What You Might Not Know About Fresh Chicken Eggs

October 31, 2013

Food Production, Raising Chickens

raising chickens, fresh eggs shelf life

If you’ve never owned backyard chickens, there are a few things about fresh eggs that you might not have ever known. Fresh eggs are actually quite different from store-bought eggs in a number of ways. Not only are they better for you nutritionally, particularly if the hens are free range (and I mean truly free to roam the land), but fresh eggs have a few other aspects that one should keep in mind before getting a flock of your own.

Free Range Yolks Are Darker and Tastier

Depending on how much the hens have been able to free range, the yolk can be considerably darker than we’re used to seeing from store bought eggs. I remember the first time I cracked one of our home grown eggs. I was shocked by a dark orange yolk- very different from the pale yellow I was used to from conventional eggs. I was almost afraid to eat it. Was it safe?

Of course, that darker shade is only evidence of a healthy diet of grass and bugs, and is not only perfectly safe to eat, but is much tastier and nutritious than those other anemic versions.

Fresh Eggs Last For Months. Unrefrigerated.

When an egg has just been laid, it is covered with a special protective coating called the “bloom”. You can’t see it or feel it, but it’s there. This coating helps protect the potential developing chick from being exposed to bacteria through the porous eggshell. When that bloom has been washed off, that layer of protection is lost, and eggs begin to spoil due to bacteria being absorbed through the shell.

Store-bought eggs have been washed before being packaged, so they have a very limited shelf life. Fresh eggs, on the other hand, will last for several months even without refrigeration as long as the bloom has not been washed off, and the eggs are stored in a cool environment.

The Float Test

One down-side to having completely free range hens is that those silly girls will lay their eggs in the craziest places. There have been times when I’ve come upon a nest of eggs underneath a fallen log out in the woods, and I have no idea how long they’ve been there. I could have just thrown them away, but what if they were still good? There is a way to test their freshness.

Put the eggs in a deep container of cool water. If the eggs sink to the bottom and stay there, they’re still good. If they float to the top, they’re bad. If the egg sits up on its end on the bottom of the container, and acts like it wants to float but doesn’t quite get off the bottom, it’s a little old but still good enough to eat.

Of course, once they’ve been in the water the bloom has been washed off, so you’ll want to refrigerate them and eat them withing a week or so.


Could There Be A Chick In There?

Before I had a flock of my own, I had no idea how the whole chick-and-egg thing worked. I was scared to death that I’d crack an egg and there would be a chick in there.

Yes, it is a possibility. But only under certain conditions. Here’s what you need to know…

  • Eggs must be fertilized before you can have chicks. If you don’t have a rooster, there is zero chance of a chick being in your eggs. If you do have a rooster who has access to the hens, chances are very good that the eggs you are collecting will be fertilized.
  • Fertilized eggs must be sat on, or incubated, before they will develop into chicks. If the egg isn’t kept warm, the embryo will not grow. Fertilized eggs are perfectly fine to eat, even if a hen has been sitting on it for a day or two. Any longer than that and and you’ll begin seeing blood spots and evidence of development. Which is still safe to eat, just not very appetizing.

raising chickens, fresh eggs shelf life

  • If you discover a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs, and you have no idea how long she has been there, you can use a method called “candling” to see if there might be a chick developing in there. Take the eggs in question along with a flashlight into a dark room. Hold the egg, pointy side down, over the light, and cup your hand around the base of the egg so that the light shines through the shell. If it’s dark in there, or if you see blood vessels or even movement, just put it back under the hen and let her hatch her babies out. If the light passes through the egg, the egg is still fairly new and okay to eat.

raising chickens, fresh eggs shelf life

The Odd Ones

Sometimes fresh eggs don’t come out as we’d expect. Sometimes they’re very small- particularly when the hen is still young and is just beginning to lay. Sometimes they’re teeny tiny! It’s always fun to find these little “wind eggs” in the nesting box. Sometimes eggs are laid without a shell, or without a yolk. Sometimes you’ll get a double-yolker. And sometimes the shell might be wrinkled, or speckled! It all depends on the chicken’s diet, her age, and just random flukes her body produces. That’s the great thing about farm fresh eggs- they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors!

