Is it safe to eat eggs from backyard chickens?

Is it safe to eat eggs from backyard chickens?

More people are becoming more concerned about how food is grown and handled. There is also the shift towards self-sufficiency with the aim of producing and preserving food.  

Raising backyard chickens is one of the many ways for those in urban areas to have some level of control over their food. 

But with so many warnings about eggs with Salmonella, E.Coli, and the like, some backyard poultry keepers wonder if it’s safe to eat eggs from their backyard chickens. 

Are eggs from backyard chickens healthier?

Eggs from chickens raised in the backyard or on the homestead, under free-range conditions have higher Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Fatty acids. Research carried out by the Penn state university concluded that eggs from chickens raised in pasture conditions had double the amount of Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids than eggs from hens raised on commercial feeds. 

You also get peace of mind when eating eggs from chickens that are happy. There is no beating the fact you can always know that your backyard chicken is eating healthy and are generally happier than caged chicken raised for commercial eggs. 

Free-range hens allowed to forage on pastures have a higher nutritional content than commercially produced eggs.

Are our farm-fresh eggs safe to eat raw?

Farm fresh eggs are safe to consume raw only if the basic safety precautions are adhered to. 

However, with eggs, there is always some risk of salmonella bacteria on the exterior of the eggshells. 

This risk exists in all poultry products, both commercial, free-range, caged, and backyard birds. 

The important thing is to consume raw eggs immediately and avoid the shell from touching the egg content as much as possible. 

The salmonella bacteria require time to replicate, so eating raw eggs immediately helps reduce the risk of food poisoning because the human stomach acid can neutralize small numbers of bacteria.

How to keep your backyard chicken eggs safe to eat

There are several practices that will help ensure that eggs from your backyard chickens are safe to eat. These include keeping a clean chicken coop, use of clean nesting boxes, collecting eggs as soon as they are laid and  disposing off damaged eggs

  • Keep your chicken coop clean

Managing a clean coop free of pests and vermin such as mice helps reduce the chances of illness in your chickens and egg contamination. 

Wet food and rodent droppings can cause Salmonella to contaminate your eggs. If you get a water spill, remove the damp bedding immediately, and if there are signs of rodents, get rid of them or keep them out of the coop. 

To minimize contamination of your eggs, ensure that your pen is always clean and dry.

  • Make the nesting boxes inviting

Ensuring that the nesting place is attractive for hens to lay will prevent you from collecting your eggs from the soiled ground. 

Using beddings such as straw helps keep your eggs clean and broken after being laid.

  • Collect eggs as soon as they are laid

Collect eggs at least twice a day, especially if your flock has several egg-laying hens. 

Uncollected eggs may get exposed to bacteria, and in the winter, the eggs may freeze, making them unsuitable for eating. Check if your backyard chickens have laid regularly.

  • Dispose of damaged eggs

Consumption of damaged eggs will likely make you sick. 

Signs of damaged eggs include cracks that can allow bacteria into the egg. Eggs that have powdery shells, especially if uncollected for a long time, could carry bacteria that can make you sick.

The water testing method is another way to check if your backyard chicken eggs are damaged. This method involves placing your eggs in a container with water. 

The rotten eggs will float and make you sick if consumed; good eggs sink and are fit for consumption.

Should you wash eggs from your backyard chicken?

It may seem like the right thing to wash or rinse eggs after collecting them from your backyard chicken coop. After all, that’s what we do with our vegetables from our backyard garden. 

However, washing eggs could put you at more risk of bacteria than not washing them. The biggest health concern with eggs is exposure to Salmonella bacteria. Most types of Salmonella are passed through feces, and humans get sick when they consume food that has been exposed to animal feces. 

Chicken eggs may be exposed to Salmonella if laid in unsanitary conditions that are infested with feces. Though eggs can get dirty but washing fresh eggs does not eliminate the risk of contamination.

Eggshells have numerous microscopic pores that transfer gases, moisture, and bacteria in and out of the eggshell. The pores have an effective and efficient defense mechanism that prevents contamination. Just before laying an egg, the body of the hen coats the eggshell with a protein-like mucous protective lining. The coating seals the pores preventing bacteria from getting into the egg’s interior.

So your egg will remain intact and protected as long as you do not wash it. Even the smallest act of rinsing removes the protective layer and opens up the pores. Also, leaving the protective cover intact eliminates the need for refrigeration. So the best thing you can do is ensure that you produce clean eggs as much as possible. 

Below are ways to reduce eggshell contamination among your backyard chicken:

  • Keep your chicken coop clean
  • Your chicken roost should be higher placed than the nesting boxes
  • The nesting boxes should have roofs to prevent poop from getting inside
  • Collect your eggs early and often

If you decide to wash your eggs, the first cardinal rule is never to use detergent or bleach. 

Secondly, only use warm water because it encourages the content inside the egg to expand and push contaminants away from the pores. 

Wash them immediately and dry them before storing them. Soaking eggs or keeping them wet encourages the growth and transfer of pollutants into the eggshell.

In The USA, the FDA requires all commercial eggs to be washed. In Europe, there is no requirement to be washed, but all commercial eggs have to be clean, and undamaged. In commercial settings washed eggs are usually covered with mineral oil, which covers the pores. This prevents bacteria from getting 

Can you eat eggs from a chicken with a respiratory infection?

Chickens are susceptible to a broad range of diseases and disorders.

Many of these are respiratory, and they tend to be contagious. This is the case with Bird Flu, which spreads quickly. When eggs are contaminated with the saliva, nasal secretion, or feces of sick birds, they can be carriers of the disease. 

The World Health Organization approves eating eggs if they are cooked correctly.  it is unlikely to cause the transmission of respiratory infections, but the consumption of runny eggs can get you sick if they were contaminated by bacteria from sick chickens. 

Can you eat eggs from sick chickens?

You should never eat eggs from your sick backyard chicken because you can get sick. A chicken that is ill may be carrying a disease that could contaminate the eggs, such as Salmonella, which is contagious. Unfortunately, there is no method to tell if eggs from your sick chicken are contaminated or safe. You should only consume eggs from healthy chickens because their eggs harbor no risk of diseases.


Eggs are a nutritious food consumed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in all manner of meals. 

 Chickens are easy to raise, and they start laying eggs after a short time, which is why most backyard farmers choose to keep them. 

With the knowledge about handling eggs properly, most egg pathogens are preventable, and you can control the spread of such diseases.

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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