Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chicken Poop Happens

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by Wendy EN Thomas of Lessons Learned from the Flock



Yup, it’s true. A chicken’s egg comes out of the same opening as the poop. That’s just the design and it’s why eggs that you get from your own chickens or even from a farmer’s market are probably going to have some poop staining on them. 

No matter how hard you try to keep your nesting boxes clean, poop is going to happen. It's one of those facts of  chicken life.

What is amazing to me is some people’s reactions to this “dirt.” I’ve had some people look at the stained eggs from our girls and turn their heads in disgust saying “no thanks.” They’d rather have the cleaned and sterilized (and nutritionally deficient) eggs found in the supermarket than those from our backyard raised flock. 

“Yuck,” is the common reaction I get from those people. 

I’ve also seen older neighbors who look with glee at our eggs which remind them of growing up with chickens. When I specifically mentioned the poop stains on our eggs once to a neighbor who was raised with chickens in her backyard, she said that it was “no big deal. That’s the way eggs come out.”

“You just use common sense and wash your hands after handling them,” she told me. 

Initially it’s that’s oil coating, the bloom, covering the egg right before it comes out of the hen that protects it and makes it impermeable to the chemicals and bacteria of the outside world. This is why many of us don’t rush to clean the eggs until we’ve gathered enough to make it worth our time, the bloom keeps the egg’s interior protected. Take that bloom away and eggs become porous, potentially allowing chemicals and bacteria to pass to the inside of the egg. 

This is why all eggs that have been washed then need to be refrigerated. A lower temperature slows down (but doesn’t stop) any sort of bacterial growth. 

I’ve heard of people using chemicals (usually acidic) in order to clean (really clean) their eggs. Some use Apple Cider Vinegar in the water while others use commercially prepared cleaning products. The problem with using chemicals, however mild, is that once that oil bloom is washed away, the egg’s insides can then absorb what the outside of the egg is exposed to. 

This can includes perfumes and dyes from soaps.

In our desire to make our chickens’ eggs “presentable” we may be inadvertently introducing chemicals that should never be found in any egg. 

If you ask 5 different chicken owners how they clean their eggs, you’re likely to get 5 different answers.  Everyone has their preferred method. Some want their eggs pristine and swear by the ACV or store bought chemicals.  While others, like me, are fine with removing the obvious dirt by dunking the egg in warm water, lightly scrubbing it with a soft sponge, and then storing the eggs in the fridge. 

How about you? What’s your preferred way to clean your eggs and do you use different methods for various customers?  

56 comments:

  1. I wipe off anything "big" and let my customers know that I don't wash them and they will need to wash before eating. I have not had a customer complain!

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  2. prefer not to wash or refrigerate - think it spoils the flavor, tell my fellow egg lovers the same, wash eggs and hands right before using. They think it makes the eggs look more 'organic' occasionally I leave a feather stuck on there to hear their kids squeal with delight :)

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    1. This is my method! Fresh and great tasting eggs!

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  3. I wash mine in cool water and use a paper towel to "scrub". If they are really stained I just keep those for our family to use.

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    1. You really need to switch over to washing with warm water. Using cool water allows the bacteria to be "sucked" into the egg. Using water warmer than the egg itself keeps that from happening.

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  4. Always love reading your blog! I tend to run my hens' eggs under warm water and wipe off, then refrigerate. We use them up pretty fast or give them away. My Daughter-in-law was sort of grossed out by our eggs because they didn't come from a store. After finally using some of our eggs, she was amazed at how much better they were....but she still won't handle a fresh egg, warm from the nest. :)

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  5. I can honestly say in over a year of keeping chickens I have only had a handful of truly *dirty* eggs. Typically I do not wash eggs at all until right before we use them. If there is light gunk on egg I just lightly scrub it with a dry scotch brite pad to knock it off. I still sell that egg. If the egg is really yucky I would wash it and then we would eat it although that has not happened yet. I disclose to buyer that the eggs we sell are never more than a couple days old, never washed, and never refridgerated. They know what they are getting. No complaints yet.

