Testing eggs for freshness

Testing eggs for freshness.

Testing eggs for freshness is important if you keep your own chickens. One would hope in the supermarket they are reasonably fine, though you can never be quite sure; but eggs should last several weeks before going off. Here are some little tips.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 23rd August, 2019.

By Bernard Preston

Drop your egg in question into a bowl of cold water. I am sure you know there is a bubble of air at the larger end; the one on the left in the graphic above.




A fresh egg sinks to the bottom and is quite level.

Since the shell is porous, air may penetrate it and enter that bubble or pocket making it more buoyant; then the narrow end will be lower and the larger will be higher. The egg will tend to stand on end.

Oops, I'm sorry that this is blurred; I will have to retake this photo tomorrow. But can you see how the larger end is slightly raised? But the whole egg is very much still at the bottom, and not even standing on end; then it is getting older.

If the egg floats then it is rotten; chuck it out.

It is good kitchen practice if you are dealing with eggs that may be past their freshness, to crack each egg first into a separate bowl; the sixth may be rotten and you are obliged to ditch the lot otherwise.

Egg past its prime with the bulbous side floating higher.

Testing eggs for freshness

Three weeks ago we realised suddenly that our five pullet hens were no longer laying in their usual nest in the garden; or had stopped altogether.

We had no reason to believe that as they were being fed a top notch diet of sprouted maize and crusts from our sourdough bread, and running free in our vegetable garden.

Well, there were a few eggs, but not many.

Desperately we searched high and low but nowhere was the nest to be found. Little Eagle Eyes, our granddaughter who notices everything was called in; she too shook her head after an extensive search.

Had they stopped laying altogether? We doubted it.

Finally after three long weeks I noticed one hen was missing at feeding time; I roamed the garden knowing full well that she was doing her business. Finally she gave a cry of victory in the most unexpected of places. I could not believe it.

Burrowing in the top of a compost heap, I spied her deep down under many layers of wandering Jew.

Whoever would have looked here for the nest?

Hidden nesting place requiring that the eggs be tested for freshness.
Hidden nest but will the eggs be fresh enough to eat?

Justing seeing my grandson's shining eyes when he spied the nest made our day. He may be only three, but he knows that eggs don't come out of a box; the hens lay them, silly.

Hidden nest with 19 eggs, most of them fresh enough to eat.

These eggs had been exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees; obviously there were concerns that we should be testing eggs for freshness.

We did not want to get sick, especially as we reserved our free range eggs for the grandchildren, having three times as much omega-3; that is the stuff that makes kids more intelligent and suffer less from attention deficit.

Keeping chickens in the garden is hard work, but the benefits are enormous; ask any mother with a child on Ritalin.

Another test for freshness is whether the yolk breaks when dropping it into the pan.

When I cracked the egg above that floated with the large end slightly higher, this is how it appeared. You notice the white is very clear and the yolk has broken easily.

These are both signs that the egg is not quite fresh, but probably fine to eat.

The last test is whether the egg stinks when you crack it; I sniffed at it, and the smell was absolutely fine. We ate this one last night with no adverse effects.

Notice incidentally the deep orange colour of this yolk; that has nothing to do with age but the fact that these hens run wild. They tuck into worms in the compost heap, lucerne and the weeds in the garden; they are scratching interminably under the autumn leaves that we use for mulch, hunting for grubs.

Therein they do some damage to young seedlings but mature plants are largely unaffected. Except kale which they absolutely adore, same as we do for the lutein, perhaps. A chicken with cataracts or macular degeneration is a dead bird.

A broken yolk of a hen's egg raises questions about testing. Does it smell?

The final test is for an odd colour; if there are spots in the egg, or it's green or some other unusual hue then it's best to discard it. I would throw it to the worm farm; they won't mind a few bacteria. Don't feed it to the dogs.

A bad egg smells, it turns green and the yolk is broken; there's no need to test it further.

You can't help noticing that three of these yolks are decidedly dodgy. Interestingly they all passed the float test. The smell here was not pleasant and that, together with the integrity of the yolk are for me the most important factors in testing eggs for freshness.

If you're seriously into the organic garden, then give consideration to the wonder of worm farms. They will turn all your kitchen waste into a rich organic plant food, and the worms will go to feed the chickens.

Gourmet worm farm meal produces the most delicious golden yolked eggs.
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Chicken tractor design

Chicken tractor design obviates the need for testing eggs for freshness; you know exactly where your hens are laying.

It's quite a lot of work making a chicken tractor design; a portable cage that enables you to move the hens about the garden preventing them from attacking your seedlings.

Make it as light as possible; mine is too heavy. I'd use thinner steel next time; or aluminium.

Bernard Preston

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Hyperactive, attention deficit Bernie is always looking for something new to keep his fertile mind active; not always entirely successfully! The last eight months it's been to do with rearing free range hens and testing eggs for freshness; before that it was building a solar farm; a rainwater harvesting model; a worm farm.

Hence the current testing eggs for freshness; I'm actually quite shocked how old many eggs from the supermarket are.

Retirement sentiments are important to me; either you keep going, or drop dead of boredom. My seventh novel, Priests Denied, is in the pipeline. If you enjoy this website then buy one of my books; on your Kindle or tablet they are dirt cheap.

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