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Day 13 – Must Fresh Eggs Be Refrigerated?

The most recent  31 Days of Living Homegrown posts have focused a lot on agriculture and our food system. So I thought it was time change it up. Let’s get back to some homesteading topics! So here we go…

Keeping Fresh Eggs on the Counter

The subject of whether or not to refrigerate home-harvested eggs is a big one among homesteaders. What is really safe and what is not? I will lay out the facts below so that you can find your own comfort zone.

But in case you are wondering WHY someone would want to have eggs on the counter, let me say this: There is a certain satisfaction in seeing those beautiful eggs every morning. It just feels “farm-y”. So I can see why people ask about it all the time. And understanding the safety zones can also help if you discover an egg of unknown age in your coop.

Charolette – Our Golden Laced Polish Chicken

So Are Unrefrigerated Home-Harvested Eggs SAFE?

Well, the truth is…

are unrefrigerated eggs safe

You actually do not have to keep fresh eggs refrigerated (if you don’t wash them). And yes, I do keep just a few sitting on the counter occasionally in a special antique bowl. They are so pretty, I just like to enjoy them that way.

What? No Refrigeration? Won’t We All Die?

Here’s the deal.

In America, we are required to refrigerate eggs because of the factory farming practices. The USDA requires that an American egg be power-washed (because many factory farm chickens carry salmonella) and this washing removes the natural layer of protection that an egg has when it is laid. The natural layer of protection prevents contamination through the tiny pores of the egg. So after being washed, a factory egg is then coated with a thin layer of oil to offer some protection from contaminants and drying out.

In Europe, no one refrigerates their unwashed farm eggs. They are naturally protected by their own coating and sold in stores unrefrigerated. If the chickens do not have salmonella, the egg stays safe but will eventually go bad with time in a natural way. And since your backyard flock should not have salmonella, you can do the same.

So yes, you can keep home-harvested eggs out of refrigeration FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME as long as you DO NOT wash off the protective coating. Take them from the hen to your counter without rubbing or scrubbing. Then wash them just before you are ready to use them.

Am I Sure?

Maran Chicken Eggs

I went to culinary school and I went through food safety certification through the extension service when I studied to be a Master Food Preserver. I took all the food safety courses. I know full well the science behind food poisoning via the egg. We were taught never to let an egg stay out beyond 4 hours. And that is absolutely true – for factory farmed, store bought eggs.

But after studying all the facts and talking to other homesteaders and farmers AND seeing for myself how farm fresh eggs are handled in Europe. I feel okay sitting a few of MY eggs out on the counter for a week at a time. My chickens are healthy and no one in my family is health compromised (which would make it too risky). You need to decide for yourself based on your situation.

Now A Few More Points:

  1. I am not suggesting that you keep those eggs on the counter for months. I know many who do this. But for me, 1 week is within my comfort zone. Keep in mind that a room temperature egg will go bad faster than a refrigerated one. I believe a counter egg will keep well past 2 weeks, but for me, if it looks like it is going to be longer than 1 week before use, I refrigerate.
  2. I would NEVER do this with store bought eggs because they are washed and probably contaminated.
  3. Would I do this with farm fresh eggs from the farmer’s market? Perhaps. IF I knew the farmer and could be assured that his flock is healthy. But for me, it is the fact that the eggs came from my hen that make me feel confident in keeping just a few on display on my counter.
  4. Here is a link to a pinterest pin with info on testing an egg for freshness. Handy to know!

Egg Skelter:

I have noticed that for some homesteaders the idea of displaying eggs can be a big deal. In Europe, it is very common to use an egg skelter for this. What is a skelter, you ask? 

An Egg Skelter is a way of storing your eggs so that the first ones IN are the first ones OUT. Chicken owners know that it can get confusing as to which are the oldest eggs you have collected. It is best to have some sort of system.

Well, this little stand keeps it organized for you. It is meant to be used on the kitchen counter and does not fit inside the refrigerator very well. I searched for weeks for one here in America until I finally discovered one from Manna Pro. (And no, I do not get anything for mentioning this company. I just wanted to share the link of where I found one.)

So what about you? Do you keep your eggs at room temperature?

This post is part of the 31 Days of Living Homegrown. Sign up for my newsletter (weekly or monthly) so you don’t miss any of the resources I will be sharing for living local, fresh and homegrown! 


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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.


  • Kara says:

    I keep mine in the fridge but only for two reasons: one, I have very limited counter space and two, I have a dog who is obsessed with eating whole eggs!! I have heard that once you do refrigerate an egg, you should keep it in the fridge, and not go back and forth between fridge and counter storage.

    • theresa says:

      I have heard that too Kara. Thanks for the reminder. I think we need to make a choice and then stick with it.

      • Betty says:

        That’s because the condensation will wash off the natural Bloom coating that seals the egg & makes it possible to keep it unrefrigerated. Unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs can be left at room temp. ☺

        • Patti says:

          thanks! & question?
          I have farm eggs unwashed that came out of fridge and as I’m traveling set them in the back of the car until there is room in the cooler, how long would you say they are “safe” thank you!!!blessings ✨

    • Roc says:

      We also have egg counter surfing bad dogs (3) and so fridge ours (the eggs that is). Right now around 8 per day and give a lot of them away. We store in cartons and label lightly the date with a pencil on the shell. We do NOT wash or even wipe them down until ready to eat or give away. If giving them out we just wipe them off with a dry paper towel to not disturb the protective membrane. Here is a helpful source as well for general tips….

      • Serina says:

        I stack my eggs in the fridge in cartons and we have a strict left to right top to bottom rule for use so we know we are using the oldest eggs first.

  • Carolyn says:

    My eggs usually stay in a basket on the counter for a few days (because I’m lazy) before I put them in the fridge. And in the past I’ve found nests with a bunch of eggs in it that were 3 or 4 days old… in 90 F heat… and they were fine. I think people get scared about eggs because they are unfamiliar with HOW chickens reproduce in a natural environment. A chicken lays 1 egg a day until her nest has 10 to 12 eggs in it. That means the first egg is 12 to 14 days old when she finally sits on the nest and starts to incubate. For a healthy well-fed chicken it’s common for all 12 eggs to hatch. What does that mean? It means that the 14 day old egg was not only viable after 14 days in the elements but also without bacterial contamination that would surely kill the embryo. So if it’s still viable after 14 days then it’s definitely edible.

