8 Tips for CLEAN EGGS from Backyard Chickens

Keeping backyard chickens should mean that their eggs are fresher, more nutritious and safer to eat than commercially produced eggs, but that will not be the case if eggs are allowed to be contaminated before they even reach the kitchen. Keeping eggs clean in the nest box is a critical step in egg safety and it's not difficult to achieve.
Keeping backyard chickens should mean that their eggs are fresher and safer to eat than commercially produced eggs, but that will not be the case if eggs are allowed to be contaminated before they even reach the kitchen. Keeping eggs clean in the nest box is a critical step in egg safety and it’s not difficult to achieve. Accidents do happen and occasionally an egg will become soiled with droppings or dirt carried into the nest box by a wet hen, but 99% of eggs from backyard chickens should be clean when collected. Here are some simple steps to ensure clean eggs.Accidents do happen and occasionally an egg will become soiled with droppings or dirt carried into the nest box by a wet hen, but 99% of eggs from backyard chickens should be clean when collected. Here are some simple steps to ensure clean eggs.
1. Adequate Padding in the Nest Boxes
Eggs that have a soft spot to land will be less likely to break than those that drop onto the bottom of a hard nest box. This is also a good way to prevent hens from becoming egg-eaters. I use nest pads  with or without chopped straw on top of them. I don’t use regular straw in nests anymore because the hens scratch it out of the nest boxes, leaving them unprotected.
Eggs that have a soft spot to land will be less likely to break than those that drop onto the bottom of a hard nest box. This is also a good way to prevent hens from becoming egg-eaters. I use Nest box pads and bottoms/liners with Koop Clean bedding on top of them. The Koop Clean isn't necessary with the pads and liners, but I think the hens enjoy rearranging it and it seems more cozy than plastic. I don't use straw anymore because the hens scratch it out of the nest boxes.

Kuhl nest pads and liners.
Kuhl nest pads and liners

Spruce the Coop Herbal Fusion mixed into the nesting material makes for a welcoming nest!Spruce the Coop Herbal Fusion mixed into the nesting material makes for a welcoming nest!
2. Sand as Litter/Bedding in the Coop and Run
Sand dries up droppings quickly and keeps chickens’ feet cleaner than any other litter type. Chickens that walk into a nest box with clean feet do not soil the nest or eggs with mud or droppings that they walked through enroute to the nest box.

3. Train Chicks Not to Sleep in Nest Boxes
Good habits are easier to instill than bad habits are to break. Chickens should be discouraged from sleeping in nest boxes from the day they move into the coop because chickens that sleep in nest boxes poop in nest boxes. When eggs are laid on top of fecal matter, they become contaminated. Information about training chickens not to sleep in nest boxes, here.

Barricading the nest boxes with egg cartons discourages sleeping in them.
Barricading the nest boxes with egg cartons discourages sleeping in them

4. Provide One Nest Box for Every Four Hens
Sometimes when there are not enough nest boxes, hens will lay their eggs outside the coop where sanitation cannot be controlled. Providing enough nest boxes is one step towards ensuring that hens do not wander away to lay their eggs.
Provide one nest box for every four hens to help encourage chickens not to lay eggs around the yard.5. Check Nest Boxes Early and Often
Occasionally a hen will soil the nest regardless of efforts made to prevent it. Checking nest box sanitation as early as possible in the day provides the opportunity to clean them before eggs are laid. Frequent egg collection allows for periodic sanitation checks throughout the day.

Occasionally a hen will soil the nest regardless of efforts made to prevent it. Checking nest box sanitation as early as possible in the day provides the opportunity to clean them before eggs are laid. Frequent egg collection allows for periodic sanitation checks throughout the day.
Read about nest box herbs here

6. Collect Eggs Frequently
Collect eggs frequently throughout the day if possible. The less time eggs spend in the nest boxes, the less likely they are to be broken, eaten or soiled accidentally. Roll-out nests are great for chicken-keepers that are not at home the majority of the day.
Collect eggs frequently throughout the day if possible. The less time eggs spend in the nest boxes, the less likely they are to be broken, eaten or soiled accidentally. Roll-out nests will work for chicken-keepers that are not at home the majority of the day.
7. Do Not Allow Broody Hens to Raise Chicks In Nest Boxes
Chicks hatched and raised by a mother hen inside a nest box will poop in the nest box overnight. When she takes the chicks out for breakfast in the morning, other hens will use the dirty nest box to lay their eggs. Move broody hens to a different location either before or after the eggs hatch.
Chicks hatched and raised by a mother hen inside a nest box will poop in the nest box overnight. When she takes the chicks out for breakfast in the morning, other hens will use the dirty nest box to lay their eggs. Move broody hens to a different location either before or after the eggs hatch.8. Clean Feathers that Have Become Soiled with Droppings
For a number of reasons, droppings may soil vent feathers. Hens with soiled feathers near the vent should be bathed to keep eggs from coming in contact with fecal matter. If chickens have chronically dirty vent feathers, diarrhea is often the culprit- try adding probiotics to their water and have droppings tested for internal parasites.
Clean Feathers that Have Become Soiled with Droppings For a number of reasons, droppings may soil vent feathers. Hens with soiled feathers near the vent should be bathed in lukewarm water to keep eggs from coming in contact with fecal matter. If chickens have chronically dirty vent feathers, diarrhea is often the culprit- try adding probiotics to their water and have droppings tested for internal parasites. Keeping backyard chickens should mean that their eggs are fresher, more nutritious and safer to eat than commercially produced eggs, but that will not be the case if eggs are allowed to be contaminated before they even reach the kitchen. Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

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Mary RoyerKathy, The Chicken Chick®Frank cantoneVirginia ChavezRileyAnn Kinne Recent comment authors
Mary Royer
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Mary Royer

Very good info about not using straw in the coop.

Frank cantone
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Frank cantone

Great article

Virginia Chavez
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Virginia Chavez

I have a mouse problem. what is a safe way to get rid of them without hurting the hens?

Hellie
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Hellie

Every now and again I find an egg layed on coop floor that is broken. Why would chicken do this when they have been happily laying in nest box? It's very random. Also I have a chicken -Bantam that went broody which I was able to break but she hasn't layer an egg since and has begun to lose feathers. Is she Molting now in January? Should I be concerned? Thanks for any help. BTW I have 4 Bantam hens NO rooster. The other hens lay an egg a day or every other day. Thanks for any advice you can… Read more »

Wendy Parnell Creasey
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Wendy Parnell Creasey

If they are all laying in the box, then remove the fake eggs. They should continue to lay them there. I never had to use mine. I had one girl lay an egg in the middle of the yard her very first time. Now they lay them all in one box.

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