Why I Don’t Refrigerate My Backyard Eggs

Psstt.. every Wednesday I write a post called “Why I” and last week I wrote one on Why I Chose the RIE Method of Parenting — just in case you missed it.

I remember the first time I had been exposed to non-refrigerated eggs and I was a bit shocked. “I have to run an errand before I go home, will these eggs be okay until I get home or should I drop them off first?” The farmer replied, “Oh you’re totally fine. You don’t even need to refrigerate them.”

Whhhhaaattt?? I thought to myself. How could I not need to refrigerate eggs?

Turns out, Mother Nature has an awesome trick up her sleeve, again, which is why I don’t refrigerate my backyard eggs. #GoMotherNature

The Bloom

Before the egg releases from the chicken’s vent (yes, the same place she goes pee and poo), a natural antibacterial mucus membrane coats the entire surface of the egg. This membrane is called the bloom. The reason a chicken’s body naturally does this is because an egg is actually super porous — having anywhere from 7-17,000 air pockets all over the egg! (source)

It wasn’t until I actually had chickens that I could see this process happen. Curiosity naturally got the best of me so when my chickens starting laying their first eggs, I stayed inside the coop to see exactly what happens from start to finish. What I noticed is when the egg drops from the vent (for this reason, I love using mats like this under the hay — FYI) it actually is wet; this wetness is the bloom. Within a few seconds, the bloom dries and the chicken takes a few pieces of hay, puts it behind her like it’s her nest she’s covering up and walks away to get some water.

The bloom works in protecting the freshness of the egg. It makes sense now that we know an egg is porous. If the bloom wasn’t there, lots of air can get inside the egg causing it to go rancid much more quickly.

I’m sure the bloom also plays a roll in keeping fertilized eggs safe and airtight, so a chick can form in a healthy manner.

So Why Are Store Bought Eggs Refrigerated?

Well there is one huge thing that I do differently than farmers who sell their eggs to stores: I don’t wash mine.

Generally, my eggs are really clean so there is no need to wash them. With the hotter weather we’re having, I seem to be having more “dirty” eggs. The dirty isn’t because when the hen lays an egg, her poop comes out with it; it’s because she has poop on the feathers below her vent which the egg hits before falling into the nest. I think it’s because their poop is more runny because of how much water they are drinking to stay cool. Not sure if that’s actually true but it seems like the only logical thing to explain why it’s happening.

Anyway, back to the washing. Since I don’t wash a majority of my eggs, the natural bloom stays intact. With the bloom still intact, there is no need to keep them in the refrigerator to keep them “fresh” — the bloom naturally does that for me.

If my eggs are a little dirty I wash them, lay them out to dry, and then place in them in the refrigerator or use them right away. With no bloom, the eggs are susceptible to not being “air-tight” and losing their freshness rather quickly.

The Need To Wash Eggs in the Industrial Setting

It’s no secret now that eggs which come from industrial commercial farm settings are way less superior than eggs coming from your own backyard or a trusted farmer. But just to re-summarize exactly why industrial eggs are far less superior here are two major points to consider:

  1. Hens are in dirty, cramped living conditions — Even though the natural movement has put more awareness on chickens being in pasture where they belong, there is still a huge majority of eggs that are being produced from chickens in cages. The chickens have no room to express their natural chicken-ness and are stuck to the confinement of a small cage where they sit in their own urine and feces. Who knows how often those cages are actually cleaned? As you can imagine, the eggs are probably extremely dirty and it’s an absolute MUST to wash them.
  2. Industrial eggs may use a chemical rinse — Since washing them is necessary, industrial settings may use a chemical wash to make sure all the bacteria and nasty stuff is off of their eggs. Do you see the problem here? Since we know the egg is porous, the issue with using a chemical rinse is that the chemicals actually seep into the egg. So, not only do we have eggs that came from unhappy, sick hens in cramped living conditions; the eggs are then washed in chemicals for us to eat and then “sealed” with a mineral oil coating (this tries to mimic the bloom).

Since nothing is ever as good as what Nature creates, you can’t assume that just because an egg has the mineral coating that it is okay to leave them outside of the refrigerator. I’m sure there are still chances of the egg being susceptible to airborne diseases which is why they immediately need to go into the refrigerator.

Can I Leave Eggs from the Farmer Out After They Have Been Refrigerated?

Say your farmer pastures their chickens and gives them the life they should have but refrigerates their eggs. Can you leave them out on the counter? Probably not.