    • theresa says:

      Excellent point Carolyn! Excellent. Thank you.

    • alexander says:

      Hi Carolyn

      Thank youfor your wise wisdom over there… it is thought provoking and it has opened my mind. i never would have thought of it. Now i can actually keep my hens eggs longer! lol

      • linda says:

        Question, city slicker here was given free range eggs they were in a cooler I forgot over night in car but they were no longer in a cooler

    • Stacy says:

      We’re the same way right now. Due to a house fire we only get back to check the chickens about every 2 days to fill the feeders and check for eggs. Then I get a bit lazy and don’t feel like washing them right away. So the ones we keep usually stay on the counter. The ones we sell do get washed and labeled with a little piece of paper with date that goes in carton and in fridge. (Usually. Sometimes I get lazy on all of em. Lol). We won’t leave them out more than a few days if we sell though. With sue happy people we just won’t take that chance.

  • TeresaR says:

    We keep them in the fridge for convenience. We sometimes get poopy eggs that we have to wash and so those have to go in the fridge anyway, so we may as well keep all of them in the fridge so that we know the approximate vintage of them and can eat them in that order.

  • Stephanie says:

    I just found an egg in the garden yesterday. One of my hens has taken to laying in a big pile of dry leaves behind her coop (!)) where it’s apparently very comfy to her. The egg may have been sitting out there for a few days, I’m not sure. I took it inside and put it in the fridge but am not sure if I can eat it or if I should discard it. Eggs are so limited now with the shorter days and two hens who are finishing up molting, I hate to waste it! Any advice? (Love your blog! Just discovered it recently – thank you!)

    • theresa says:

      I agree Stephanie! You don’t want to waste it.

      Here’s the thing:
      1) It should be fine unless we were dealing with really hot weather. I don’t know where you are, but I doubt it is hot in your backyard right now.

      2) You can “test” the egg to see if it is really, really old (which would mean it is starting to spoil). Here is a link to a pinterest pin that gives all the details on how to do a float test:

      3) Chances are, that egg was only out there a few days. If it passes the float test, then when you are ready to use it, crack it into a bowl and see if it looks and smells okay. We are looking for rotting – not salmonella (which has no odor). If your hens are healthy, your only concern is if the egg is rotting (just like a rotten apple, etc.).

      Hope that helps!

      • Janet miller says:

        We tried the float test on a huge clutch of eggs we found in our back yard. They all sunk, but when we cracked an egg into boiling water to poach it, the white ran like liquid. We won’t be eating these eggs. A shame as there were 32 of them.

  • Stephanie says:

    Great advice! We passed the float test – thank you! (BTW I am in Los Angeles like you, it’s been cool except for yesterday, but the leaf pile is in the shade so I don’t think it got too hot. It’s going to be an egg hunt in my yard now it seems!)

  • Diana says:

    I was born in Mexico City and there we leave chicken eggs and our bread out, but for some reason here in the USA we don’t. It surprise people when they come to my house and see that we have everything out on the counter.

    • theresa says:

      I think the reason the USA is so sticky about it is because of industrialized food production. We have so much bacteria in our standard food production, things just can’t sit outside on the counter without making us sick. But if we grow it (or raise it) ourselves or get it from good sources, it is not even an issue.

    • Josy says:

      Diana, I only keep my bread in the fridge because where I live it is high in humidity, and my bread turns moldy quickly. I just got some fresh eggs from my local feed store and I am keeping them on the counter because she told me that’s best to do with homegrown eggs. I have always grown up with eggs from the store, and am a bit nervous to try them, but after reading all the comments here I do feel better. 🙂

  • Julie says:

    My question is duck eggs….. I have to wash them…they are usually dirty when picked up as ducks like to roll their eggs around in “stuff” ! So does the same rule apply to duck eggs? they have a waxy coating on them. Any ideas?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Julie-

      I believe Duck eggs are the same. It is better to not wash them. However, since they are much more prone to being dirty, you might try using a dry green “scrubbie” sponge on them before bringing them inside the house. You know the ones I mean? It is a sponge on one side and a green scrubber on the other? You can use the green side to break off any dirty clumps and the sponge side to wipe clean. Then I would store them in a carton (with lid on) to keep the rest of your refrigerator clean. You can give them a better wash just before using.

      Hope that helps!

  • .Catherine says:

    I have a one year old so I don’t get out to check my chickens every day like I use to. And although I know this probably sounds gross, I keep poop and all on my eggs and put them in the mud room fridge in a box, because I do not want to remove ANY of the natural “bloom” on the eggs. I collected eggs one day and got to witness a hen squeezing one out. It was magnificent! And showed me first hand about the protective coating on the egg. I was surprised how fast it dried too!
    Tip: I do however find a clean spot and use a pencil (that I tied a string around and taped to my fridge) to wright the collection date on the shell. That way I get an approximate “born on” date.

    • theresa says:

      Catherine – I love the pencil and date tip. I don’t know why I never thought to do that before. I am going to do the same. Thanks so much!

    • Liz says:

      Love the pencil ideal….

    • Marnie says:

      I love the pencil idea. We have 3 of us in our family bringing in eggs daily, it seems impossible to keep a system of FIFO (first in, first out) with the eggs, but this should fix that.

    • Stacy says:

      Love that marking idea for that. We usually only did that for those we wanted to hatch. We did it for one last time. Then it disappeared. Totally disappeared. I find it hard to think something ate just that one. And to get in there between times I collected eggs and new ones laid. And it didn’t roll anywhere. We checked. No egg shells. Any ideas on that?