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  6. I don't wash them. I prefer them as nature intended :)

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    Replies
    1. Do you wipe your butt?

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    2. only when i lay eggs

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  7. I gather my eggs every single which I immensely enjoy. Then I take them into the house and soak in cool tap water, wipe off them refrigerate. I never use soap or other chemicals. Our eggs are usually pretty clean unless it's been raining as the chickens free-range then come into the coop to lay their eggs.

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    1. You really need to switch over to washing with warm water. Using cool water allows the bacteria to be "sucked" into the egg. Using water warmer than the egg itself keeps that from happening.

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  8. I've read somewhere NEVER to use warm water. The idea was that cold water left some of the bloom in place, but I don't know if that's true.

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    1. Actually you should ALWAYS use warm water. Cold water can pull bacteria INTO the egg. Warm water prevents that. Lisa www.fresh-eggs-daily.com

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    2. Exactly - you should use water warmer than the egg. If you use cool water, it allows the egg to "pull" bacteria into the egg.

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  9. I used to soak the eggs in cold water before I knew about the bloom. Now I use a damp paper towel if there is any poop on them. I have been getting better about keeping the nest boxes cleaner. My girls often poop and lay eggs in the same place. I had to laugh at Susan's comment about her daughter-in-law not liking to touch the warm eggs. I love it when I get an egg warm from the hen. I love to hold it in my hand.

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  10. I don't wash. After educating my customers about the bloom, they prefer me not washing them. Also I've had people tell me that they know the eggs come from"real chickens" when they are dirty. Really filthy eggs just stay with me to eat.

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  11. I run a trickle of warm water in the sink to help clean any gunk off, starting with the cleanest eggs first (some of which do not even get rinsed) and moving up to the dirtier ones, scrubbing with a woven dishrag as needed, then let them drip dry on a clean towel before packaging and dating (wash date, not laid date) and then refrigerate. I find yolk from broken eggs stains the worst. I try to use all the stained ones myself.

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  12. if they're just mildly dirty, I wipe it down with a very damp paper towel. If they have poop, I try to sand off most of t with an emery board, then wipe it off...if they are filthy, I run very hot water to create a vacuum, over the egg and use a mild plain dish soap, , and spray a water-bleach solution on them. I always refrigerate all of. my eggs. if they are very fifty with any cracks, I throw them out.

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    1. Any time I have a cracked egg, I just scramble it and either give it to the dog or back to the chickens. I never just throw them out.

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    2. I give my broken eggs to my dogs as well. I also wash my eggs the same. No complaints from any of my customers.

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  13. I use cold water, some baking soda if dirty, but mostly well water!! Nothing like fresh eggs!!!

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    1. You really need to switch over to washing with warm water. Using cool water allows the bacteria to be "sucked" into the egg. Using water warmer than the egg itself keeps that from happening.

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  14. I find my "blue" eggs stain easier but my "true" egg lovers don't care. I'm getting a lot of mud staining now and most of it will rinse off OK on the brown shells. If they don't rinse off with the help of a rag, them it's scrambled eggs for supper. Shirley, Joplin, MO

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  15. I only clean if dirty. I use use a dry scotch brite pad and sand off the debris. If that doesn't work, I run it under warm water and rub it clean with my hands, then air dry. I always wash my hands after handling. I then refrigerate.

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  16. I only clean the really dirty eggs. I use either a wet rag, or run them under warm water as I wipe the poop off. I air dry them as I go, and than all those cackle berries are put in the fridge for us to enjoy at a later date.

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  17. As I understand from our "eggspert" since eggs are porous any water used in cleaning eggs needs to be at least 20 degrees warmer than the egg- if the water is egg temp or lower, bacteria is pulled INTO the egg through the pores and you have just contaminated a perfectly good egg. Scotch brite pads are good for getting the gunk off without removing the bloom. If you have to rinse (never soak for the same reason above) an egg, dip into bleach water (1 tsp/gallon and NO more)and allow the eggs to completely airdry (no wiping with a towel which could recontaminate)to sanitize. Any residual chlorine will evaporate.