If we think logically, once you remove the egg from the refrigerator it will sweat. So even if the farmer hasn’t necessarily washed the bloom off of the egg, by allowing the egg to sweat on the counter, it probably removes the bloom (almost in the same sense as washing) and the egg is no longer protected — air can free flow into the pores and cause freshness to drop.

How Long Can Unwashed Eggs be Left on the Counter?

We go through eggs at a rapid pace so they never sit on my counter longer than 2 weeks.

Some people say they can last up to a couple months on the counter and some say they only last 2 weeks. I say do whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re concerned about your egg being fresh or not, you can do the float test to determine freshness.

If you’re still worried about whether or not you should refrigerate your eggs, I say stick with the way the eggs were received. If they were given to you refrigerated, keep them in the refrigerator. If they were not refrigerated, keep them on the counter.

Do you refrigerate your eggs?

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About

Aside from being a wannabe backyard homesteader who wrangles chickens and free-range kids, Loriel is the owner/creator of the professional natural lifestyle blog Naturally Loriel, owner of the organic spice blend business Naturally Free, and freelance professional food photographer.


'Why I Don’t Refrigerate My Backyard Eggs' has 54 comments

  1. June 24, 2015 @ 11:00 am Heather Brown

    We went to a friends’ house this week who had chickens and their kids even pick them up and love on them. Made me kinda want some!!!

    Reply

    • June 25, 2015 @ 7:17 am Loriel

      They are seriously the best! 🙂

      Reply

  2. June 25, 2015 @ 7:15 pm Chloe

    I knew that you didn’t have to refrigerate unwashed eggs, but I never knew all the details of it. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    • June 25, 2015 @ 8:33 pm Loriel

      You’re welcome! 🙂

      Reply

      • September 8, 2016 @ 3:23 am sharon

        Hi Very Interesting with regards to when a chicken will first lay thanks for sharing . I am new at raising chickens.
        Sharon

        Reply

        • September 17, 2016 @ 11:59 pm Cynthia K Hines

          I have 7 wonderful girls. But I only get six eggs each day. How can I tell which one is not laying? Can you help? Cynthia

          Reply

          • October 7, 2016 @ 9:16 pm Rachel C.

            I read that chicken lay for six days and then their bodies rest on the 7th so it would make sense that each day one of your hens could be in her rest day.

  3. June 25, 2015 @ 11:05 pm Marilyn

    I loved this post! I had to have several knee surgeries and I gave up my girls since I couldn’t lock them in at night. We have raccoons in our “neighborhood” and had a couple disappear even in the daytime. I miss my girls SO much! Chickens have such personality! I had had a flock for 15 years and really miss them but at this stage of my life, I need to be able to gone for a week or two to see my grandkids on the other coast of the country. I do love reading your blog about everything but especially your flock.

    Reply

    • June 26, 2015 @ 7:05 am Loriel

      Awww, at least you had a good long time with chickens in your life! I totally get what you mean about needing to be able to leave for a week or two at a time without having to worry about who’s going to take care of your chickens. We’re having that issue right now with us leaving for only 2-3 days. I need to find a chicken sitter I trust but it’s hard when your chickens are so special to you. 🙂

      Reply

  4. June 26, 2015 @ 10:18 am Susan

    I love this blog!!! I am a homeschooling mom who works from home in Missouri and I never wash my eggs from our girls either 🙂 through researching because I was curious how in my great great grandparents era they were able to eat eggs and bake throughout the year and having no refrigeration I wanted to know HOW LOL!! I found that if you do not wash your eggs they can actually stay good and fresh for up to 10 months!! I flipped haha because for the life of me I could not figure out how they never ran out through molting or anything else 🙂 I am really big on self sufficiency so learning this was a huge win in my book 🙂 Have An Amazing Day and keep up the great work you do 🙂 I would love to connect on facebook too 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/susanhall.2013

    Reply

    • June 28, 2015 @ 7:09 am joanne

      Wow, 10 months?! Maybe they used a cellar? As I said in my comment below, we live in SW MO (also homeschooled) and with no ac sometimes an egg or two would rot after a week or so ….. but I see cellars all over the place on these old farms so thst must be the key to storing long-term. We just moved to the country and a cellar is certainly on our to-do list, but the fence and another hive are higher in priority.
      Thanks for turning my wheels!

      Joanne
      Frugal Home and Health

      Reply

      • May 16, 2016 @ 4:25 am Mammie

        My grandparents lived in Virginia near the Kentucky border. As a kid l was fascinated with the”dairy”. It was a block shed partially into the side of the hill beside their house. My grandmother stored all the canned food there. By canned I mean home canned. It stayed cool in the summer and I guess it didn’t freeze in the winter. I didn’t know anything about frost/freeze depths in the ground then. I always wanted to go in the “dairy” when we visited. It had such a wonderful earthy aroma. I can almost smell it now!

