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Things to Know about Choosing Farm Fresh Eggs

By Edited Apr 14, 2016 9 14

Buying local eggs

If this is your first venture into the world of farm fresh eggs, you are in for a treat.  Fresh eggs behave better in many recipes due to the larger protein structures in the whites.  As they age the proteins break down and the albumen becomes watery.  More and more studies are showing that the nutritional content of eggs from pastured hens, as many small hobby farmers do, are higher than those that are mass produced.  And the best part – the onesyou get from the small farm down the street taste so much better than those store bought bland things that you will never again want to waste your money on that tasteless stuff in the grocery store.

You'll want to brush up on the basic facts before you read this to help put some of these points into context.  Before heading out to the farmers’ market, or the neighbor down the road, there are a few differences between eggs from the two sources that you might want to be aware of.

Color.[1]  Different breeds of hens produce different colors of eggs, yes, but even the ones from the same hen will change in color throughout the season.  The shells generally lighten as the months go by, but there are color variation from day to day as well.  Sometimes you get darker freckles, or lighter rough spots.  All of these variations are perfectly normal.

Poop.  There may be chicken poop on your eggs, but there is a very good reason for not washing it off.  When the it is first laid, it’s coated in a substance called “bloom”.  The bloom dries quickly on the shell and acts a protective barrier for the contents.  The poop comes from the next hen entering the nest box and stepping on the shell.  Washing off the chicken poop means washing off the bloom.  This leaves the egg more vulnerable to bacteria and spoilage.  If the shells are washed and not coated with another protective substance such as oil or wax, they need to be refrigerated and eaten quickly, usually within a week.


Size[2] Size is pretty consistent for any individual hen for one laying season, but you do occasionally get anomalies.  A very large egg might be a double yolker, or could somehow just have ended up with a lot more albumen.  Once in a while a hen will lay a very tiny egg with no yolk at all.  Your local farmer will keep these odd sizes out of your cartons, but if you’re looking for unusual sizes, maybe for a painting project or other art, ask if he or she could save some for you.

Hens and Bo

Contents[2] Your fresh egg will have a firmer white, darker yolk, and a lot more flavor.  The firm white comes from freshness – and these are really fresh – while the darker yolk and better flavor come from the hens’ diet.  Most hobby farmers try to either pasture their hens or provide fresh greens if pasturing isn’t possible.  Chicken hobbyists also give their girls plenty of variety in the form of table scraps and sunflower seeds.  And you know, maybe part of the flavor comes from the happiness of the hens, too.

Blood spots.  You’ll probably see these.  They are completely harmless as you read when you brushed up.

Fertilized[3] The eggs you buy from a hobby farmer might be fertilized if the farmer has one or more roosters.  Unless you ask, you’ll probably never know, and there is no reason to worry about it.  If you look closely at the yolk you might see a little white dot.  That’s the germinal disc where an embryo would start to grow.  If your yolk is fertilized, this spot is a little bigger and looks more like a bullseye than a dot.  It takes some practice to even see the difference.  For the embryo to start developing it takes temperatures of around 100 degrees (and 21 days of this for the chick to hatch).

Mulberry and the kids

If they’re fertilized, can I hatch them?  Well, maybe.  Fertile eggs for hatching are quite a bit more expensive than those that are for eating.  Most farmers refrigerate eggs for eating to decrease viability and discourage people from hatching chicks.  Eggs that have been coated with wax or oil will never hatch; the coating disrupts the flow of oxygen through the shell.  If you want to try hatching eggs, and you're prepared to take care of chicks,  talk to your farmer about buying eggs specifically for hatching.

Are they organic?  Ask.  Very few small farmers will go to the trouble and expense of being certified organic, but they choose organic feeds and natural health remedies because they believe in them.  Create a relationship with your local farmers so you know how they run their business and treat their livestock, and don’t expect a certificate, only honesty.

Fresh eggs
Availability.  Chickens need 12-14 hours of light to consistently lay eggs. At higher latitudes, some farmers use artificial lights in the coop to keep production up over the winter, but egg production in even the best lit coops is lower when the days are shorter.  Many farmers prefer to give their hens a break from laying (there are many advantages to this) and simply stop selling eggs.  If your egg supplier shuts down, think of the return to store bought eggs as your reminder of why you started choosing farm fresh eggs in the first place.