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    Replies
    1. Salmonella is what most stores had to remove eggs from shelf's bleach water did not cut the mustard keep the Bloom on go to Good-will buy a blender for pureeing eggs and shells for the flock or in the garden around plants ( shells) calcium for tomato's and to bring in earthworms under the mulch. Use roll-way nest boxes keeps eggs cleaner. hard boiled eggs are easier to puree and feed back shells and all, left over veggies too.
      Maggots off rotten meat is protein , Jap Beetles, recycle food with your chickens. Earthworms are a treat.

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  18. Actually although eggs DO come out the same opening, they don't travel down the same 'chute' as the feces and most times poop on eggs is due to dirty nesting boxes. If you keep the nesting material clean, you shouldn't have to deal with dirty eggs.

    We never wash our eggs until just before we use them and then only with warm water so any bacteria isn't drawn into the egg. The natural bloom DOES keep the egg fresher and bacteria out.

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  19. I just wash mine in warm water the same as you. Use a scrubby if needed and store in the fridge. I've had people tell me my eggs are the best tasting and they've bought from others who sell eggs so I must be doing something right with my girls..

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  20. I let mine soak in water for a bit, rinse under running water and allow to dry. I don't scrub or rub them. I'm hoping the bloom stays intact.

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  21. Loved the article and finding out that it is actually NORMAL to have poop on the eggs from time to time! I generally don't wash at all unless there is some poop streaked on the egg. Then, I just get a warm, wet paper towel and wipe the dirty area.

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  22. If you think washing your eggs is a problem, wait until a piece of dirty litter or chicken sh*t falls into the bowl of eggs you are about to scramble. YUM!!

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  23. Who don't you refrigerate the eggs? Is that bad? I put them in the box and right in the fridge. Washing right before I use them.

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    1. It's not "bad" to refrigerate unwashed eggs, it's just that you don't need to as long as the bloom is still on the eggs. I leave mine out on the counter until I use them because that way they don't take up room in the fridge and I don't have to hunt or search for them behind something in the fridge.

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  24. I put my dirty eggs in a dishpan of tepid water, wipe gently with my fingers to remove any gunk, and dry on a tea towel. Then they get boxed and taken to the basement for storage. The only eggs that go in the fridge are the ones we eat personally. If kept at a cool temperature, eggs do not need to be refrigerated. Only commercial eggs should be refrigerated (because the bloom has been removed, thus increasing the likelihood of bacterial introduction); of course, the USDA recommends refrigerating all eggs (probably as a CYA).

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    Replies
    1. recycle dirty eggs, use water-glass to extend shelf life Salmonella is what you can expect with dirty and washed eggs done improperly do not forget cross-contamination.

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  25. I use hydrogen peroxide to clean mine. :)

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  26. As long as I keep the bedding clean and collect daily, I don't have a big poop problem.

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  27. As long as I keep the bedding clean and collect daily, I don't have a big poop problem.

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  28. Like others above, I don't wash my eggs at all unless they are obviously poopy. Then I use a damp paper towel, or scrub sponge if really bad, and only try to wash the worst part off. I never soak them, or even run them under water for fear of losing the bloom.

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  29. I keep the nest boxes really clean I do not seem to have too many soiled eggs if they have some poop on them I wash with warm if eggs are still warm and colder water if eggs are cold and dry I always refrigerate my eggs

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  30. Magic Eraser* gets all but the worst of the stains off. Otherwise just running water and paper towels, if they need it.

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    Replies
    1. Use roll-away nesting boxes and only a dry rag too wipe an egg off special wipes when ready too eat, cracked or really dirty eggs, hard-boil them, puree them, then feed it back to them.

