How to care for free range eggs
Now, if you are going to be keeping chickens in your backyard, one of the many wonderful benefits that will likely follow is a steady supply of free range eggs. Depending on how many chickens you have and the age of your chickens, you may find you have more free range eggs than you know what to do with. It follows then, you need to know how to care for your free range eggs to ensure you are only eating the freshest, yummiest, safest eggs your chickens can provide.
Like many topics in the chickens world, learning how to care for free range eggs means meandering through a mine field of contradictory information and a bunch of old wives tales. We’ve done our best to sort out the truth from the fiction for you.
Free range eggs – what are the risks?
Eggs in the past have copped a bit of a bad rap primarily because of two key reasons. The first is they are apparently high in cholesterol. As it turns out, after a bit more study and investigation, the experts have advised us they are actually high in the good cholesterol and not the bad stuff. Problem 1 averted!!
The second big issue surrounding eggs is they can be a potential source of salmonella poisoning. Salmonella is a very nasty bacteria that can cause food poisoning and result in vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, severe abdominal pain and fever. Needless to say, it isn’t a very nice experience and so we want to try to avoid it at all costs. The good news is that with a bit of care and attention, the risk of being infected with salmonella from your free range eggs really is very minimal.
Free range eggs – keeping your eggs fresh and safe
When I was first learning how to care for my free range eggs, the first topic I wanted answers for was how to keep them fresh. The tips that follow will assist to keep your free range eggs as fresh as possible for as long as possible as well as minimise any risk of salmonella poisoning.
How to care for your free range eggs (and any other egg for that matter):
- Wash your hands before and after handling eggs. Egg shells are porous and this means they can pick up germs from contaminated hands as well as pass germs onto your hands. The best way to minimise this risk is to simply wash them before and after handling them. Easy!
- There is some conflicting information about where to store your eggs within the fridge but my research suggest everyone agrees eggs should be kept in the fridge to maximise their freshness. Some sources say in the door, others say in the shelves. Advocates for the shelves say the continual opening of the door will vary the air temperature which can impact freshness. Advocates for the door suggest this is the best place to keep them to prevent smells from penetrating the shells.
- Keep your eggs in their cartons while in the fridge. Because eggs are porous, they can pick up smells from within your fridge which in turn will change the flavour of your eggs. Keeping your eggs in their container will minimise this problem, after all if you are going to use them to bake a cake, you don’t want them tasting like garlic!
- Store your eggs with the pointy end facing down. I’m told this is because there is a small air pocket located at the pointy end of every egg which gets bigger as the egg gets older and it is the air pocket that is responsible for the eggs turning bad. If you tip the egg so the pointy end faces down, this helps to slow the growth of the air pocket, which in turn helps keep them fresh. Who would have thought hey!
- Don’t store your eggs past the use-by date (if shop bought) or for longer than 3 weeks (if they come from your own chickens).
- Only use in tact eggs. If they are cracked or broken before you get to them, put them in the compost bin. Don’t eat them or use them in any cooking.
- Wash all the poop from your eggs as soon as possible. Poop can be a source of salmonella so you want to remove it as soon as you can to minimise the chances of contamination.
How to tell if your free range eggs still fresh?
If you have free range chickens there is a pretty good chance you are going to find a hidden nest once in a while. Considering your chickens work so hard to produce their eggs it would be a shame to let your newly discovered free range eggs go to waste unnecessarily. Here is how you can quickly determine if the free range eggs you’ve just found are still fresh or sadly destined for the compost bin:
Have your eggs already been hard boiled
Peeling a hard boiled egg without actually peeling it