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Egg Cleaning for the Backyard Flock


Producing your own eggs can be a rewarding part of raising your own chickens. However, household poultry flocks can produce a high percentage of dirty or tainted eggs (Figure 1). Most of these eggs are soiled because they were laid in dirty nests or on the floor where they may have come in contact with fecal matter. Dirty eggs can be a health hazard if they are not properly washed and sanitized (i.e. harmful bacteria can enter through the pores of the eggs and if not cooked properly have the potential to cause food poisoning).

Prevention is the best control to reduce the number of dirty eggs. Most eggs coming from nests should be clean if the nesting materials are kept clean. The production of floor eggs can be minimized if the flock is trained early to use its nest boxes. When the pullets are 16-18 weeks of age, start introducing nest boxes and make sure to add bedding material such as straw, wood shavings, etc. to the bottom of the nest boxes. By week 20, a few fake eggs can be added into the nests to train the hens displaying nesting behavior to use the nest box. Some notable nesting behaviors are: pacing with the vent low to the ground, acting like she is looking for something or sitting tight in a corner. The hen can be caught and placed in a nest. She may or may not stay when placed there, but she will know that there is a nest. Hens like a little privacy in which to lay an egg. There should be a nest available for every four to five hens.

By Kody Sok, UNL Extension Poultry Assistant, and
Sheila Purdum, UNL Extension Poultry Specialist