Having backyard chickens doesn't always mean having an endless supply of eggs. Sometimes you just have an endless supply of chicken poop.
The chickens are just starting to venture outside a bit more now that the weather is getting better. And by better I mean I've smashed down the snow outside of their coop so they're kind of fooled into thinking it's just white cement.
Chickens, you see, aren't fond of walking around in puffy piles of snow.
But now that we've switched over to Daylight Savings time in this part of the world it means they get an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day. Days getting longer + more sun = EGGS.
Chickens tend to slow down or stop laying entirely throughout the winter because like plants need light to grow fruit, chickens need light to grow eggs. There isn't a complete work stoppage in the winter, but there does seem to be some sort of unwritten union rule that they won't give you as many eggs as you need. In you know, the chicken union.
That means in the fall when I'm still getting a lot of eggs, I freeze them so I have extra eggs for things like making my favourite hamburgers or homemade gnocchi or whatever else I want all winter long. If you're curious, here's how I freeze them. When I do get the odd fresh egg, those are the ones I use for scrambled eggs, quiche, souffle ... the things that are better made with fresh eggs.
The other thing I do is keep some eggs in the fridge. If eggs aren't washed you don't need to refrigerate them but they will last longer if you do. I explain all of the whole What?? You don't need to refrigerate eggs??? thing here in this post.
So last October, October 1st to be exact, I put a dozen just laid eggs in the fridge. I'm down to two.
Last week I decided to see if 6 month old refrigerated eggs would be rotten.
That led me to writing this post with 3 helpful hints for you on ...
How to Tell How Old Your Eggs Are Just by Looking at Them.
- The float test.
- The membrane check.
- The thick/thin test.
1. I used my standard method of floating them in water. If the egg floats, it means it has developed a lot of oxygen inside the shell and it isn't good to eat.
IF it sinks that means it hasn't developed a lot of oxygen and the egg is good. The basic reasoning behind this is if a lot of oxygen can get into the egg so can a lot of bacteria. That's like a REALLY rudimentary explanation.
The first 6 month old egg sank to the bottom and stayed there. It was good. After 6 months it was still edible.
I dropped in the second egg and the same thing happened. It sunk.
The easiest way to know if an egg is old is the float test.
Want to know if the "farm fresh" eggs you just bought are actually "farm fresh". Put one in water. The float test doesn't lie.
2. What if you already cracked your egg but want to know if it's "farm fresh?"
Take a look at the eggshell. Inside you'll see a membrane. If there's a big pocket of air like this one the egg isn't fresh. It's had a LOT of time to build up that air pocket. It doesn't necessarily mean the egg is bad, just that it isn't fresh and was probably laid months ago.
An egg that was laid in the past week or so won't have any air pocket, or only a very, very small one about the size of a pea.
3. O.K. Let's say you threw the eggshells out, carried the garbage out to the curb and watched it get hauled away by the garbage man you forgot to tip this year. What then?
You can still check the freshness of an egg by looking at it.
An old egg will look flat and watery. The white and yolk colours will seem to blend and not be distinct. The egg white will be very watery and not thick, the yolk flat.
A fresh egg (the one above was laid one day before the photo was taken) will have 2 distinct whites; one just outside of the yolk, and another one outside of that. The whites are very thick and the yolk is high, firm and formed like a ball.
You can see the two whites on this egg by looking at the bubble the edge of the egg on the left. That bubble is causing the first (outer) egg white to push into the second (inner) egg white. That's a good place for you to see the two different whites.
I didn't end up eating the two 6 month old eggs because why would I do something like that when I have fresh eggs to eat? The difference in a truly fresh egg and an old one is amazing. So I fed those two eggs to the chickens. I am fully prepared for the gasps and air-barfing sounds that are probably emanating from you right now. No, it's not cannibalism, they're eating eggs, not other chickens.
It's only cannibalism when I feed them leftover chicken.
Giving them eggs is really good for them and helps them produce more eggs (when they feel like it). I also feed them grains, vegetable scraps, fermented feed and their absolute favourite ... meal worms. Which they get once a day in the winter. Union rules.
Never knew you could freeze eggs!
Love all the information you share, Karen. Love your site!
Thanks Kelly! And yes! Freezing eggs is a GREAT option when you have too many. ~ karen!
Do you save your shells to grind up for the garden. I understand they are good to add to the soil when planting tomatoes. If you do, are they raw or shells from hard boiled eggs?
my friend used to feed her egg shells back to her chickens!
We did, too. I remember my mother’s milk and egg customers always ask how Mom’s chicken laid eggs with great, strong shells.
Cooked. They'll attract raccoons and skunks raw. They'll all dissolve eventually but if you don't smush them too finely, they're wonderful for keeping slugs away from your plants; they don't like to drag their slimy little bodies over sharp thing.