  • Stephanie says:

    Please help… I don’t have my own chickens and I don’t have a clue about home growing anything. Although I love the concept and one day wish to try for my self. My dilemma is with some homegrown chicken eggs that I received as a gift. They are very dirty with poop and other questionable stuff. These eggs had been in a refrigerator because when I received them they were cold… Can I still clean after refrigeration and how?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Stephanie-

      Lucky you to get some homegrown eggs! The reason they are not clean is because cleaning them takes off the natural protection from bacteria. The eggs are naturally coated when they are laid. So all you need to do is give them a little wash just before using. Water and and a scrubbie work great. That’s it!

      They are just fine in the refrigerator. No worries there.

      Also, your homegrown eggs will last for many more weeks than the store bought eggs. Typically when we buy eggs at the store, they are already several weeks old. So your homegrown eggs (being as fresh as can be) will last weeks longer than you are used to.

      Enjoy and let me know how you like the eggs!


  • Susan says:

    Fresh eggs, dried poop, straw included, refrigerator kept. NOT washed until ready for use…. What would the length of time you can keep the eggs for (2 months)? I have yet to do the float or not float test. Second question, how long would you keep the fresh eggs if boiled. I get DUCK eggs and boy they r yummy. Looking at a comment made eariler, “So your homegrown eggs (being as fresh as can be) will last weeks longer than you are used to “What is “weeks longer”?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Susan,

      Fresh eggs will last several months. I keep mine about 3 months at a time. (I know others who keep theirs much longer, but the whites will thicken)

      Hard boiled eggs usually last 5-7 days if you keep the shells on.

      Hope that helps,

      • Leanne says:

        I have a quick question.. I have not tried making boiled eggs with our fresh chicken eggs yet. How do I do.this? Rinse them the boil? And can I just rinse the fresh eggs before use or do I need to scrub them??

        • theresa says:

          Hi Leanne,
          I rinse my eggs before any use in the kitchen. I don’t have to scrub them because they are generally clean. Since you are boiling the eggs, any bacteria would be killed if you boil for 10 min or longer. So you are fine.

      • Trisha Sullivan says:

        So, my neighbor gives me farm fresh eggs and I always keep them on the counter at room temp and wash when needed. Last night she left a dozen for me on the porch and I got in late and popped them in the refrigerator without thinking. She has very clean eggs bc she collects them daily, but they have NOT been washed. Are they still okay to use since they have been refrigerated without washing first?

        • theresa says:

          Absolutely. I don’t wash my eggs until I pull them out of the refrigerator to use them. They are safest when you do not wash the protective coating off (even when refrigerated)

  • Barbara O'Brien says:

    Loved the comments on viability of free range found eggs. Just the info I needed. Glad I found you. Thank you!

  • Tina Hogan says:

    I just entered my question about finding 11 eggs this morning in a spot we thought a hen had quit laying & wondered if they would be good & found your website~love it ! You answered my question plus reading what everyone is sharing & you always respond. It’s like talking to a close friend~very refreshing~thank you:)

  • julia says:

    We are new to homesteading with our first flock and they have JUST started laying eggs, yey! We are wondering about winter. Since you aren’t supposed to move eggs from frig to counter, wouldn’t winter be like the frig, so after collected shouldn’t they go in the frig? I’d love to keep them on the counter if I could in the winter, but then my husband thought of this question and it makes sense. Thanks!

    • theresa says:

      Hi Julia,

      Assuming you are collecting your eggs every day, I look at it like this: When I collect the eggs every morning, they are warm from the chicken. If they have been sitting awhile, they would have only been chilled a few hours. I do not think it would make any difference if you then set them on the counter. Remember, other countries never chill their unwashed eggs. And this may all be a moot point anyway because (unless you have artificial light in the coop) the chickens won’t be laying much in the winter anyway.

      I hope that helps.

      • melinda says:

        This is our this winter with laying chickens and our chickens lay all winter long…we live in North Georgia and have cool nights in the thirties…we share a lot of a and have a hard time finding recipes to use up eggs…have fun with eggs in the winter

  • Steve says:

    I have always kept eggs in the refridgerator that I purchased from a supermarket; however, fresh eggs bought off the farm can stay on the counter for the week or two it takes to go through them (big family). That said…I DO leave any egg out of the refridgerator and on the counter for an hour or two before making breakfast. Eggs tend to stick to the frying pan easily, if ice cold…but not at all if room temperature. I HATE eggs glued to the pan. I learned that trick years ago from a chef who knows eggs, and have not had an egg stick to the pan since.

  • Tina says:

    I have a question that has nothing to do with whether or not eggs need to be refrigerated…but maybe you can answer it. I bought some fresh eggs from a farm that I regularly get eggs from. And the eggs are always good….no problems. Today, I crack 3 of the 12 eggs. All 3 had blood in them (and not just a speck of blood) and the yolk was broken. What was going to with these eggs?? I have tried to contact the people I purchased the eggs from…. but they are out of town for a few days,

  • Mary Ferguson says:

    I’m new at this but I bought fresh eggs last week and put them straight away in the fridge sense I was going out of town. Today when I took a carton out and opened it I noticed the eggs are dirty and have a lot of smeared poop on them….my question is are they ok to eat after sitting dirty….should I wash them and then continue to store them in the fridge? Sorry but this sorta freaked me out… >;/ LOL

    • theresa says:

      Hi Mary – I understand the freakout. We are not used to poop on eggs.

      Your eggs are fine as is. The reason they did not wash them was so that they did not remove the natural protective coating. Most of the poop can be rubbed off with a dry cloth. But some will be left behind.

      If you are going to use the eggs in the next week, go ahead and wash them now. But by removing the coating, they will dry out and absorb refrigerator odors after a week. If you want to store them for a longer time, just rub off the poop with a paper towel or cloth and then wash them just before using. The coating protects from the poop.

      I hope that helps and enjoy you yummy eggs!