        Reply

  5. June 28, 2015 @ 7:02 am joanne

    Very informative, thanks for sharing. There’s one thing I’d like to add though … excessive heat and no air conditioner causes eggs to rot pretty quickly. Here in SW MO (also homeschooling family like the commenter above :-)), in the heat of the summer ours will only last about a week on the counter before some start turning yucky, and we’ve actually had a few stinky green eggs (YUCK!) during consistently hot temps. It is for this reason that we began keeping our eggs in order in trays on the counter, and to be doubly sure, we write the date on each one in pencil. It’s always first in, first out. This system has worked very well for us.
    We used to be a part of a farmers market and it was there that I learned it was a law in our area for egg sellers to refrigerate their eggs (at the market anyway … I don’t know about selling right from your farm). Though we all thought this was stupid, you can’t argue with them 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Joanne
    Frugal Home and Health

    Reply

    • June 29, 2015 @ 1:57 pm Loriel

      Thank you for sharing that Joanne!

      Reply

  6. June 28, 2015 @ 9:32 am kim

    One thing you left out is the fact that if you have a rooster the eggs are fertile and CANNOT be left out! I have roos, therefore I refrigerate! If eggs are fertile they will start to to incubate. I have had them on my counter for only two days and end up with blood in them already.

    Reply

    • June 29, 2015 @ 1:59 pm Loriel

      Thank you for sharing Kim. I have never had a rooster so that thought never occurred to me.

      Reply

    • March 14, 2017 @ 10:58 am Valerie Jensen

      I have 2 coops with 28 hens/2 roosters & was wondering about leaving fertilized eggs out. I’ve been cleaning & refrigerating my eggs because my customers like clean eggs. Good to know I was doing right either way, so thanks for posting !

      Reply

  7. June 29, 2015 @ 12:23 am Maggie

    Thanks for posting info about the bloom! I knew there was a membrane keeping the eggs preserved, but I never knew what it was called and I really liked learning about the details. Also, when chickens have wet poo you may want to try worming them with a natural wormer. I use diatomaceous earth. It is actually ground up fossils which works wonders for runny chicken butts. After about a week it will clear up and you will notice their poo getting harder.

    Reply

    • June 29, 2015 @ 1:59 pm Loriel

      Thanks Maggie! How do you get them to eat the DE?

      Reply

      • June 30, 2015 @ 12:08 am Maggie

        All I do is mix it in with their feed, not only do they eat it, but because it’s a powdery substance they also ingest it so you can sprinkle some in their nesting boxes too.

        Reply

  8. June 29, 2015 @ 12:11 pm Jane Muster

    Thank you for all this info. My mothers cousin who is 94 years old told me how they stored their eggs when she was a little girl. She said you never wash the eggs. Then they took a wooden crate, put a layer of salt on the bottom. They laid the eggs in the salt. The eggs were never to touch. Then they completely covered the eggs with salt. Then another round of eggs. So forth and so on. It was placed in the cellar. That is how they got through the winter. I thought that was an interesting way to store the eggs.

    Reply

    • June 29, 2015 @ 2:00 pm Loriel

      That is SUPER cool Jane. I’m so sad that these techniques are being lost because of convenience items like refrigerators.

      Reply

  9. June 30, 2015 @ 8:21 am Jessica

    What a great, practical post. We used to leave our eggs out when we had chickens, but we went through them almost every other day. (We only had four girls though!)

    Reply

    • June 30, 2015 @ 2:27 pm Loriel

      It’s not hard to go through them when you raise them yourself. They taste soo good!

      Reply

  10. June 30, 2015 @ 8:17 pm bushboy

    I never refrigerate my hens eggs and they keep for a long time. I use a gentle sandpaper block to “wash” the eggs. It just rubs off the poo and nesting material.
    Good story Loriel

    Reply

    • July 1, 2015 @ 7:30 am Loriel

      Oh I’ve never heard of using sand paper. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

    • March 22, 2016 @ 10:15 pm Kitten

      Awesome article Loriel! And so glad I saw this comment because I was just wondering if rubbing the poo off with just sand if that would take the bloom off the egg and it would no longer be sealed…. my chicks are still babies but have made a poop board under the roost…. will be wearing gloves when cleaning so I figured I would just rub sand over poo spots to “clean” up the egg a bit 🙂

      Reply

    • October 10, 2016 @ 10:45 pm Cheryl Jolly

      I wash my eggs to sell or any dirty ones with a Mr. Clean magic eraser. This works better than anything I’ve ever used!

