Answer: Super cool.
I’m three weeks and over two dozen eggs into my first experience with chickens. As a rookie chicken wrangler, I am completely wowed by eggs. Two main reasons (so far)…
1. How eggs are made: Chickens are born pre-loaded with a finite number of eggs. As each egg travels from ovary to exit (eventually to omelet), it gets a layer added at specific sections along the ovaduct. It’s like a biological assembly line: the mature ovum (yolk) is released, then it gets wrapped in the white (albumen), then shell membranes are added, then the shell, and finally an invisible outer layer called the bloom. Bam.
2. How eggs can be stored: Given that my only experience to date was “eggs come from the grocery store,” I thought I should wash and refrigerate the eggs as soon as I collected them. But not so fast. The bloom (or cuticle) is a layer that provides a physical barrier and chemical defense against microbes. And the bloom is easily removed with just water. If you wash your eggs before storage, you’ll be removing an important part of the egg that helps keep it fresh longer.
Back in 1977, Mother Earth News carried out a pretty extensive experiment with egg storage that concluded, “Unwashed, fertile homestead eggs seem to store much better than washed, unfertile agribiz eggs.” The experiment also concluded that the best way to store eggs was unwashed, in a sealed container, between 35 – 40 deg F. In other words, refrigeration helps a lot. But unwashed eggs stored at room temp stayed good for at least eight weeks.
I’ve had one chicken laying so far (my Rhode Island Red), which means one egg per day. And they are good-sized eggs. Not bad, considering that egg production tends to decrease during winter months. But the birds’ behaviors seem to indicate they are all ready to lay.
If I’m right, the daily count could be as high as 4 eggs. Let’s see what we can do to make that happen…
BackYard Chickens (2007, December). To wash or not to wash… eggs [forum]. Retrieved from http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/24997/to-wash-or-not-to-wash-eggs
Jacob, J., Pescatone, T., and Cantor, A. (2011, February). Avian female reproductive system. Retrieved from http://www2.ca.uky.edu/afspoultry-files/pubs/Anatomy_Female_reproductive.pdf
Mother Earth News (1977, November/December). How to store fresh eggs. Retrieved from http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/1977-11-01/Fresh-Eggs.aspx
Rose-Martel M, Du J, and Hincke MT. Proteomic analysis provides new insight into the chicken eggshell cuticle [abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22708129/
Wellman-Labadie O, Picman J, and Hincke MT (2008 March). Antimicrobial activity of cuticle and outer eggshell protein extracts from three species of domestic birds [abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18409087/