  • susan says:

    I have been growing my own eggs since 1973. I too am highly qualified (and long experienced) in food safety, organic farming, veterinary medicine, etc. There are some inaccuracies in the information above, as follows: All birds, especially wild birds, can and do carry salmonella, which occurs pervasively (and more or less harmlessly, as with most things we fear in nature) in the natural outdoor environment. Salmonella is not manufactured at egg farms (although certainly concentrated there). This includes the sparrows in your henhouse and other wild birds; salmonella doesn’t necessarily, or even usually, make them sick. Your hens at home, especially if they are over 2 years old, are also likely to carry salmonella, because of their contact with the natural outdoors; again, they will appear perfectly fluffy and healthy, as your birds likely do. It’s true that unwashed eggs are best, and that factories wash them. However, salmonella does not enter the egg from the outside—it is already in the egg when the egg laid if your hen carries salmonella, which, statistically, she likely does. The tiny bit of salmonella naturally occurrring in a hen’s egg when it’s laid won’t hurt you and won’t multiply if the eggs are refrigerated; they do multiply at a scary exponential rate on your countertop. It’s a gamble, especially for children and the elderly or immune-compromised. To believe that eschewing the evils of factory farming somehow protects you from the realities of nature is unwise.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Susan,

      I think we are actually in agreement but perhaps you misunderstood me. I am well aware that salmonella is everywhere. So is botulism (which surprises people). I believe chickens at factory farms are more likely to have salmonella. They live in horrid conditions and their immune systems are compromised. You are absolutely correct that a sick bird will pass salmonella on to the inside of the egg. I said that “an egg’s natural layer of protection prevents contamination through the tiny pores”. I was talking about all outside bacterial contamination. A washed egg is more likely to make you sick from any number of bacteria. Perhaps I should have spelled that out more clearly.

      You say “it’s a gamble for children and the elderly or immune-compromised”. I say the same thing when I said, “no one in my family is health compromised (which would make it too risky).”

      So, I believe we are in agreement here.

  • Kat says:

    I just got my first flock of backyard chickens. I never put my eggs in the fridge. I only have three hens and I check their nesting box every day. If the eggs sit in my cupboard for more than 3 days, I will generally give them to the neighbors and tell them to use them within a couple of days (but never put them in the fridge!). Sometimes I scramble eggs after a few days and give them to the chickens (they LOVE them). If I have any cause for concern about the freshness, I do the float test when I’m ready to use them (drop them in a pitcher of water, if they float, they are thrown out). It seems counter-intuitive to keep the eggs out of the fridge but I think that’s because I’m used to eating eggs from the store. I’m slowly adjusting to eating room-temperature eggs and I’m finally over the “eew” factor of eating them from chickens I know personally. Now I am beginning to feel grossed out by the idea of eating eggs that came from birds I don’t know, living in conditions I can’t control. I could never eat anything other than fresh!

  • Jennifer says:

    hi, I recently bought 4 dozen eggs from a neighboring farm. They were clean and in a fridge. Came home, placed eggs in our fridge. Here is where I need advice. Went away for a week, leaving eggs. Came home to a fridge that was off. Had a storm that tripped the breaker. Can I still eat these? I hate to waste them if I don’t have to. (the eggs were for the trip but left behind)

    • theresa says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Theoretically, yes. The eggs should be fine. But what I do wonder is if the eggs were hot during that week. If they were sitting in a closed refrigerator with the power off, they should have stayed cool for several days. But if they were closed up in a closed refrigerator for 7 or more days and the inside was very hot, then I would be concerned about eating them. I’m not sure I can give you a good answer on that one.

  • Ginny says:

    This is our first year raising ducks and chickens. We have 2 chickens, 4 rouen ducks and 4 white ducks. They are all in the same pen and get along (everyone has a bad day now and then 🙂 ) We were afraid that we weren’t going to get any eggs for some reason because they were of age and nothing. Then this week we have found 2 eggs. one in the coop where it is very obvious they have been nesting (holes everywhere in the straw and dirt) and one laying out in the open on the bare ground. Two different sizes but the same shape and color. Is there any distinction between duck and chicken eggs without cracking them? and is there any harm for the eggs to have all the birds living together? We also have a pheasant but he seems to keep to himself. I didn’t know the whole not washing thing until today so I have scrubbed mine clean and they are in the fridge. I may consider leaving them out from here on based on the non-stick pan comment 🙂

    • theresa says:

      Hi Ginny – It sounds like you are going to have some wonderful eggs coming your way!

      Generally chicken eggs are much smaller than duck eggs. I would think they would be easy to tell apart, so if your eggs are very close in shape and size, they may have come from 2 different chickens. (Or two different ducks if they are large). I’m betting that once you get some regular eggs coming in, you will get to know who laid what.

      But the one thing I know for sure is…they are all delicious!

      There is no harm in the chickens and ducks living together if they all get along. I have a friend who does the same thing. No problems at all.

  • I read your article on preserving farm fresh eggs and I completely agree, after having raised chickens for years. What disappoints me about your article is the spelling. The eggs have “pores” not pours. The word “pour” is a verb, not a noun. “Pore” is the noun. Also, it is correct to say I”knew” someone, not “new” “New” is an adjective, not a verb. If I were not already aware of the facts you presented, I would not trust the advice of someone with such poor spelling, but that’s just me. I did enjoy the confirmation of this advice that I have given many friends and family over the years.

  • Ariel says:

    I found my first egg today!!! Yay. I figured she was about to lay and checked. 🙂 anyway I did have to rinse it off due to poop should I refrigerate this one?

  • Jocelyn says:

    Thank you for the great site. My neighbor has 5 chickens and we are so lucky when we get to enjoy the spoils of his (& his hens’) labor. We live in Alaska so if the eggs laid aren’t sat upon, they get cold very quickly in the winter. I follow the rule of if it’s warm – keep room temp, if it’s cold – keep cold. Surprisingly the hens are laying like crazy over the last few weeks. 6-10 eggs every 4 days!! Glad to also read about room-temp eggs sticking less to pans – I’ll give this a try. I do know that with baking, room-temperature eggs are key and avoids “curdling” butter when whipped together. Lastly, the fresh eggs are SO GOOD! I’ve never liked yolks but with fresh eggs there’s just so much flavor and the consistency is just better. We avoid using them “in” anything, as to not waste their delicate flavor. Use the store-bought ones for recipes that will combine many other ingredients. Thanks for the great site!