      Reply

  11. July 6, 2015 @ 10:11 am Theresa

    i live in central Florida and also have 13 lovely girls. They can be addictive can’t imagine life without them. Love your blog. I also make Kombucha which is how I found your site. Sourdough bread is also a new venture started in January. I have rabbits, grow organic veggies, and have a top bar bee hive, 3 grown children and 4 grandkids. My husband builds custom country furniture so life is busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way

    Reply

    • July 7, 2015 @ 4:07 pm Loriel

      I love everything about this comment!!

      Reply

  12. August 13, 2015 @ 7:06 pm sherrie

    hope to start with some babies in the spring. doing alot of research right now. can the chickens/eggs be left for 2-3 days in their coop/run. i am an avid boater and sleep on the boat 4 nights a week. home is only 22 miles from the boat dock, but sometimes sleep on the hook. any advise?

    Reply

  13. August 17, 2015 @ 10:06 am Katie

    As for the running poop, that’s not good. In general, runny poop for living things is never good. I highly recommend you check out Lisa Steele’s blog fresheggsdaily.com. She also has a book out. She has some great info on keeping chickens happy and healthy with herbs and some other natural dietary supplements. I’ve found that when we let our chickens out in our yard they will go over to the herb garden and pluck a few sprigs from various herbs when they have the occasional runny poop. Seems to clear it up almost right away! As a result, I often routinely toss a variety of herbs in their run for them to peck through. She also has some great deworming recipes for the spring and fall. She has had her chickens routinely check for worms from her vet to see whether her methods work, and they do! I think you would really enjoy her blog about chickens!

    Sorry for the lengthy post!

    Reply

  14. October 22, 2015 @ 6:19 am Naturally Loriel / Dairy-Free Coconut Cream Custard - Naturally Loriel

    […] And yes, I said counter because I don’t refrigerate my eggs (here’s why). […]

    Reply

  15. December 24, 2015 @ 12:21 pm Alex

    I dont wash or refrigerate my eggs for personal use.However, due to state law where I live I am required to wash and refrigerate eggs that I sell. So just because you get your eggs from a farmer doesn’t mean they aren’t washed. Ask and check your laws first.

    Reply

    • January 18, 2016 @ 9:21 pm Loriel

      Thanks for bringing that up Alex!

      Reply

  16. January 4, 2016 @ 9:13 am Erika

    I do refrigerate min because we have two roosters – refridgeration keeps them from turning into babies. Right?

    Reply

    • January 18, 2016 @ 9:17 pm Loriel

      You know, I’m not 100% sure. I don’t have roosters so I don’t really know too much about that.

      Reply

    • February 27, 2017 @ 10:23 pm Denise

      For the fertilized eggs to start “growing”, the temp must be 99 degrees. Once they reach 99 degrees, they must be kept at that temp or the process will stop. It can’t be started up again – the growing chick dies. I have raised chicks in incubators many times and that is where I learned this from. So, if your eggs are fertilized, they should be fine out on the counter as long as they don’t ever hit 99 degrees. My neighbor has a rooster and she leaves her eggs on the counter and they are always fine. We live in CO though, so our temps inside the house rarely get that hot.

      Reply

  17. January 15, 2016 @ 2:43 pm Bradleigh Huizinga

    Thanks for this super informative post! I’ve heard before that if you coat eggs in oil, they’ll stay fresh refrigerated for up to year. Now I know why! My husband and I are in the process of buying a house, which means I have dreams of chickens and/or ducks this spring. I already named them… haha.
    I love your blog. I just started my first real blog over at http://www.widemeadow.com — simple solutions to natural living — and your blog is an inspiration to me. 🙂
    Bradleigh

    Reply

    • January 18, 2016 @ 9:17 pm Loriel

      Wow, fresh for a year? That’s a long time, I had no idea! And thank you!

      Reply

      • January 19, 2016 @ 5:51 pm sheila

        I heard that also… mineral oil.. Has anybody else heard of or used mineral oil?

        Reply

        • April 1, 2016 @ 7:54 am Katie

          Commercial eggs are coated with oil to keep them fresh.

          Reply

  18. February 11, 2016 @ 8:39 am Betty

    Fertile eggs will not grow chicks at room temp. Must be incubated at about 99 degrees F or set on by a hen.

