People often ask me how I have clean chicken eggs when I harvest them. Today I’m sharing my secrets to picking clean eggs from the nesting boxes. As the egg is laid, the hen puts a protective clear wet coating on the egg called a bloom. The bloom seals the outer shell of the egg keeping air out, along with other harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When eggs are washed the bloom is removed. That ultimately decreases the “shelf-life” of the egg. Harvesting clean eggs, allows you to keep the bloom intact and there is no need to wash your eggs. Here are my secrets to clean chicken eggs naturally.
Have enough nesting boxes. — You should have one nesting box per four laying hens in your flock.
Build them large enough.— Each box should be at least a 12″x 12″ square with a top, bottom and two sides. It is also helpful to have a lip on the front of the box to prevent the eggs from rolling out inadvertently. This gives the chickens a sense of a safe place to keep their eggs safe.
Block off the nesting boxes until your young chickens become egg laying age.— Chickens should never be allowed to sleep in nesting boxes and all young chickens seem to be drawn to sleeping in the boxes. Simply block off the entrances to the nesting boxes with cardboard that you can remove later. Encourage your flock to sleep on the roosts. You may have to pick them up and put them on the roosts at first after dusk. When the hens are around 20 weeks of age, remove the cardboard and place some wooden dummy eggs in the nesting boxes to encourage egg laying in the boxes.
Do not let your chickens sleep in the nesting boxes.— No matter the age, every once in a while you will find a chicken sleeping in the nesting boxes. When you lock them up at night, inspect the boxes and remove any chickens in the boxes and place them onto the roost at dusk.
Tidy the nesting boxes each day. — As you gather eggs, tidy up the boxes and remove any feathers or poop that you may find. If your chickens are not sleeping in the boxes, poop will be rare. Using kiln dried pine shavings in the nesting boxes makes cleaning and tidying a breeze. I avoid straw in the boxes because it is much more difficult to clean than the shavings and the shafts of the straw make the perfect place for pests like poultry mites to hide.
Remove broody hens from the nests. — Broody hens are notorious for living in the nesting boxes. When you have broody hens in the boxes, it is okay to let the broodiness run its course. Just be sure to remove the broodies off the nest so they can make a big broody poop and take food and water.
Refresh the nesting box bedding at least once per month. — Add a sprinkle of food grade DE and some dried herbs to the nesting boxes as well as fresh pine shavings helps to keep pests at at bay. I swear this encourages egg laying. It seems that the days that I do this, everyone seems to lay an egg!
Do you have any other tips that you would like to share?