One disadvantage to my eggs is that they are not all perfectly clean. As I mentioned in an earlier entry about building our coop, our nesting boxes are not situated away from chicken foot traffic to ensure that all of the eggs make it out of the box without picking up some dirt (I am trying to skirt around saying that some of them have poop on them). What to do? Even changing the bedding in the boxes daily does not eliminate the problem. The chickens are not careful about where they walk so anything on their feet can and will get on their eggs.
Should I wash the eggs? I have read that the chicken produces a natural antibiotic bloom which covers the egg and is responsible for keeping the egg from absorbing bacteria. Washing the eggs removes that protective layer and increases the likely hood that the egg will go bad. This source claims it is better to wipe of the slightly dirty eggs with a cloth and store the eggs in the refrigerator. Then wash the egg with soap and water just before use. Another source claims that it is desirable to wash the outside of the dirty eggs with soap and water or even dip them in a dilute bleach solution before they are stored in the refrigerator. Being new to this entire operation I an not certain which I should do so I have elected to do a little of both. Very dirty eggs I discard. Slightly dirty eggs (slight smudges but now obvious dried on poop) I wipe and store. Medium dirty eggs I clean right away with soap and water and store but mark the carton so that I know to use those eggs quickly.
But this is just a short term solution. In the long term we plan to build a new with a better nesting box design in an attempt to reduce the number of eggs which are soiled in the first place. Our plan is to attach nesting boxes to the outside of the coop which are off the ground. The chickens will have a landing platform on the inside so they can fly up to the nesting box, land on the pad just outside the opening and hop inside to lay their eggs. The bottom of the box will be sloped down toward the back of the box. We intend to include a barrier which covers a space at the back of the nesting box which is raised off the bottom of the box enough for the eggs to roll past and into the space in the back but too low for the chicken to get under. The top of the nesting box will have a roof which is hinged so that we can gather the eggs by lifting the lid. There are designs like this one to be found in many places. I did not invent this myself. I am drawing from images I have stored in my pea brain which I am sure originated in one or all of the web sites and chicken books I have looked at.
When we actually start working on the new coop I am sure that there will be changes to the plan but for now this is what I have in my mind. If anyone has an idea for improving the design I would love to read your comments. Construction of the new coop will not begin until spring.