  • Amber says:

    Hi Theresa,
    Thank you for the great info. Our 11 chickens just started laying, we were surprised because we weren’t expecting to have eggs until spring. After we found the first in the coup we went out and found some outside the coup in big piles, (I mean 18!) hidden in bushes. The chickens sleep inside the coup at night so I know they aren’t sitting on them at night. I’m pretty sure they are still good to eat after reading your post, and the temp around here has been around 40-55F. We ended up with a rooster, which wasn’t exactly planned, and my question is, as long as they aren’t sitting on the eggs, do I need to worry about chicks developing in the egg? I really don’t want to crack open an egg with a baby chick inside.

    • theresa says:

      If the eggs are fertilized but kept extremely cold, they won’t develop into chicks. (Just like refrigerated eggs) They need warmth to develop. But you would have to be sure no one was sitting on the eggs when you weren’t looking! 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    This is our 1st winter with chickens, we live in Michigan, cold winters!!! My question is If the eggs are laid and we don’t get them right away and the get very cold, should I refrigerator them. I read that once you refrig them they should be kept in the refrig. Is my michigan winter a natural refrig. ? Thanks

    • theresa says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I believe a refrigerator keeps the temperature at about 35-40 degrees. So yes, your eggs are probably kept very cool in the winter except for when a hen is sitting on them of course. But unless you have artificial light in the coop, your hens will probably stop laying in the winter. However sometimes they do continue to lay through winter the first year (depending upon the month they were born) because they are young and their body clocks might be off. But in general, the shorter days will cause the hens to stop laying all together. (The number of daylight hours is what triggers a hen to ovulate)

      As for the question about keeping the eggs refrigerated once you have chilled them once, I believe this is more of a general guideline in the food industry to keep food service people from fluctuating back and forth. It is especially important in industrialized eggs where the likelihood of bacteria is higher. In your case, the fact that the eggs were initially chilled due to winter cold, should not prevent you from sitting them on the counter inside your home for a period of time. Everything discussed above still applies to you even if your eggs started out in cold coop. Hope that helps!

  • Jeff L says:

    I know this is an old thread but we routinely leave UNWASHED eggs in our cool basement for 3-4 days before washing and refrigerating. I put them in their tubs in order of collection and rotate in and out. If they get older than that (just for my own peace of mind) the dogs get a treat and they have not been the worse for it. If there is too much crap stuck to one I usually throw it out into the garden as soon as its collected.

  • Liz says:

    Hi Theresa,
    I tried reading through the questions and answers to see if my question was already asked, but too many to go through!
    I’ve had laying hens for 3 years. Sometimes I leave my unwashed eggs on the counter for a few days. When I’m ready to put them in the fridge I wash them first- is that ok? Also, sometimes I wash them and leave them on the counter a few days then put them in the fridge- is that ok? My mom will pull a carton of washed eggs out of the fridge and leave them on the counter- is that ok? I’m freaking out about salmonella now. I read somewhere you can leave eggs on the counter 3 weeks and in the fridge 3 months. I never heard the washing rule. I currently have a dozen on the counter. I collected them from the coop Monday and washed them that day, and today is Friday. Should I put them in the fridge or Is it to late?

  • Michelle P says:

    I use a STAMP and put the month collected on the top of the egg.

  • mary says:

    I have some fresh eggs that were refrigerated. I pulled them out two days ago to make breakfast. I left the carton out by mistake. Should I throw the remaining eggs away?

    • theresa says:

      It is hard to say without knowing where they came from. If they are industrialized eggs, I would probably throw them out. But if they were from my own chickens, I would use them up because I know my own chickens and I know they are fresh.

      • mary says:

        A friend had given me the eggs from her chickens. They had been washed and refrigerated. They have now been sitting in my 72 degree kitchen for two days. Since they had been washed and chilled I wasn’t sure if they would still be good.

  • Lindsey says:

    I just got my first flock this year, waiting til around August to start expecting the first egg… In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my notes straight regarding the freshness of the farm eggs. From reading this article (which is very helpful!) I’m trying to determine if I have the facts straight: I’m aware that once refrigerated, keep refrigerated. However, wiped off (Not washed) and refrigerated can keep around 3 months or more? Did I read that right? But if washed, and refrigerated, more like a month instead? About how long will they keep just left on the counter (still, wiped off- not washed)? I have plenty of people who will question me over particulars if they get eggs from me, (and will likely not handle seeing a “dirty” egg too well!) Just trying to keep the info straight! Thanks so much for your helpful site!!!

  • Brad says:

    We have 15 hens, so we get on average nearly a dozen eggs per day. That’s a lot of eggs for a family of two, so we had to come up with a system to keep it organized. Here’s what we do that allows us to keep everything safely unrefrigerated:

    1) We have a shelf that can hold about 12 dozen cartoons. It’s always organized from oldest to newest, left to right, stacked two high. So we add new eggs to a carton on the far right and label it with the date that we started adding to it, then slide everything left when it’s time to add another row.

    2) We have a “can’t sell” basket on our kitchen counter. Any eggs that are particularly dirty, that got pecked at, or that are otherwise abnormal go in that basket and are eaten within a day or two.

    3) If the basket is empty, we dump the oldest carton into the basket, to be sure we’re using them up.

    4) We sell or gift our excess to friends and neighbors, always giving them the oldest carton but never anything older than two weeks — we keep those for ourselves, just as a precaution.

    5) If a carton starts to get too old for comfort, we hard boil the whole carton and keep them in the fridge. But this is actually pretty rare.

    This system seems to work pretty well for us, ensuring that everything is eaten in an appropriate order. We never worry about the freshness of our eggs.

  • melanie says:

    Omg! Thank you so much for this thread!!! I just came across it tonight, and now feel like I’ve been clueless while thinking I knew what I was doing. We got our 10 chick’s last easter, so they have been laying since early autumn. We also have a rooster. Had two until last week, but that is another story I will ask about next time.

