It is so cold. 30 below zero kind of cold. Not only do we struggle with keeping our chickens warm and keeping their water thawed, now we have the added concern of frozen eggs.
When it’s this cold outside, it only takes a matter of a few hours to freeze a fresh chicken egg. You go out to collect the eggs only to find them frozen, cracked, and not looking near as beautiful as you imagined. Since eggs are so scarce in the winter anyway, we want to do everything we can to keep them thawed until we gather them.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prevent your flocks eggs from freezing. And there are a few things you can do with the eggs that do freeze to insure they don’t go to complete waste.
How to Prevent Frozen Chicken Eggs
Note: All eggs gathered in the winter should be brought in and immediately refrigerated. At temps this cold, they are already cold enough that if they come in and sit on the counter they will form condensation. That condensation will remove the protective bloom on the outside of the egg. So, to stay safe, I recommend throwing them straight in the fridge.
1. Collect them more often.
I usually check for eggs every 2 hours during the day. It takes about 3 hours for the eggs to freeze, so I try my best to get to them before they reach a frozen state. My chickens are usually done laying by 2 in the afternoon, but occasionally I will find one when I go to check on them and shut them up in the evening a few hours later. I’m usually lucky enough to find them still unfrozen at that point.
2. Close off extra nesting boxes.
If you only offer access to a couple of boxes, your chickens will have to take turns laying in just those boxes. That means that when another hen hops up there, she will keep what eggs are there toasty and warm. We have a smaller flock right now (13 hens), but only offer 3 boxes in the winter (half what we normally provide). This seems to help. Bonus is I don’t have to freeze trying to find eggs in a half dozen boxes nor waste straw filling more boxes up.
3. Use the deep litter method for bedding.
I love using this method for the cold months (we don’t use it in the summer). It makes it easier for us to care for the birds, part of it is already composted when we remove it in the spring (all but the top layer), and it keeps the coop (and chickens) warmer. Warmer coop means warmer eggs.
4. Put curtains on nesting boxes.
Give your chickens some privacy! Kidding, partially. Hens generate quite a bit of heat, especially when they lay. Using curtains on your nesting boxes can help the hens, and the eggs, stay warm by retaining the heat they produce, even after they leave the box.
5. Use a thick layer of straw in and around the nesting boxes.
We use straw in the winter for all of our bedding and nesting needs. The hollow shaft traps warm air, which makes it an amazing insulator. When your chickens create all that heat the straw will keep the eggs warmer for longer. You can also pile a couple bales above and below your boxes. If your boxes jut out, put bales underneath to help insulate them as well.
What to Do With Frozen Eggs
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we wind up with frozen eggs. You miss one, or the egg was laid on the floor. But, not all hope is lost. They can still be put to use.
1. If it Isn’t Cracked
If the egg seems to be frozen, but has not cracked, just put it in the refrigerator to thaw and use it to scramble or bake with. You can cook it another way, but it usually leaves things a bit runny, so I would use it for one of those things. Note: I use any frozen eggs first and if the baking recipe I’m using requires any leavening, I don’t use the frozen eggs. They won’t usually work as well. But, for recipes that don’t require much leavening, I use them.
2. If it’s cracked with the membrane intact
If the white isn’t coming out the crack, you can use it the same as above. But instead of putting it in the fridge, you can toss it in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer until ready to use and then cook it accordingly. Obviously thawing it right before it’s ready to use.
3. If it’s cracked and the membrane is broken
If the white is coming out, I would thaw it, scramble it, and feed it back to the flock or feed it to your dogs. You could feed it to your dogs raw if you choose and you don’t worry about them wanting to sneak in the coop and try to eat the eggs. Their digestive systems are much better equipped to handle any potential diseases than ours are.
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