Hard Boiling Fresh Eggs

If you’ve ever tried to hard boil a fresh egg, you might know the feeling of wanting to throw the whole darned thing against the wall. That shell just does not want to come off! You can give them a couple of weeks to sit before boiling them, so that the membrane has time to break down and loosen from the shell, OR… you can use this trick:

  1. Fill a medium sized pot with enough water to slightly cover your eggs, and bring it to a full rolling boil.
  2. Carefully submerge room temperature eggs into the pot.
  3. Bring it back to a boil, reduce heat to med/low, and continue a light boil for 15 min.
  4. When finished cooking, pour off the hot water and cover the eggs with ice cold water. Allow them to sit until cool. The shells will slip right off!

Freezing Eggs

When I start getting more eggs than I know what to do with, I freeze them! Simply crack them into a large ice cube tray (I like to break the yoke), allow them to freeze solid, then transfer them to a ziploc bag. During the winter when your hens have stopped laying, or at least slowed down quite a bit, you’ll still have quality eggs to bake with.

Yes. Sometimes They Get Dirty.

It’s true. Farm eggs don’t always get brought into the house sparkling clean. Sometimes they’re muddy. Sometimes they’re even pooped on. It happens. Just wash it off with warm water (you can even use a little soap if it’s that bad), and put the egg in the fridge to be eaten in the next week or two. If the muck is still fresh, I usually just wipe the egg in the grass before bringing it inside. Packing your nesting boxes with fresh bedding really helps to keep the eggs clean, as well as having the boxes somewhere away from the roosts (so the hens don’t poop on the eggs overnight). But you can still expect some yuck every now and then.

Simply Satisfying

You’ll never understand until you have a flock of your own, just how satisfying it is to walk out to the chicken coop in the morning, and return to the house with breakfast. People, this is how life is meant to be!

I’d love to hear what you were surprised to learn about fresh eggs when you got your first flock!




About Kendra Lynne

Kendra shares all of her homesteading adventures on her website, New Life on a Homestead. Also be sure to check out her popular Canning DVD: At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond!

View all posts by Kendra Lynne

21 Responses to “What You Might Not Know About Fresh Chicken Eggs”

  1. Jim Says:

    Great info Kendra!! I would just like to add that if you take farm fresh eggs, wash them and dip them in wax to coat shell they will last up to six months…


  2. Mickey Louth Says:

    Another thing I noticed was that they don’t spread out in the pan like store bought…nice firm little puddles. Love my fresh eggs!


  3. JW Browning Says:

    Thanks for a great article. Just a fyi. If you have to wash the eggs off and they are bloom free or you want to stockpile store bought eggs, you can coat the eggs in a thin film of mineral oil for long term storage.


  4. Carolyn Hatcher Oats Says:

    Found my first fresh layed eggs only this morning after thinking that the hen who layed them was dead. 20 eggs in one nest. She was missed for a week. I will be doing the various test to be sure they are still ok to use. It has been pretty cool these past days 30 & 40 degrees. Hoping the most of the eggs are good. Thanks for such great information. Really


  5. Joni Kamfonik Says:

    Steaming eggs for 15 min (set time after they come to a boil) & cooling off soon after will make them easy to peel. Even fresh ones.


  6. Polly Says:

    I put a little oil in the pot to hard boil fresh eggs…the peel just fine that way. :)


  7. Paul Says:

    I would feed my chickens cabbage leaves from the local farm. Always made the eggs quite tasty. I believe it has to do with the sulfur in the cabbage. Also, they had squash peelings & seeds from the processing. I now live in another state where they don’t have a lot of flat land, and the same cabbage & squash fields. Will have to load up my truck bed when I return to visit family & friends.


  8. Craig Says:

    Can I run free range hens on hilly country?

    Thanks. Craig


  9. Judy Wells Says:


    I moved a hen and her eggs into a safe place as she was under a bush and the weather was turning cold and wet (mid winter here in New Zealand). Checked her today and she appears to have left the eggs. How long can they go without her warm before they die in the shell?



    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Unfortunately, sometimes when you move a hen and her nest it disturbs her so much that she doesn’t get back on the nest. Keep an eye on her and make sure she isn’t just up to eat… maybe she’ll settle back down soon! The hatch rate will determine on just how cold the eggs got when the hen was off the nest. If you can cage her in to keep her close to the nest it will help keep her broody. Good luck!