    Today, I went out to collect eggs and realized I had neglected to get them the day prior (and sadly, didn’t even realize I forgot until there were twice as many eggs as hens). The temperature was about 70-80F the’s past 2 days, so I am unsure if I can keep the eggs, or toss all since I don’t know which are which. The temp combined with rooster makes me nervous. Help please! They will sit in a bowl on my counter for the time being.

    Also, thank you for the info on washing them. I routinely do it as I’m a clean freak and I have been concerned about the potential bacterial concerns from poopy eggs. lesson learned… I also give eggs to two neighbors of which one set is an elderly couple. I will be sure to stop washing them, and also to make sure I let them know they need to wash them before use. This has been hugely helpful as I just kind of went with the flow assuming I was doing it right. Much appreciation from Maryland!!!

    • melanie says:

      One more question…I read somewhere to store eggs “large side up”. Is this true? If so, why?

      • theresa says:

        They say that if you store an egg with the large size up, the yolk is suspended in the center. Supposedly, this is suppose to make it last longer. However, I have not verified if it really works.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Melanie-
      Sorry for the delay in answering you. As for the eggs you found in the coop, they should be fine if they are only 2 days old.

      When I give eggs to friends, I try to pick the cleanest eggs or I spot clean them with a dry paper towel – just so the friend doesn’t freak out. 🙂

  • Jessica Vrbka says:

    I was wondering about how.long is to long for farm eggs to sit out. We received 30 eggs about 2 weeks ago from a friend. We have them on the counter and have not washed them yet. Im kinda nervous they may be bad. What do you think is a safe time frame?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Everyone has their own level of comfort on room temp eggs. I have many friends who leave their eggs out for a month. But for me, 1 week is the end of my comfort zone. A lot of it has to do with your confidence in where the eggs came from.

  • Jen Freed says:

    Thank you so much for the info! This really helped me out.
    How long do you feel farm fresh eggs are good for in the fridge.
    Some of my eggs need to be washed because they are dirty. How long are the washed eggs good for in the fridge?

  • ashlee says:

    Is it safe to get fresh eggs and soak them in water to get the poop and dirt off and then leave them on the counter or do I need to then put them in the fridge?

    • theresa says:

      Well, I would worry that soaking would remove some of the protective coating. I feel that anytime you have to “wash” them (even with water), they should go in the fridge.

  • David says:

    Hi! I like the article a lot. I don’t raise chickens but my boss does. Today he came in with a large basket of fresh eggs and was handing them out. He told me about the “bloom” and how to wash them if I must. I feel comfortable with them as is to eat, but is it safe to put them in my fridge with poop stains on them? will it contaminate my other food?

  • thefatherofZEN says:

    I just picked up some farm fresh eggs right from the farm, but they washed them before they sold them to me. I take it from your article that I should refrigerate these eggs. When I asked the farmer if I should refrigerate them he informed me that, per the FDA, he HAS to tell me that once washed they need to be refrigerated within 36 hrs. What is your take on that time frame? I only ask because growing up I remember my grandmother’s eggs were always out on the counter, and I would love to, at least one time for nostalgia purposes, leave the eggs I will eat in the morning out on the counter. Thank you for your help.

  • Goat Girl says:

    What do you think farmers in the ‘olden’ days did to keep eggs fresh for 4-6 MONTHS before the ‘invention’ of refrigeration? They used a number of methods from water glass (submerging in a sodium silicate solution), coating with vaseline and submerged in lime water, coating with mineral oil or paraffin wax, burying in sand, oats, salt, or sawdust that’s kept in a cool, dry place (temp and humidity have to be just right) and other methods. Some worked better than others. Notably the water glass and vaseline/lime methods were the best methods and eggs stayed fresher longer and tasted the better.

  • Ed says:

    My lady’s just started laying eggs on July 17, 2015. Today I found 2 eggs. 1 in the box & warm & the 2nd one was found in the poop & not as warm where all the chickens like to roost at night. The 2nd egg was supposed to be brown but it had brown & lighter spots. Can we eat that 2nd egg?

    Thank you.


  • Jessica M says:

    I just started with a chicken in the backyard. She adopted us (flew the neighbor’s coop) and laid an egg in my folding chair under our carport. The neighbor let us keep her, so I set up a safe area for her to nest in (converted plastic playskool house). I even put another , older folding chair in her house for her. But every morning , at 10:45 she makes a fuss for the original chair. She will hunt for it. This morning, she found it folded up under a tarp and was sitting on it. I finally pulled the old blue chair out of her house and gave her my purple (original one) and she went right in the house and laid her daily egg. So have I lost my chair forever? And I’m a teacher, which in the summer is fine for her mid-morning laying. But when school starts, I won’t get home till after 9pm. Is the egg going to be ok till I can get it?

  • Breeana says:

    I read that u keep your eggs on the counter for a week. But do you cook them after the week or put them in the refrigerator for the remainder of there time. Our childrens just stared laying there small egs right now. Will they get bigger as the chickens get older?

  • Betsy says:

    Quick question. I received fresh eggs from someone and they washed them off but they still looked a little dirty and I left them in my car for a couple hours. would they still be okay to eat?

  • Hi, just found you! We have several chickens and gift eggs to our neighbors; a lady was gone so we left her eggs on her banister it was a sunny humid day and she didn’t get back until around 4 pm; we left them about 9:30 am. She asked if we thought the eggs were still good, I was kinda afraid of it with the heat, what do you think we’re they still good or did I tell her to toss good eggs?

  • Pamela says:

    My duck laid an egg in the pool they swim in is it safe to eat?

  • gbski says:

    Nice page! But wait people are washing their fresh eggs just prior to using them? Whats the thought behind that? We have just been cracking and cooking the. No problem the 6 months we have had production. Eggs are clean looking on the outside. We are refrigerating them and never cleaning them. are we doing something wrong?

  • AccidentalFarmer says:

    No to washing (if it’s soiled we do it right before using, so the loss of the bloom doesn’t matter anyway).

    No to refrigeration, as we use our eggs fairly quickly. We have never had a problem or a gross “surprise” in our eggs, even with a very amorous rooster and living in the tropics!

