Can You Eat Eggs That a Chicken Was Sitting On?


Eating fresh eggs are delicious. Folks are discovering the benefits of home-grown eggs and keeping chickens at home. But how are you supposed to know if the eggs are edible or not?  I have friends who operated a large free-range chicken farm to help me navigate my questions of how to know if I can eat the eggs I have just gathered.

Can you eat eggs that a chicken was sitting on?  Generally, free range chicken eggs are fresh enough to eat if the chicken is sitting on them. You can confirm the freshness of eggs a chicken was sitting on through the smell test, the float test and candling the egg.

  • Smell test: If you crack an egg and it smells, it’s a rotten egg. Don’t eat it.
  • Float test: Place an uncracked egg in water. If the egg sinks, it’s still good. If the egg semi-sinks, use it soon. If the egg floats, it’s gone bad.
  • Candling the Egg: Look inside the egg with a bright flashlight in a dark room to make sure the egg has not started developing.

There is so much to learn about eggs!  Those three simple tests helped me a lot in determining an egg’s freshness, but there are still more details to consider if the hen is broody, are the eggs fertilized or not, and how do I ensure that the eggs are washed properly to store or eat immediately?

Can You Eat Eggs a Chicken Was Sitting On

Often a hen lays her egg and then quickly leaves it in the coop. Other times a hen sits on her freshly laid egg until you remove the egg from underneath her. After washing this fresh egg, you can eat it immediately.

Sometimes a hen is broody, which means that she has decided to hatch a “clutch” of eggs. A broody hen sits on fertilized or unfertilized eggs 24/7 pausing momentarily to eat, drink quickly, and poop. The eggs could be laid by her or have been laid by other hens in the flock and collected to her nest.

Extra care should be taken when collecting her eggs. A broody hen is very protective of the clutch and could hiss and peck at egg gatherers.

If collecting eggs from a broody hen’s nest, understand that some of the eggs may be fertilized and incubating. If an egg is fertilized, a small blood spot is visible when you crack the egg.

If you haven’t been gathering eggs daily, you will want to use a candle to illuminate the shell and see if a chick is growing inside the egg.

Just because an egg is fertilized does not mean it is inedible. Some consider the blood spot extra protein. In some countries, the incubating chick is considered a delicacy – to each their own.

How can you tell if an egg is bad? If collecting eggs from a broody chicken or a hidden nest, and you don’t know how old the eggs are, again, here are three tests to help determine freshness:

  • Smell test: If you crack an egg and it smells, it’s a bad egg.  Don’t eat it.
  • Float test: Place the uncracked egg in water. If the egg sinks, it’s still good. If the egg semi-sinks, use it soon. If the egg floats, it’s gone bad.
  • Candling the Egg: Look inside the egg with a bright flashlight in a dark room to make sure the egg has not started developing.

If you have been gathering eggs regularly, typically, you can eat the egg the hen was sitting on.

How Long Are Eggs Good in the Coop?

It is great to gather eggs from a specific nest when hens choose to do that. But sometimes, it is difficult to find all the eggs the hens lay and you may find a stray egg in an odd place in the coop. And sometimes, you’re not available to gather the eggs odaily.

So how long can eggs be ungathered in the coop?

Eggs can be left in the coop for around 10 days even in intense heat. Amazingly, eggs contain a protective layer that seals the shell preventing bacterial entry which protects the eggs’ freshness.

This protective layer is called an “egg bloom” and because germs are prohibited into and out of the egg and reduce moisture loss from the egg, the egg stays fresh for quite a while when ungathered from the coop.

Keep in mind this is only for unfertilized eggs or eggs that a hen has not been sitting on consistently. If you think an egg might be that old, it is best to candle it first and then use the other two tests to double-check everything is OK with the egg.

If you don’t know how old the eggs are, the smell test and/or float test can help identify if the eggs are still fresh or not.

Before use, the eggs should be washed and then either immediately used or refrigerated.

Can You Eat Eggs Straight From the Chicken?

Eating eggs straight from a chicken is the freshest, healthiest kind of egg to eat!

Initially, I really thought salmonella would be a prohibitive factor in eating eggs straight from a chicken, but I learned that most salmonella issues occur primarily in factory-raised chicken environments.  Statistically, most free-range chickens enjoy salmonella free lives. And hence, the disease is not distributed in their eggs.

Still, care should always be taken to ensure the health of the hen. If a hen becomes ill, her eggs should be carefully inspected.

Keeping the nests clean and the chickens’ area carefully composted and tended to increase the hens’ health and reduces any likelihood for egg contamination. A couple of tips to do this are to:

  • Change the chicken’s food and water daily
  • Ensure the hens have easy access to grass and insects
  • Ensure the area has patches of dirt for the hens to take dust baths in
  • Ensure the coop has good air ventilation
  • Maintain regular hen health checks
  • Clean the hens as needed
  • Protect the flock from predator and disease-carrying creatures like foxes, raccoons, predatory birds by blocking any access holes onto the property, incorporating chicken wire under and/or above the run, adding electric fences to the perimeter, installing safety shelters, locking up the hens at night using strategies like carabiners to thwart creatures like raccoons, and using roosters or guard dogs as protection

Tips on Washing Fresh Eggs

Washing fresh eggs is really important to rinse away any residual coop and chicken components like dirt, manure, and chicken fecal matter.  Even in clean nests, those particles are present.

If you plan to store your eggs at room temperature, do not use water to clean the eggs.  Water removes the egg bloom, the natural preventative seal that prohibits bacterial growth in moisture reduction inside the egg. If eggs have not been washed in water or stored in a refrigerator, they can be safely stored at room temperature for a month.

Tips on washing and storing fresh eggs:

  • Keep the egg temperature constant before cleaning. Quickly cooling eggs sucks allows the shell’s pores to suck in surface dirt and bacteria.
  • Use water that is warmer than the egg’s temperature. The temperature differences cause the egg to swell and actually move dirt away from the egg’s pores.
  • When you gather mucky eggs, use a mild detergent for washing.
  • Remove eggs from water quickly. When the egg bloom is washed away, eggs absorb water impurities if left sitting in the water.
  • Air dry eggs and refrigerate.
  • After washing, do not leave eggs on the counter, above room temperature, or at low humidity.  With the egg bloom gone, the egg is susceptible to general quality loss and increased bacterial influx. A cold egg can only be left out for 2 hours before facilitating unhealthy bacterial growth.
  • Store eggs apart from odorous items. Egg’s porous shells are sensitive to all airborne particles, including distinct odors.
  • If cleaned and stored properly at room temperature, eggs maintain quality for 3-4 weeks. If washed and refrigerated properly, eggs maintain quality for 2-4 months.

April

April has owned and worked with domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guineas since 1998. She has a B.S. in Agriculture from Cal Poly in Pomona, CA where she studied genetics, nutrition and reproduction.

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