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  31. I find that eggs come out pretty clean but will often get stained after they've been laid, especially during wet weather. Since I gather them every day, I simply wash the really soiled eggs and refridgerate. Normally I collect them and they sit on the counter if I plan to use them within days. I wash and refridgerate if they're not to be used soon.

    Eggs come out the same way whether they're laid in a commercial egg house or in your back yard. Commercial interests must wash theirs if for public consumption basically for health reasons. I know my hens and what goes into (and out of) them. If the shell has been breached, I feed them to my dogs. Otherwise, they go into the kitchen or to neighbors or family.

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  32. Anyone that washes the bloom of the eggs before eating them is nuts I use the special wipes when I fix eggs too eat. The super markets have had to pull eggs off the shelf's because of bacteria in the eggs. The old Husker Wagons would not take any eggs if the bloom was washed off, that is how people use to have the store on wheels too buy and trade. Also 9 parts water too 1 part water-glass was the way to store eggs for 6 months plus, the fresh eggs laid was bartered the stored eggs where eaten by the family. For people that who do not know what a husker wagon was missing a part of life he carried Gasoline, coal oil, flour,he would pick up your mail in town any freight at the railroad station from Sears, etc.He was your store, friend, mail man,your contact with the outside world during the war ours went out of business in the 1960's. Bartering was a better way of life.

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  33. If you wash off the bloom, it can be replaced with mineral oil. Also eggs from the grocery can be rubbed with mineral oil to make them last longer.

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    Replies
    1. go to your drug store buy water-glass mix 9-1 ratio use is the best you do not need the mineral oil to store the eggs, save it to put on you corn tussles too keep worms out of your ears with an eye dropper. farm hint#2

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  34. I don't have too much problem with poopy eggs as long as I keep the coop and nest boxes clean. If I get a poopy or muddy egg, I'll give them a quick scrub with a Scotchbrite or emery cloth. I use a food-safe stamper to date the eggs, and store on a shelf in my pantry. I only wash them quickly with warm water and a towel right before using.

    When I give or trade eggs, I let folks know that they aren't washed, may be fertile (although I do candle first), and have never been refrigerated. No one seems to mind that they have to wash their hands or wash the eggs themselves if they want to.

    Cracked eggs get cooked immediately and fed to the critters. Bad eggs get buried in the compost pile.

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  35. Nothing like fresh eggs!!!Fresh and great tasting eggs! I don't wash my eggs at all unless they are obviously poopy!.........:)

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  36. We wash the eggs with water, dry and refrigerat. I have had chickens now for a year and a half and have never had a bad egg. Never thought to cook a cracked egg and give it to the dog or back to the chickens. They are few and far in between.

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  37. I've heard of preppers that after they thoroughly clean the eggs with the apple cider vinegar in water method, that they wash their hands, put on disposable plastic gloves and then give the eggs a coating of food grade mineral oil to reseal them. Would that work along with the refrigeration to prolong the use by date?

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  38. I keep them unwashed until ready to give them away. Them I wipe the stains off with a warm damp cloth. Then they are refridgerated. I don't like giving soiled eggs to anyone.

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  39. a-valley chicks May16,2013 at 10pm
    I have a hen that seems to be broody, but she keeps going from her nest to the one that has the most eggs, I am not sure how to deal with her, any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. About the broody hen: you might try separating her and the eggs from everyone else. (I had a hen like yours; she kept playing musical nests.) I have a small area that I have set up just in case I get a broody hen. It's about the size of a coffin turned on its side. (Sorry. Best example I could think of.) One end is fairly well enclosed and the rest of the front is hardware cloth, with a chicken sized door. I have straw placed in the enclosed portion and food and water in the other end. At night, I close the door, but otherwise I leave it open (it's inside a small fenced-in area) so she can leave the nest to "fertilize" the ground. This way, she's not confused by which nest she should be on. It's been working for me, so far. And she and the chicks are safe from predators and the other chickens.

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