  • Marla Ybarra says:

    Love all the great info. My husband has raised chikens for decades and never knew you can leave fresh eggs out of the refrigerator! My question is, we are now raising coturnix quail, do the same rules apply to them, and what about the float test? Thanks!

    • theresa says:

      Good question. Hmmm…I would assume it works the same because it has to do with air moving through the shell. And a shell is a shell I think. So, it is my guess that it would work the same way.

  • Blanche says:

    My Jens have blessed me with alot of eggs very quickly and I didn’t know about the protective layer that are on fresh eggs. So I have been washing them and keeping them in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks now until in bowls until I can buy egg cartons for them. My concern is that the eggs will taste bad because my mom says that if they are in a container of some sort that they will absorb the odor in the refrigerator. I hate to throw them away. I don’t eat them I just like having chicken and sharing the eggs with friends and family so I don’t know if they will taste bad or not and I don’t want to give them out not knowing.

  • Matt says:

    Question for you….We sell our eggs to friends and local restaurants, so it’s really important our eggs are clean. I do bring them in and clean with warm water and mildly just brush a spot here and there. I never scrub or remove the total “bloom”. My question is, if they are not scrubbed and it’s just a rinse through water to get off a little speck of dirt is that still considered “Washing” and would then need to be refrigerated?

    • theresa says:

      That’s a tough one Matt. You are really washing in spots and that does open up pours. I guess I would say, yes – you should refrigerate them if you rinse or rub under water in spots. That will open the pours in those spots.

  • Marisela says:

    When I was in 1st grade, I “won” one of the chickens that hatched from our incubator project. Didn’t know it was a girl. Eventually I found her nest, which was loaded with about 32 eggs, so I’m guessing they had been sitting outside for around a month.

    I live in Austin so it could’ve been super hot out, but I don’t remember the season. Anyway, we submerged them in the sink and I wanna say the majority were good. Like, 20 or so. Never got sick after eating. So there’s that.

  • laurel says:

    What is going on with a home grown chicken egg that is mostly water? I cracked open the egg and it went into the cookie dough, so I looked inside the the shell and I could see what looked like the eye was beginning to develop? Do I have throw away the cookie dough? Thank you

    • theresa says:

      Oh Gosh Laurel – I’m unsure what was going on with that egg. Since you wrote this many hours ago, I’m sure you already made a decision on what to do with the dough. When I am baking, I always break my eggs into a separate container first and then add it to the recipe. I do this for 2 reasons: First, it allows me to remove any shells that might drop in and second, it lets me check the egg before I add it. You can occasionally get a weird egg (like double yolks, etc). I even had an egg inside an egg once. So, although I am not sure why you had a water filled egg, I would break them into a separate bowl in the future…just in case it happens again.

  • Carissa says:

    My in-laws gave us a dozen fresh eggs on Saturday that they had in their refrigerator. We forgot to put them back in our fridge as soon as we got home. They were unrefrigerated for about three hours. Would you still consider them safe?

  • Linda says:

    We are new to backyard chickens and are thrilled that after 6 months, we are getting 5 eggs/day from our 6 chickens! I have a question though: we live in Massachusetts and it is cold here now (between 10-45 degrees during the day). By the time we get out to collect the eggs in the afternoon, the eggs have been out for a few hours and are cold. Should I put them directly into the refrigerator, or is it ok to leave them on the counter…? I am not sure if it’s ok to let them go from cold to room temperature. Please advise!

  • Cheri says:

    I just joined an egg co-op. These are pastured chickens, eating bugs, getting sun and their feed is non-gmo and soy free. They are unwashed and when I picked them up today they were sitting outside. The temp was high 30’s to low 40’s today. Even colder early this morning. I had the same question as above about if I should put them in the fridge even though they have the bloom on them because they had already been out in the cold all day. Only I brought them home and set them (still in the cartons they came in) on the counter and they’ve now been at room temperature for over 8 hours. I’m about to go to sleep and figure I’ll go ahead and leave them out. I hope this is ok. I’m just wondering how safe they really are to attempt making homemade mayonnaise or meringue. Also, I love to eat my eggs over easy with the yolk still a bit runny. Is this safe to do if my eggs have been left out … especially since they had been outside in the cold before?
    Another question; we were asked to return the cartons. If the cartons are being reused over and over does this cause a LOT of bacteria to build and multiply to a point where I should be concerned about keeping my eggs stored in them if I do decide to put them in the refrigerator rather than leave them out in a basket? Thanks! 🙂

    • theresa says:

      Temperatures in the 30-40s is cool enough for those eggs to sit out. As for the cartons, as long as the eggs are unwashed, they should be fine in those cartons. The inside of the coop is dirty too, but the eggs are okay because of the their coating.

  • shiiquianu says:

    peoples forget some time a hen will lay one egg and want lay for three are four days and if you have a flock of chickens you don’t no who layed what, I had a hen that was setting and one hen got one of her eggs we don’t no how, and I sold some eggs to a woman she boil them and there was a baby chick inside.

  • It is nice to know that eggs don’t necessarily have to be refrigerated, if unwashed. However, I do normally just get my eggs from the store and there is really no way to tell how long shipping has been. I doubt it is more than a day, but just knowing that the eggs will last longer in the fridge is a good reason to keep them there. Is there any reason not to?

  • Kay says:

    I live in a city and can’t have my own chickens. But I buy free range, no hormone, no antibiotic eggs. I know they have to be washed before selling. But how long can they stay out of the refrigerator before going bad. We got in from grocery shopping late one night and they were inadvertently left on the counter until morning.

    • theresa says:

      It’s hard to say – If they are from a local farmer, they are probably unwashed and could probably sit on the counter for weeks if the chickens were healthy. But if they are commercial eggs, they are coated after washing and the amount of time they can sit out becomes more questionable – depends on the conditions/health of the chickens and the entire process the egg goes thru. In the food industry, when you are dealing with commercial eggs or you don’t know for sure how the eggs were processed, the general rule of thumb is for an egg to only sit out for a max of 4 hours which is a very short amount of time. Also, the temperature of the room is a factor but that is more of a concern in the heat of summer. Your eggs would probably be fine for 10-12 hours in cool temperatures. But without knowing more about the eggs, I can’t really answer you for sure.

