How Often Should You Collect Eggs?

person holding eggs

In honor of our Layer Days™ Sweepstakes, let’s talk eggs! I will be the first to admit that I am wildly charmed by the beautiful eggs that my girls provide. I absolutely love the color and size variations and I can’t get enough of the social media pictures that I see of eggs neatly arranged by color. Few things make me prouder than handing a carton of beautiful, fresh eggs to my friends and family to enjoy. 


I am often asked about the best way to care for those beautiful eggs and how long they will last. Each flock owner has their own routine for care when it comes to their fresh eggs. You have to decide the SAFEST and best way for you and your family to get maximum enjoyment from the eggs that you collect.


Do I Need to Collect Eggs Every Day?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that all eggs be collected as soon as possible, usually within 12 to 24 hours. I agree, but probably for some very different reasons! I usually collect my eggs each morning. Sometimes, if my schedule allows, I will wait and collect around lunchtime so each hen has had a chance to use the nesting boxes. However, I make it standard practice to collect the eggs as soon as I am able.   


What Happens If You Don’t Collect Eggs Every Day?

I prefer to collect my eggs early for very practical reasons. If I leave my eggs in the nesting boxes for too long, I will inevitably find a broken egg or two when I go to collect. These broken eggs are usually accidents – an egg accidentally got smashed as hens were competing for prime nesting box space. However, it isn’t uncommon to have the occasional naughty hen that likes to eat eggs. The faster that you can get those eggs out of the nesting box, the less opportunity she has to develop a very bad habit. Even if you don’t currently have this problem, broken eggs can attract the attention of your hens and could result in a hen that starts eating eggs. I find it best to just remove ANY temptation and collect my eggs as soon as practically possible.

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Are My Eggs Still Safe to Eat If I Can’t Collect Them Every Day?

Absolutely! The majority of eggs laid from healthy hens kept in healthy environments are going to be safe to eat well after the day that they are laid. Right before a hen lays an egg, she deposits a protective coating on the outside of the egg. This is commonly referred to as the bloom and is meant to keep a developing embryo safe during incubation. Remember, EGG PRODUCTION IS REPRODUCTION! While eggs are great additions to our diets, they are actually designed to house a developing chick embryo. This incubation normally occurs outdoors and under varying conditions. For these reasons, your eggs have built-in safety features! If I miss one or two days of collection, I just look over the eggs to make sure I don’t have any checks or cracks. If the eggs look clean and sound, I will go ahead and collect them.


How Will I Know If I Have a Bad Egg?

We should all keep in mind that these built-in safety features are not fool-proof. The primary reason that eggs are routinely refrigerated in the US is because refrigeration reduces the growth of bacteria. Chickens live in the same environment where they poop. Eggs are porous. If any poop or bacteria gets onto the egg shell, it is possible that harmful bacteria can get past the bloom and contaminate the egg. It’s also possible that sick chickens can lay eggs that are already contaminated. This is why is it important to cook your food thoroughly and practice good husbandry! A clean and dry environment goes a long way in keeping your birds (and your eggs!) healthy and safe.  

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How Can I Check for Bad Eggs?

One way to check for bad eggs is the use a candler. These simple devices shine a light into the egg and you can see if the color and consistency of the egg looks normal.  You can also easily candle eggs with a flashlight in a dark room. I’m sure many of you have also heard about the float test for assessing good vs bad eggs. I don’t generally use this test myself because older eggs will often float because their air cell is bigger. These older eggs are usually perfectly safe to eat but are just past their prime.  

Keeping chickens and collecting eggs is a rewarding and fun activity for everyone. Make sure to collect those beautiful eggs often so you can maximize your enjoyment. Stay tuned!  Next week we will continue our celebration of the laying hen.  


Disclaimer. This article is for informational purposes only and is intended for poultry keepers collecting eggs for personal use. Producers selling or distributing eggs should consult with their local health department and follow all rules and regulations established by federal, state, and local governments.

Nancy Jefferson, Ph.D.

Nancy Jefferson, Ph.D.

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