Sometimes I save them, sometimes I don't. I really don't find they make much of a difference. I only use them to put in planting holes for tomatoes. I more often feed them back to the chickens. I simply wash the shells in hot water very well and let them dry then crush them. Some people prefer to bake the shells in the oven. ~ karen!
my first thoughts were - oh good - how do we look at them ... and then - hmmm, aren't they as old as we are
then I became intrigued with the idea of freezing them ... I'm off to read about that now
but not before wondering if you do feed chicken to your chickens
and I then remembered the time Mom decided to tell me about the birds and the bees and started talking about God's plan and eggs and fertilization and I started asking about how and when the rooster penetrated the egg and she fled and left me high and dry and I gave her the side eye and went back to playing with Barbie, in her bikini and naked Ken and my easy bake oven
did not know that big air pocket means something ... loved the bit about frozen eggs where one egg = 2 frozen cubes and you can make scrambled eggs and quiche from them
You really can. It's stunning. The big trick is to make sure you gently stir the eggs though and don't mix a lot of air into them before freezing. That's what'll make them tough. Well that and a black leather jacket. ~ karen!
chickens in leather lbj's - haha
You are a woman after my own heart! My friend calls it "Oh, there's a butterfly." I can be talking about one subject and, all of a sudden, "Oh, there's a butterfly" and I'm off on a tangent.
HaHa - Trish ... I had a friend like me once - it was awful.
You are too much! LOL!
Thank you!!! I’ve always wondered about those creepy cloudy grocery store eggs and now i know for sure they’re ancient and should not be eaten (and they had no flavor when they were fresh anyway). Finding myself a local backyard chicken farmer asap.
Those speckled eggs are beautiful. Do you know which hennie laid them?
We're starting to get about 4-6 eggs a day here, plus the geese are laying occasionally.
Yes, the meanest chicken of the bunch lays the nice speckled eggs, lol. She's an olive egger (Ameraucana/Marans). I can't actually remember if she's an F1 but I probably have a post written on it somewhere. ~ karen!
“Chicken union” Hahahahahahahaha :)
big fish eat little fish
I toast egg shells in the oven and then crush them and feed to our girls. They love eggshells!
On seeing that air pocket, it makes total sense now why older eggs are better for hard boiling! Or soft boiling for you fanatics. I never really understood why until now. Thanks!
I'm also (hopefully) trying to read sarcasm into your daylight savings quote.... can't see why the chickens would care if the extra sunlight was in the morning or at night. They can't tell time now can they?
No, lol. It's just that by the time we're at Daylight Savings time that means the days are getting longer. ~ karen!
Nearly had a heart attack at that. I thought you went off into left field for a moment trying to convince us that chickens laid more eggs BECAUSE they knew about daylight savings time. Then I was really concerned that chickens raised in the US have a lower chicken IQ than chickens raised in Canada because the feathered jerks still crow and squawk at the same time even though it's an hour past when I think they should be. Pretty soon it was a near meltdown and my husband side-eyed me with that look that means I'm one snort away from him sending me off to sleep in the barn.
Anywhoooo...love this post and will certainly have to try freezing some cackleberries in the future.
Could you share where you buy your mealworms?? My chickens would be so greatful, thanks!!
I buy fresh mealworms from Pet stores. People use them to feed to snakes and frogs I think. ~ karen!
I recently read an article by a woman who raises her own mealworms! looked easy enough, if you can stomach the husbandry of insects (NOW it't time for air-barf sound!).
Thank you ma'am! :) ~ karen
How do you ferment your chicken feed?
Funny: our hens in Quebec go outside all winter long! (There's a roof over half their aviary -- the other half has four feet of snow.) Maybe they're not in the same union! They also keep on laying eggs. There's a drop, maybe 20-30%, but we still get plenty. (Four feet of snow - load of reflected light. Yes I'm trying to find the silver lining.)
Thanks for the article Karen. I've been having an ongoing argument with my daughter that eggs from the store and refrigerated and fine after a month. May I forward her this article? Great site by-the-way.
I just found out last year when my tomatoes had "bottom rot" (which I have NEVER had in my garden, and had to look it up,) that egg shells in the soil around the plants will cure it! I tried it and many of the tomatoes quit rotting! it was amazing. Just thought you might want to know that for your garden this year. :-)
My sister-in-law gives us fresh eggs, Lord love her. But recently about 7 eggs out of three or four dozen were bad. They didn't smell rotten, they passed the float test, but three were black like TAR on the inside, the other four were various stages of congealed, and one's yolk looked like the yolk of a boiled egg. The only thing we can figure is her hubby accidentally picked some older eggs that the hens had hidden. So the float test doesn't always work. 😔