Go shopping.  Every farmer, and farming situation is unique so look around to find someone you like that can provide the types of eggs you’re looking for.  You might want a dozen green and blue ones for Easter, or just enjoy having a variety of colors in your carton every day.  Chickens are omnivores so don’t expect “vegetarian fed” hens to be providing local eggs. This is a marketing technique and can only be done if the hens are caged and kept separated from the outside.  Not a nice way to keep your girls.  You might find a source that chooses not to feed soy to their birds (a good thing), or can provide a chicken diet without some particular grain if you have an allergy and want to be sure your eggs won’t cause you problems.  Again, ask.  That’s the benefit of buying from someone you might see later in the store, or on the bus.  You know them and can ask them anything.



Mar 2, 2013 1:14am
What a terrific and interesting article I have learned new things about eggs. When we were kids mum used to breed their own chickens in a brooder. And my sister and I used to accidentally break the thermometers every now and then to play with the mercury - yes I know now that it is not good to play with it.
I was reminded the other day of this when visiting our vet he put a thermometer up our dogs u know what and turned around and Titan thought stuff that and shot it out breaking it on the table I was tempted to play with it again. But the vet quickly picked it up .(meany).

We used to have to turn our eggs in the brooder it wasnt automated like these days. Interesting article rated up.
Mar 2, 2013 7:22am
Funny vet story!

One of my hens goes broody often so I've never used an incubator, I just let the hen do the work.

I'm glad you liked the article. :) I hope to encourage people to shop from their neighbors.
Apr 12, 2013 2:15am
Great article, JestMe! Thank you for sharing your knowledge of farm fresh eggs and store bought eggs. I was intrigued by the effect of chicken poop on the eggs. I never would have thought that this could serve as a protector of the eggs. The "bloom" protects us from bacteria? This blew my mind. Wonderful article!
Apr 12, 2013 6:26am
Who knew, right? I have learned so much from being a two-bit chicken rancher, I'm glad I could share some with you.

Thanks for reading! :)
Apr 12, 2013 4:46am
Great article. I just bought my first farm fresh eggs yesterday!
Apr 12, 2013 6:24am
Yay for you! You will love how much flavor they have. I was so surprised the first time I ate one; now I feel like the store bought eggs are the equivalent of Wonder bread.
Apr 12, 2013 9:07am
Great article--and very informative. I remember when I was a little boy, I loved collecting eggs with my gradnmother and then I got to candle them. Anyway, you are so right--fresh anything is better than what we get in the supermarkets and better tasting! I grew potatoes one year and they were so sweet and wonderful those at the store tasted like cardboard. Anyway TWO BIG thumbs up.
Apr 12, 2013 3:38pm
I am loving my pseudo farm life and I hope to encourage others to turn their yard into a place to produce their own food.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Apr 12, 2013 10:18am
You certainly make some good points for buying farm fresh eggs. So much so, that I am going to try to locate someone who sells them in my area. Good valuable information! Thumbs Up!
Apr 12, 2013 3:38pm
Absolutely go and do this. You will truly be amazed at the difference!
Apr 12, 2013 10:47am
Excellent article. I didn't know about the bloom layer on the egg and would probably have avoided unwashed eggs. I love articles that teach me something useful. :-)
Apr 12, 2013 3:39pm
Yep, it looks yucky, but it's OK. Feel free to wash the eggs right before you use them if you're worried about getting something nasty in your food, just don't wash them and store them.
Apr 12, 2013 4:29pm
Great article JestMe! Hubby and I talk about wanting to raise a few chickens in our next home which should have a larger yard than we do at present. We have joined a farm program where we get our vegetables fresh every week. Fresh eggs would be awesome! Thanks!
Apr 13, 2013 8:28am
Thank you! I hope you get to the chicken stage quickly, they are so much fun to watch that the eggs are pretty much a bonus.
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  1. "Chicken Eggshell Colour." Broad Leys Publishing. 19/08/2013 <Web >
  2. "Specifics About Eggs." American Egg Board. 19/08/2013 <Web >
  3. R. A. ERNST, F. A. BRADLEY, U. K. ABBOTT and R. M. CRAIG "Egg Candling and Breakout Analysis ." ANRcatalog UC Davis. 19/08/2013 <Web >

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