The decision to house laying hens on your farm is one that can bring you an abundance of farm fresh eggs for preparing and incorporating into various recipes. Yet, you need to develop a routine for proper handling of the eggs -- from the time you collect them to storage -- so that they will be safe to eat and intact.
Collecting the Eggs
If you house your laying hens in a chicken coop, then you'll know where to go every morning to collect the eggs. If you allow the birds to free-range -- wander around the farm at their own will -- you will find that they lay eggs all over, even in the most obscure places. Once you find several places where the hens lay, you can check back each day. If you find eggs in a different location, but you don't know how long they have been there, you can place them in a separate basket. When you return to the house, you can fill up a bowl with water and put the mystery eggs in the water. If they sink on their sides, they're probably okay to eat. If they turn upright or float, the egg has lost some of its moisture and should be discarded. When collecting eggs, take a container or basket with some padding to protect the eggs from cracking.
Cleaning the Shells
Inspect each egg after collection, but before cleaning, to make sure it doesn't have any cracks. Throw cracked eggs away. For cleaning the eggs, fill up a small dish with lukewarm water and add a couple of drops of mild dish soap, without any added dyes or scents. Dip a paper towel in the soapy water and gently scrub the outside of the egg to clean. Hold the egg under lukewarm running water and pat dry with a clean paper towel. Don't use hot water, which can damage the outer shell and cause contamination. Don't use harsh cleansers, soaps or abrasive cleaning tools, either. Information from the Colorado State University Extension suggests sanitizing the eggs after cleaning by dipping them in a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 1 tbsp. of household, unscented bleach. Pat the eggs dry after dipping.
Storing the Eggs
The best place for eggs is in a refrigerator set at a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. While some refrigerators have places for eggs in the door, the temperature in the door is generally warmer than the rest of the inside of the appliance, so it's better to place the eggs on a shelf. Store them in an old, clean egg carton or in a container. Store fresh eggs for up to 3 weeks, according to information from the Colorado State University Extension.
Egg Preparation Advice
When preparing eggs, it's important to cook them and not eat them raw. Raw or undercooked eggs carry the risk of Salmonella enteritidis, a bacterium that can cause gastrointestinal problems in humans such as fever, cramps and diarrhea. Cook egg yolks until firm, not runny, and cook dishes containing eggs to a temperature no less than 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked or raw eggs should not be held at room temperature for more than two hours.
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