      • Frankie Says:

        I had a broody hen with 12-16eggs when I started counting days and left her to hatch…3days later she had 24…finally at the end of the week and 36eggs later I realized other hens were using her nest. She has since hatched only 3eggs and left the other eggs. Will they no longer hatch, should I toss them, or try to see if they have live chicks in them?


    • Jsh Says:

      Our broody hens will collect eggs for a couple weeks and then start sitting. Fertilized eggs seem to be fine sitting in the best box for those weeks before she starts sitting on them. They all hatch.


    • Judy Says:

      I found a nest hatching out that were covered in ice from a sleet storm, the chicks were almost frozen too. I brought hem in, put them under a 100 watt light bulb & they perked right up, also more of them hatched out. I son ‘t know what happened to the hen, hawk probably, get used to them, owls or other varmits getting them when you free range. I’ve even heard the hen with diddles under her cackling in the night & went out & found a huge black snake eating them like M&M’s, usually I let black snakes be but after knowing the poor little hen had set on those eggs for 21 days & lose them like that it’s time to get my 22 rifle out & pop his head. I will shoot any critters I find harming my birds as they’re not gonna stop. What I hate most is an opposon, they’ll kill just your hens, eat out the developing inside her & leave her lying dead. If caught they also get a bullet to their heads, Sometimes when I knew I couldn’t get to my gun before it would get gone I’ve grabbed up a metal post or whatever handy & have beaten their brains out! My mom could incubate chicks & THE CUTEST DUCKS USING JUST a box & lamp. Bringing this up because those that live like I do depend on the old type of light bulbs to keep our chicks we incubate warm, nothing else works as well, also to keep an old lamp in our spring box to keep our water from freezing. Too many won’t speak up against the things the government does that make our lives so much more hard. I tried the way mama did to incubate eggs & no way could I do it but I found a gadget that makes it so easy to incubate eggs. Candle all you want, give your chicken’s stupid names only to see a hawk swoop down & have them for lunch. It doesn’t pay to get attached to farm animals But to me seeing a hen strutting around with a clutch of chicks is one of the prettiest sites there is & yes I’ll kill to protect them. Some want certain breeds & keep them locked up to keep them purebred, more power to them. I want chickens that ly well so in the beginning I bought their eggs to incubate then when the chicks get old enough to be set free I let them run together after being kept in a pen outside to see the dangers of the world first. They will learn when the rooster makes a certain sound that there is danger. You will learn what these sounds mean. Also you’re most likely going to be plagued with rats after your feed. We tried everything, as when several new houses were built in the neighborhood apparently huge wharf rat’s were brought in the building supplies, we tried everything to get rid of them all to no availability l the only way we got rid of them was by getting a few cats. I so hate that so many are sent to their death when they like most all critters serve a purpose. It’s amazing but well fed cats Wii not bother your chicks after the hen beats them up or you can train them by hissing at them & saying No Nol! Cats are easily trained so please visit your your local pound & get you some as they are worth their weight in gold if properly trained but don’t expect them to live on what they kill, they still need feeding well to be the best hunter’s hunters. I’m giving you info that took me a lifetime to learn mainly by researching online & asking others how they did it. Incubating chicks & raising them ain’t recket science, good luck!


  10. carmen Says:

    I cracked a farm fresh egg this morning and the yoke was liquid but not bad smell, I then fried it in my pan. Is it safe to eat??


  11. Angie Baase Says:

    Hi. My friend cracked an egg (last one out if a dz) that I gave her and it was PURPLE! She sent me a picture of it. She said she smelled it and it smelled fine but she threw it out anyway. Was it spoiled? Has anyone seen this or heard of it?


  12. Kim Says:

    Some of the eggs I have been getting have a white that cooks up in a gelatinous manner. What is this from? The yolk is tasty but it is weird trying to eat a semi-clear white.


  13. Irene Says:

    After our rooster was killed I save about 30 eggs over asnout five days. Once they started to hatch they were one after another but then they all quit hatching, even the ones that had their little beaks out. We don’t understand why!


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