  • Sharon Kellum says:

    Today I found 15 eggs in a nest that we had not checked in at least 2 weeks because we thought our 2 hens had stopped laying…so excited that they haven’t and after doing the float test and reading all the questions and your answers, I’m happy to say all eggs are still good! Thank you…

  • Matthew says:

    I just recently bought some farm fresh eggs and the lady said she just rinses them Luke warm water. Would you consider that being washed and they should be refrigerated, or not washed and don’t need to be refrigerated? I’m going out in the wilderness for a few days and was hoping they don’t need to be cold. Thanks

  • Debbie says:

    Hi.. If you wash the poop, dirt, etc off the eggs before putting them in the refrigerator can you use any soap at all or just water? Thank you..

  • Emily says:

    I have a question. A friend of my husband sent me two dozen eggs that he already washed. How long can they stay out once washed?

  • Elizabeth Zentz says:

    Hello. I sometimes get busy and forget to collect my eggs. I usually collect 1 to 2 a day since they’ve started this spring. Well, it’s been 5 days or more and I found 11 eggs in the pen. Are they good for consumption sitting that long in the pen?

  • Direna Lunesca says:

    People forget that for 200,000 years we humans ate unrefrigerated eggs. People in America are unaware of the fact that the vast majority of eggs in the world are organic, from backyard. chickens, & are never refrigerated. Simply do not wash off the natural layer of protection from your gathered eggs & they will be safe for a few weeks right on the counter, until the eggs begins to decay naturally.

  • Patricia LYNN Miller says:

    Thanks for the info about the duration that eggs can be stored out of refrigeration. I knew that they could, I just didn’t know for how long.

  • Kellye says:

    My husband washed our morning eggs and made breakfast with several of them, but then left the othere three out on our counter accidentally. It was about 4 hours later I realized they were still out. Are these ok to eat or should we discard? These eggs had never been refrigerated.

    • theresa says:

      They should be fine Kellye. But you really didn’t give me a lot of info (like: If they were never refrigerated, weren’t they out for more than 4 hours?) I’m assuming these are eggs you gathered yourself or bought from a local farm (since you said they had never been refrigerated). But even store bought eggs can be left out for up to 4 hours and still be safe.

  • Blanch says:

    Enjoying reading all the info. Had been wondering about the frig or not to frig subject. Wondering also about poop on the eggs. Another site says that the poopy eggs are because of worms and that the chicken needs diatomaceous earth treatment. Trying to learn about DE and seems it comes in several grades. The grade used for “dust bath” says it is Food Grade, yet says not for internal use. So, what grade is used for internal cleansing? I don’t have chickens yet, but want to learn how to grow healthy chickens and eggs for when I do get them. Please inform on these issues. Thanks.

  • Beth says:

    What a great article and thread with tons of info! Hopefully you can help me. My neighbor gave me some of his hens’ fresh eggs! He left them in a carton sitting on a chair on my walkway. The thing is, I live in Florida, it is June and they were sitting there all day in the heat. It got into the 90s today and, adding the heat index, the “real feel” (heat index) temperature got up to 110. (92° high today adjusted to 110° with heat index.) This is typical of summers here.

    I brought them inside and have set them on the counter in their paper egg carton. They look clean and I imagine that he collects them daily.

    This is the first time I have been offered fresh eggs so I could really use some advice! I would prefer not to refrigerate but wasn’t sure, since the eggs were exposed to hot temperatures today. I do not know exactly how long the eggs were outside. He could have left them this morning or this afternoon — I am guessing morning to be on the safe side.

    Any advice you have would be appreciated! Thank you. 🙂

  • Beth says:

    I have a follow-up question: Concerning salmonella, would it be safe for me to eat those eggs by frying them and leaving the yolks runny? I love a runny yolk on a fried egg! But if I need to cook it thoroughly, I will do so, albeit reluctantly 😀

  • September Day says:

    One other thing that wasn’t mentioned.
    If you also have a rooster it is probably best to refrigerate the eggs. Last thing you want is fertile eggs to begin the development process on your counter.
    It’s been known to happen.

  • Nicole says:

    I’m curious- we have a rooster, so some of our eggs end up fertilized. I don’t wash the eggs, but do store on the refrigerator immediately because I don’t want any embryos forming. Am I crazy in thinking they will form if sitting on the counter?

    Years ago my inlaws gave friends eggs that had embryos in them and I’m horrified of doing the same thing.

  • Susie D. says:

    My neighbor raised chickens and sold eggs…. He never washed but used sand paper to clean them to get the chicken poop off them. Is that going to hurt the protection of the egg?

  • Tia says:

    Help, We’ve been at fair and haven’t been able to collect the eggs from all the hen until the next day. The temp. has been in the 90s. and with the humidity it’s been in the 100s. Are these eggs still good? I’m kinda nervous about eating them or selling any There’s about 10 dozen so I don’t wanna throw away but don’t want anyone sick.

  • Agnes says:

    This is more of a question than a comment. We have been getting quantities of eggs as a gift from a local farm, and they are not clean. We have been putting them in the refrigerator, sometimes for several weeks, until we could get around to cleaning them off. (I know that will sound really crazy, but you’d have to live here to understand the time pressures!) After washing them off, we have put them back in the refrigerator until we are ready to use them. From everything I’ve been reading, this is probably about the worst way to handle them! That is what I hope you will address – are these eggs still safe to eat? Thanks!

  • Brian says:

    When I was volunteering as a cook at a resort in Hawaii the eggs in the kitchen were not refrigerated.

  • JD Hamilton says:

    I’ve been using store-bought chicken eggs and locally produced duck eggs for years, and I have never refrigerated either of them. I do have more duck eggs go bad than chicken eggs (actually, I can’t recall any chicken eggs being bad), and I suspect it’s because the duck eggs are not as fresh as the store bought eggs. At any rate, I crack each duck egg into it’s own bowl, in case of spoilage. I used to crack them both into the same bowl, but had one bad one spoil one good one already there, so that was the end of that.

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