    Reply

  19. May 4, 2016 @ 9:48 pm Rosemarie

    I was wondering if you also have roosters. If so how many?
    Do you have different flocks?
    Thank you.

    Reply

  20. June 13, 2016 @ 12:28 pm Tanya

    Great blog! We don’t wash our eggs either for the same reason, but I’ve had a few customers stop buying because they want clean eggs. Is there a way to gently wash them without removing the bloom? I’d hate to start refridgerating.. I suppose I could wash for those specific customers only.. It’s funny how people are so led into thinking eggs have to be in the fridge!

    Reply

  21. August 2, 2016 @ 10:12 am Luke Bowen

    Thank you for the information on whether to refrigerate your chicken eggs or not and why we don’t need to, good articles. We have 12 hens and 1 rooster and my girls love checking for eggs each evening when I gar home from work.

    Reply

  22. August 11, 2016 @ 6:39 pm Cheryl Perkins

    I read that mineral oil was not good for us to ingest and that coconut oil could go rancid. It seems like the mineral oil can slightly soak into the egg. Does anyone know more about this. Mineral oil IS petroleum afterall.

    Reply

  23. August 26, 2016 @ 8:18 am Mary

    Enjoyed your blog, even though I live in the city and have no chickens! However I am an artist and was drawn to your cover photo of the bowl of eggs. I would love to file it away in my “future projects” file . Would you be OK with me maybe drawing it someday? I could not say if it would be sold or kept and cherished by a friend or family member.

    Reply

  24. September 17, 2016 @ 7:35 am D in Dixie

    Hullo, ran across your blog on Pinterest. I have dealt with backyard chooks since 1973, and I wanted to address the remarks regarding fertile eggs kept on the counter and blood spots in eggs.
    I assure you that most people do not keep their homes warm enough (99.5°F, within +/- 0.5°,) on a consistent basis (for approximately 21 days) at a specific humidity (40-50% humidity for the first 18 days, increasing to 75% through day 21) to miraculously hatch eggs from unrefrigerated eggs on their countertops. And that doesn’t take into account the fact that for viable eggs to hatch, they must also be turned from side-to-side or end-over-end several times per day throughout that 21-day incubation period. So fertile eggs left unrefrigerated on the counter will NOT spontaneously generate chicks. (Folks who buy fertile eggs for hatching, especially rare breeds or particular strains/bloodlines WISH it was that easy!)

    The blood or meat spots in yard eggs have nothing to do with a rooster, and are actually a result of a slight malfunction in the forming of the egg inside the hens’ bodies. We have had them happen in pullet flocks with no rooster, and they also occur in commercial flocks. But commercial eggs are candled to find imperfections, and eggs containing large blood spots are discarded (my guess is they are sold as seconds to food processors at a discount). Also, blood or meat spots dilute over time, and any small blood spots are likely deemed passable in commercial eggs, because by the time the consumer purchases the eggs, the smaller blood spots won’t be discernable. Most commercial eggs are usually about 2 weeks old by the time they reach store shelves, so small spots have disappeared in that time.
    In actuality, blood or meat spots really indicate freshness, not fertility, nor the presence of a developing chick. If you don’t care for the appearance of the spot, you can use the egg shell to fish it out of the egg, rather like using a large piece of shell to remove a small splinter of shell in your egg.

    Reply

  25. December 10, 2016 @ 10:52 am Katie Organ

    Mine are unrefrigerated also……love my biddies. I’ve had one actually lay an egg right on the top of my shoe. This last year I tried Blue Laced Red Wynadotte. What a lovely breed in everyway. Content, calm, good size and wonderful layers. Two roosters…..one I will keep, the other will go into the soup pot, likes to sneak up on me and jump at me. I have a couple of more methods to “cure” him of his aggressiveness……maybe I’ll show him the soup pot.

    Reply

  26. January 27, 2017 @ 11:32 pm Jodi

    Great article! I usually refrigerate my eggs without washing and then wash each one before cooking. I have read loads of info. concerning this issue and have came to the conclusion that it’s not really necessary. That being said, I have a friend that doesn’t refrigerate her eggs and we trade on occasion and it seems like I always find a rotten egg every time we trade! Makes me wonder why there is usually only one?

    Reply

  27. April 11, 2017 @ 12:28 am Paul mcnerney

    Last year I travelled to Iceland and Paris, while shopping I turned a corner and on a shelf near The bread was eggs!! I was taken aback, – I asked and in Europe it’s actually illegal to wash and refrigerate eggs and their rate of salmonella sickness is way below ours in USA…lol

    Reply


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