Keeping the eggs produced in your barn clean is important for food safety. Dirty eggs can be a gateway for bacteria like salmonella to enter the egg and potentially cause food poisoning if not cooked thoroughly. Preventing eggs from getting dirty is the ideal approach. We have compiled some tips for keeping eggs clean:

  • Collect eggs early and frequently to reduce the window of opportunity for soiling. Most hens will lay within a few hours of the lights coming on in the morning – it is best to collect the eggs as soon as possible after they are laid
  • Collecting eggs at least twice daily is advisable
  • Maintain a clean environment and keep equipment clean
  • In Loose Housing
    • Prevent floor eggs as much as possible. For tips on preventing floor eggs see EFA’s new resource on Managing Flocks in Loose Housing systems. (link to http://www. albertaeggproducers.ca/userfiles/files/Managing%20Flocks%20in%20a%20Loose%20 Housing%20System%20Guide%20V1.pdf )
    • Keep litter dry and friable. Clean out wet litter so that birds feet remain clean and less likely to soil eggs.
    • Close nest boxes at night and ensure that no perches extend into the nest area.
  • Prevent diarrhea in your hens!
    • Vaccinate hens to protect them from disease and keep them healthy
    • Dirty eggs typically happen with grain based diets (ex. wheat, barley, and rye).
      • These grains have soluble non-starch polysaccharides (SNSPs) that make the gut contents sticky and gel-like.
      • Often, if there is canola in the diet, farmers will see canola clung to the dirty bits of the egg and think the canola is causing the problem, but canola doesn’t actually have the same soluble starches (canola has insoluble starches).
      • In order to alleviate the problem, farmers should ask their nutritionist about two enzymes: xylanase and beta-gluconase. These two enzymes are fibre-degrading and solve the problem of increased “stickiness” in the gut, thus reducing dirty eggs. These enzymes are also important when including grains in the diet because they help with energy availability – so there is benefit beyond preventing dirty eggs!
      • When buying pre-mix, be sure that the enzymes include more than just phytase, which has a completely different function and does not help with dirty eggs. Be careful
        decreasing the amount of pre-mix because they will lose out on the needed enzymes.

When you do get eggs that are dirty, keep in mind that on farm washing of eggs is not permitted and is now a critical control element in the Start Clean- Stay Clean Program. Washing eggs may aid the transfer of harmful bacteria like Salmonella from the outside to the inside of the egg. During washing, natural barriers in the shell can be washed off, allowing harmful bacteria to pass through the pores to the inside of the egg. Eggs for your own use can be washed on farm, but ONLY those for your own use – be sure to always use the proper method as it is safer to not wash eggs than to wash them improperly.