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How To: Wash Dirty Eggs Safely

How To: Wash Dirty Eggs Safely

Dirty Eggs? How To Clean Eggs Safely

Dirty eggs are often a sign of chicken illness, or a poorly maintained coop. But even healthy chickens in a clean coop will occasionally lay a dirty egg. 

You already know that chicken poop contains pathogens like salmonella. So is it safe to eat an egg that had poop on the shell? It depends how you clean the egg! 

In fact, some common egg cleaning methods can actually make eggs less safe to eat!

Do clean eggs need to be washed?

In the USA, eggs from the supermarket have been washed. In other countries, like Australia and Europe, clean eggs don't have to be washed before they can be sold.

Do fresh eggs need to be washed before storage?

Unless they are visibly dirty, fresh eggs probably don't need to be washed.

Chicken eggs are covered with a thin layer that is called the bloom. The bloom seals the egg shell, which is porous, and prevents any bacteria or other nasties from entering the egg. Washing the egg will remove the bloom, meaning that bacteria can enter more easily. The temperature of washing water can even push bacteria into the egg!

So keeping eggs clean is the best option. Clean eggs do not need washing, as the natural bloom will prevent contamination and keep the eggs fresh for longer.

Should chicken eggs be washed immediately before use?

Chicken eggs don’t need to be washed before use. Any washing of eggs simply increases the risk of bacteria being drawn in through the shell. Cook with clean eggs and wash your hands after handling egg shells or raw eggs, before continuing with your cooking.

How to clean dirty eggs safely

The best thing you can do is keep your eggs clean in the first place. We provide some tips on how to do this below.

But even in the cleanest coop, you will occasionally get a dirty egg.

If you get a dirty egg:

  • Clean it as soon as possible. The longer there is poop on the shell, the more likely bacteria is to breed and potentially spread into the egg.
  • Dry scrubbing is the best way to clean dirty eggs. Use a dry paper towel, scrubbing brush or dry sponge to scrub off any dirt or faeces.
  • For really stubborn faeces, try dampening a paper towel with warm water.
  • Eggs should only be submerged in water as a last resort. If you really have to wash an egg, use warm water in a sink or container.
  • Do not soak eggs.

Never put eggs under running water, such as a tap. And never clean or rinse eggs with cold water, always use warm. Both running water and cold water can force bacteria through the egg shell, making the eggs less safe to eat.

Even after you have cleaned a dirty egg, you should:

  1. Keep it separate from the clean eggs
  2. Store it in the fridge
  3. Aim to use it immediately or as soon as possible
  4. Wash your hands after handling the egg
  5. Cook the egg thoroughly before eating

On commercial farms, eggs that have more dirt or poop than can be removed by dry scrubbing are usually processed for industrial use. Really dirty eggs are considered unsafe and discarded altogether.

How to help your chickens produce the cleanest eggs

Dirty eggs can be caused by many things:

  • A big piece of poo stuck to an egg is usually caused when a hen poops in the nesting box.
  • Irregular poo marks on eggs are often caused when chickens track a little poo into the nesting box on their feet.
  • Poo streaks on an egg are usually caused by a chicken with a dirty bum.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure your chickens produce the cleanest eggs:

  • Collect eggs regularly
  • Clean nesting boxes and replace nesting material regularly
  • Keep the coop clean and dry so that chickens don’t track poop into the nesting boxes on their feet
  • Do not let hens sleep or shelter in the nesting boxes
  • Feed your chickens a good diet of a complete layer feed and avoid too many scraps and treats
  • Treat your chickens for parasites regularly
  • Ensure there are enough comfortable nesting boxes for your flock
  • Deal with broody hens, don’t just leave them in the nesting boxes!
  • Separate setting hens from the rest of the flock
  • Keep insects out of the coop
  • When a chicken has a dirty bum, separate it from the rest of the flock and seek veterinary advice

Roll-away nesting boxes

Roll-away nesting boxes are designed so that the egg rolls into a protected compartment as soon as it is laid. Not only does this prevent accidental breakage and egg eating, it keeps eggs much cleaner!

Roll-away nesting boxes are particularly good if you aren’t at home to collect eggs throughout the day.

How to store washed eggs

Washed eggs should always be allowed to dry completely and stored in the fridge. Use washed eggs as soon as possible.

Egg handling

Always wash your hands after handling eggs, even clean eggs.

Although it is unlikely, there can be salmonella and other harmful bacteria on the shell. This is especially the case where eggs have faeces on them. While the egg will be protected by the bloom, washing your hands protects you and your food.

Do you have an eggy question that we haven't answered? Get in touch!

Happy egg hunting!

Rachael at Dine a Chook USA