Do eggs need to be refrigerated and washed? If you keep backyard chickens, the washing and storage of eggs are the two most controversial egg-related topics among avid owners of backyard chickens. One side says you should learn how to wash fresh eggs and wash every egg before you store it; while the other side says only wash a really dirty egg and only wash them just before use. One side says you should refrigerate your eggs as soon as possible; the other side says no refrigeration is needed. After I wrote an article about determining if an egg is fresh (because many people wonder do eggs go bad?), I had many questions about the washing and storing of eggs. This inspired me to take a good look at the questions of do eggs need to be refrigerated, and do backyard chicken eggs need to be washed.
The truth is that you should not wash any egg that is to be stored unless you plan on using it within a week. If you feel you must wash an egg and you will not be able to use it within a week, be sure the water is 20 degrees warmer than the egg and no warmer than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people use a cleaning mixture of 4 tablespoons bleach with 2 tablespoons of detergent in 1 gallon of water. Wipe off any loose dirt or chicken poop with a clean, dry cloth. Wash it in this solution of bleach and detergent and rinse well with clear warm water. Never dry the egg with a cloth; allow it to air dry. Commercial egg plants wash their eggs in chlorine bleach and soap. YUCK!
I don’t wash any egg that I’m going to store. If one of the chicken eggs has dirt or chicken poop on it, I wipe it off with a clean dry cloth and put it where I can use it next, but I don’t wash it until just before I use it.
Why I don’t wash my chicken eggs
The reason I do not wash eggs is simple, and is one of the more interesting egg facts you’ll ever learn: Eggshells are covered with a thin, protective membrane that is destroyed with washing. By not washing, the membrane is left in tact and the egg keeps longer.
It’s pretty safe to assume that any egg has bacteria on it and egg washers cite this as the reason they wash their eggs. But the truth is, washing an egg and removing the protective membrane makes it more likely that bacteria can get inside the shell. Bacteria love moisture, so adding it along with removing the membrane, creates the perfect environment for bacteria to breed, increasing the risk of egg penetration. Whether or not to wash an egg is a personal decision. However, I feel very adamant that not washing the egg is the best way.
Do eggs need to be refrigerated?
Well, now that may seem like a silly question to us in an age of modern refrigeration, but in many countries, backyard chicken eggs are not refrigerated. As a matter of fact, old-timers did not refrigerate their eggs. My great-grandmother and my grandmother had egg baskets to keep their eggs.
Here in the U.S., cold storage is considered the best way to keep eggs by most people. However, in other countries like France, Britain, and most of Europe, eggs are not refrigerated. Our commercial method is to keep eggs stored between 35 and 40 degrees. They say that when kept at this temperature, with an adequate humidity level, eggs will keep for 100 days. Be careful storing your eggs next to something smelly like an onion because they have lots tiny pores and will absorb odors.
There have been scientific studies done in an attempt to answer the question, do eggs need to be refrigerated. They have proven that there is no difference in the bacteria levels of cold storage eggs versus room temperature eggs. You have to decide what you feel comfortable with.
The old-timers used to store their eggs in crocks, barrels, or baskets. If they had a large supply, they would fill the container with sawdust or straw and store it in a cool place like their root cellar or basement. They stored them small end down to keep the air pocket in its natural place.
I store my yard eggs in my egg basket at room temperature. They must not be placed in direct sunlight or next to a heat source. I keep some in the kitchen in a basket and the rest in the room where I keep my preserved garden produce. It is not heated so it remains a pretty even, cool temperature and the humidity is good.
How long are backyard chicken eggs good?
As a general rule, eggs are good for 6 weeks. Those who support the refrigeration of eggs say that you can keep eggs in the fridge for up to 100 days at the right temperature and humidity level (like we talked about above). Washed eggs have been proven to spoil within a month or less.
As always, I do not try to set myself up as an authority on any subject. I am just an experienced farmer with generations of chicken keeping to rely on. Where do you stand on this issue? Are you a washer or a non-washer? Do eggs need to be refrigerated?
Be sure to share your experiences, ideas, and tips in the comments below and remember you can always use the Contact Me page at The Farmer’s Lamp for any questions, suggestions, or concerns you may have.Safe and Happy Journey, Rhonda and The Pack
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.