Oh my. Our girls ALL started laying just last week and we are pretty darn excited. Especially because we worried that Ruby, our Rhode Island Red who we bought as an already fully grown hen, might be older than what her previous owners claimed (a year old) and might have her egg-laying years behind her (in which case she'd be headed to the stew pot). Since we've got six hens (Ruby, two Buff Orpingtons who are collectively called "Allie" and three Barred Rocks who are collectively called "Alice") that means we are getting half a dozen eggs PER DAY.
So we've been swimming in eggs lately. It's pretty awesome, but we are excited to get to sell some. We won't make a profit even starting the price at $4 a dozen, but the hens eat about $30 worth of feed every month so if we can offset that cost a little that would be awesome! If you're in the Huntsville area, let us know if you'd like some on a regular basis. I'll also be taking eggs with me on my occasional (usually every other month) trip to Nashville!
I was reading about egg storage today because I've been curious about the refrigerated vs. countertop debate and a few people have asked about our countertop storage. I've felt perfectly comfortable keeping our eggs on the kitchen counter. Our eggs are of course super-fresh and we use them up within a couple weeks at the most.
I wouldn't recommend keeping grocery store eggs (even though they are generally pasteurized and thus "germ free") on the counter because when you buy them they are already not as fresh. They can be up to 60 days old before they are removed from store shelves.
Refrigeration can help keep eggs fresh for longer (up to seven months, if necessary), but eggshells are permeable and can absorb odors from other foods in your fridge. This is another reason I don't put our eggs in the freezer... because really, sometimes my fridge gets that funky smell before I figure out what has gone bad. I don't always stay on top of my leftovers, folks.
I've found that room temperature eggs seem to cook better - and today I researched and found the reason why. Eggs incorporate into batter more easily and also are easier to whip if they are at room temperature. Now, it is possible to just set an egg out on the counter an hour or so before beginning a recipe, however fluctuations in temperatures can cause a cold egg to "sweat," which can facilitate the growth of bacteria.
Oh! One more thing that I had no idea about until today. It's best to store eggs with the large end up (which is the way they are generally packaged at the store) to keep them fresh for longer.
I hope you already know the difference between cage free eggs, free range eggs, and pastured eggs (if you're unsure, let me know and I'll write a post going into detail about it because labeling is tricky and sneaky) and know that pastured is what you want for ultimate health for yourself and kindness towards the animals who produce those yummy foods that we love. Go get yourself some farm fresh eggs, now! And you can keep them on the counter without fear.
You may, however, become terrified of this picture of Maggie holding one of the Allie chickens. Just look at that little grimace-grin. Girl don't play around when it comes to chickens.
I completely forgot to write about this, since by now it is just second-nature to us. We do not wash our eggs until right before we are about to use them. Eggshells are covered with tiny pores. When eggs are laid they have a natural protective coating called "bloom" that keeps these pores sealed up. Washing removes that bloom and makes the eggs vulnerable to bacterial contamination. This, again, is only important when you buy farm-fresh eggs. Grocery store eggs have already been washed, heavily sanitized, and pasteurized.
Sometimes our eggs are pretty dirty so we do rinse them off with warm water a couple minutes before we are going to use them. I'm not great at cracking eggs cleanly so the inside egg usually touches the eggshell before it gets cooked and the rinsing just makes me feel a little better about cleanliness. We may begin amending even that practice and just gently scrubbing them with a dry sponge or sandpaper.