Here are some cold weather egg tips that might help prevent cracked or fully frozen chicken eggs this winter.
I often get asked: do eggs need to be refrigerated? Freshly laid eggs will keep out on the counter at room temperature for a week or two as long as they aren’t washed. Washing chicken eggs removes the “bloom” which keeps air and bacteria from getting into the egg. If you find eggs your chickens have hidden in the chicken coop or yard during the warm months, you can be pretty sure they are still good to eat. (And if you aren’t sure how old an egg is, simply perform an egg freshness test.)
In fact, I often leave a bowl of eggs on the counter after collecting them instead of putting them in the refrigerator so I can enjoy how pretty they are and also because room temperature eggs are better for baking. Eggs don’t last very long at our house anyway, but I feel comfortable leaving the eggs out for up to two weeks.
However, once the temperatures drop, the game changes. Eggs left out in your coop uncollected during the winter months can freeze and crack. Are they still safe to eat then? What if an egg is frozen but not cracked? Here is some advice on handling frozen chicken eggs as well as tips to attempt to keep your eggs from freezing in the first place.
To Try and Prevent Frozen Chicken Eggs
- Collect your eggs as often as possible during the day
- If you have a broody hen, consider letting her sit – she’ll keep the eggs warm for you!
- Hang curtains over your nesting boxes. They will help retain heat inside the boxes and can be as simple as a feed bag or piece of burlap over the front of the box or as fancy as these.
- Use a thick nest of straw in the bottom of your boxes. Straw is a wonderful insulator because warm air is trapped inside the hollow shafts.
- Heating your coop is also an option, but one that I don’t recommend.
Handling Frozen Chicken Eggs
- If the egg seems frozen, but not cracked, go ahead and refrigerate it to let it defrost. It should be perfectly fine to eat after it defrosts.
- If the egg is cracked but the membrane seems intact and the egg isn’t visibly dirty, you can still use it, but cook it up right away or feed it to your chickens or dog.
- If the egg is cracked and the white is oozing out, I would toss it. There is too much risk that bacteria has entered through the cracked shell and broken membrane.
After you collect your eggs, if your coop is below 45°F or so, and the eggs are cold to the touch when you collect them, they should be refrigerated at soon as you get back to the house, since being out in the cold is equivalent to being chilled in the refrigerator. If you bring them inside and leave them on the counter, condensation will most likely form, which is what you want to avoid (once an egg has been refrigerated, it should stay refrigerated).
Eggs become a precious commodity in the winter for most of us since production usually drops off, so no one wants eggs to go to waste after having frozen and cracked. Hopefully, these tips will help!
For more tips and tricks to raising happy, healthy chickens as naturally as possible, please come visit me at Fresh Eggs Daily.