing them to become too dirty in the first place.

There will always be some minor muck and especially in the wintertime when chickens get dirty feet, but it’s possible to keep this to a minimum.

If the eggs don’t get too dirty in the first place they’re fine to be collected and stored without any cleaning until you’re ready to use them. The best ways to ensure cleaner eggs are:

  • Cleaner chicken feet – if the flooring of the outside run is muddy they’ll carry it on their feet and into the nest. Wood chips and other run floor coverings are a good way to prevent muddy feet.
  • Clean nest boxes – if you’re chickens sleep and poop in the nest boxes it’s a good idea to regularly skim the top layer of straw from the top of the nest and replace with a new layer.
  • Regular egg collection – if you can, collect the eggs as soon as possible to prevent them hanging around and becoming dirtier.
  • Keep roosting bars away from nest boxes – chickens poop while they’re roosting, so make sure it falls onto the floor rather than into a nesting area.

Another good way to get clean eggs every time is by using a roll away nest box which will allow the egg to roll away as soon as it’s laid by the chicken.

Chickens will generally lay in the same nest as the last one which can mean they all end up favouring the same nest, in this case, it’s easier to focus on replacing bedding in their favourite laying spot.

The image below shows how our chickens lay in the same nest one by one:

Image of eggs in a nest box

Should you wash eggs?

When you keep chickens in a backyard or garden situation eggs can become more prone to getting dirty so it can be tempting to wash them before storing.

Because eggs are porous the force of running water can actually push bacteria into the egg, meaning that it’s better not to wash the egg.

Interestingly, the laws around washing or not washing commercially laid eggs are different depending on where you come from.

In the UK eggs are never washed to promote cleaner environments within chicken farms. Eggs are sold at room temperature and advice is give to store at room temperature after they’re bought.

This article was first published on October 27, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets..

In the US eggs are washed and sterilized before going off to be sold and because of this they need to be refrigerated in the shops and after they’re bought.

Find out much more about washing eggs in the post via the link below:

Can or should you wash backyard chicken eggs?

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Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 27, 2020..

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.