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There’s palpable excitement when it comes to your hens producing their first eggs. How many eggs will be in the coop? What will they look like? But, perhaps the better question is, how are you handling your farm fresh eggs when they arrive? Proper collection and storage of eggs are vital to keep your family safe.

“When your flock is producing eggs – the last thing you want to see during collection is a cracked or broken shell,” says Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Strong shells are essential to keep all the great nutrition your family needs in and bacteria out. Then, we’ve got to focus on collection frequency, maintaining eggs in the nest until it’s time to collect and proper egg storage.”

Check out Team Purina’s answers to these frequently asked questions on egg collection and storing:

How often do hens lay eggs?

You can collect about one egg per hen per day when egg production is in full swing. And, from hen to hen, egg-laying schedules vary. Some hens lay in the morning while others lay later in the day. Gather eggs two to three times per day, at a minimum once in the morning and evening.

“Collect even more often during extremely warm or cold weather,” says Biggs. “More frequent collection helps keep eggs clean and reduces the chance for egg cracking due to hen traffic in the nests.”

Always discard eggs with noticeable cracks because cracks can allow bacteria to enter the egg.

Cracks can also result from an inadequate diet. To form strong egg shells and maintain bone strength, laying hens need 4 grams of calcium each day, all of which must come from their chicken feed.

“To maintain egg strength and hen health, feed a complete Purina® layer feed,” Biggs says.

Why are my chickens eating eggs?

Frequent collection can also help prevent hens from eating their eggs. Egg eating generally occurs when a hen finds a broken egg, tastes it, likes it and begins searching for other broken eggs. Hens can even learn to break them intentionally.

“If you notice your chickens eating eggs, first find the culprit,” says Biggs. “Look for remnants of egg yolk on the skin and feathers around a hen’s head and beak. Consider separating the culprit hen from the flock to avoid other hens picking up the learned habit.”

Here are a few other helpful tips to help stop chickens from eating eggs:

  • Place ceramic eggs, wooden eggs or golf balls in the nest.
  • Blow out an egg and refill it with mustard. When the hen cracks into the egg, the mustard serves as a deterrent from eating other eggs.
  • Provide an alternative place to peck, like a Purina® Flock Block® supplement.

Washing and refrigerating eggs

There are valid points for both washing and not washing, so it comes down to personal preference. But, you’ll have to store the eggs differently depending on which one you pick.

“Unwashed eggs have a protective layer called a cuticle and can be stored on the counter,” says Biggs. “This protective coating helps keep bacteria out. Washing eggs removes the cuticle. As a result, washed eggs must be refrigerated to prevent contamination.”

If you choose to wash, follow these guidelines:

  • Be gentle and quick, using water only. Water should be warmer than the egg.
  • Brush any foreign material off the shell with your finger or a soft brush.
  • Remove any signs of feces from the shell, since feces can harbor bacteria which can get into the egg.
  • Dry and cool eggs as quickly as possible and then refrigerate between 32- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit.

Refrigerated farm fresh eggs can last up to 45 to 60 days when kept at the proper temperature.

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