Eggs become more valuable in the winter as production slows down due to shorter days. With fewer eggs in your nest box, you don’t want any to go to waste. But with many of us leading busy lives, frozen eggs can happen by the time we can collect them. So what is a chicken keeper to do?!?
Well I am glad you asked! Where we live it gets way below zero. Frozen eggs are going to happen at some point during the winter. So after I explain what to do to prevent frozen eggs, we will talk about what to do with a frozen egg. You may be surprised that throwing it out isn’t necessarily the answer!
1.) The first way to prevent frozen eggs is of course to collect your eggs as often as possible during the day. If your eggs are freezing then so is your chickens’ water. Whenever you go out to give them fresh warm water, check your nest boxes. Of course many folks work all day and this isn’t an option. If you have a nearby neighbor, you could ask them to check for eggs once a day for you, in exchange for a few fresh eggs.
2.) While some folk hang curtains on their nest boxes because they are pretty, they can also provide a barrier in winter. Curtains help retain heat inside the nest box. Straw in the nest box is also a preventative measure as the hollow tubes of the straw keep heat in them generated by a sitting hen. When considering what type of material to use for your curtains, go with something that is thicker and hangs straight down, like burlap or wool cloth
3.) If your nesting boxes aren’t in your coop (aka they stick off the side), consider insulating the walls of the box. You can stack straw bales around them or get some insulation and use a staple gun to secure it on the outside of the boxes, covered by cardboard. It may not be pretty, but it will help to keep your eggs from freezing!
4.) A couple of other ideas include “alternative” heat sources. Do you have a hen that is prone to going broody? Let her! She will keep the eggs warm for you until you can collect them. You can also heat your coop. Using heat lamps do come with the risk of fire if improperly used, so beware. Make sure any heat lamp is securely attached in two different spots to prevent it from falling. Also make sure to hang it out of your birds’ path. You don’t want a hen flying into the lamp and knocking it down or breaking the bulb!
Your eggs froze, now what?
Well if your egg is frozen solid or just has a tiny crack in it like the one above, it is safe to eat if you handle it properly. A frozen solid egg that is not cracked should be placed in the fridge to thaw. If you leave it on the counter to thaw, condensation will most likely form on the shell. Why is this bad? Because eggs have a natural bloom on them that protect the egg from outside bacteria. Once the bloom is washed off (by hand or by simple condensation) the egg becomes more vulnerable to bacteria.
If your egg is slightly cracked, you need to take a different approach to saving it for future use. I start by washing the egg, just to make sure it is clean before cracking it further and breaking the membrane inside the shell.
Once the egg is cleaned, simply peel it. This eggs wasn’t completely frozen, but it was firm enough to peel. Now normally I don’t crack eggs onto my counter, but I wanted you to see what a frozen egg looks like.
After your egg is peeled, simply put it in a zip lock bag. You can then keep them in the freezer for later use or place the bag in the fridge to finish thawing. Once thawed, scrabble those babies up and enjoy or use them in your baking. If you don’t feel comfortable eating them because they were cracked, you can still cook them and give them to a pet, including your chickens! It is a great source of protein for your hens and no, it will not make them egg eaters.
But what do you do if the egg is cracked and the membrane split? Well if the white is oozing out it could have been exposed to bacteria. I personally would not eat or use an egg that is oozing out the white. Does that mean it needs to be thrown out? Yes and no. I wouldn’t eat it, but it could still be cooked and given to your pup or chickens. Animals have much tougher digestive tracts than humans when it comes to bacteria!