Backyard Barn: Egg Production and Handling
Nancy Flores, PhD
Food Technology Extension Specialist
Some municipalities in NM allow residents to own poultry as pets or for egg and meat
production. Las Cruces City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows six chickens and/or
ducks per property only with a special permit from the Las Cruces Codes Enforcement Office and
Animal Control. Additionally male poultry are not allowed. An application fee is assessed at $25
for the first year and $15 annually thereafter. An animal control officer will inspect the coop to
ensure that is set up correctly and secure, so that is a suitable place to raise poultry. Please
check the rules for animal production that is allowed in your local area. There are several
resources for backyard poultry production including organic practices that can be found at your
local county extension office and online.
So now that you have the hens, what do you do with all those eggs that are piling up? How to collect, wash, store, sell, are all questions that arise once your hens are at full production. First get prepared to have a system that works for your household. Eggs should be collected daily, early and often, and chilled as soon as possible especially during the summer months. Before chilling, eggs should be cleaned from dirt and stains. Extremely dirty eggs covered in feces should be discarded.
Eggs can be dry cleaned with a clean brush or even sand paper. Caution should be taken if using wet cleaning procedures as moisture can transport pathogenic bacteria from the surface into the interior of the egg. Dipping, spraying, or water flowing over the egg can be used for washing eggs. Immersion is not an allowed practice by USDA because it can degrade the egg’s waxy cuticle that protects the egg from contamination. There are egg wash detergents that are useful to remove heavy dirt and stains and also kill harmful bacteria. Additionally wash water temperature must be monitored to be greater
than 20°F warmer than the egg temperature so that surface contaminants are not absorbed into the
egg due to temperature contraction. Cleaned eggs can be sanitized with chlorine-based sanitizers
ranging from 50 to 200 ppm. Diluting 1/2 tablespoon of household chlorine bleach (5.25 %sodium
hypochlorite) per gallon of water will result in a solution of 100 ppm chlorine. Free chlorine
level must be checked frequently because chlorine is inactivated by organic material such as dirt.
Chlorine test strips are available in pool maintenance and restaurant supply stores.
Cleaned and sanitized eggs must dry before chilling to prevent moisture and mold build up.
Fertilized egg chick embryos can develop in temperatures above 85°F. Eggs stored at room
temperatures above 75°F will quickly degrade. It’s important to maintain a constant temperature
during storage so that condensation does not cause “sweating” which will allow any surface contaminants enter into the egg. Ideally eggs are packed into clean cartons within 3-7 days of laying. Additionally eggs readily absorb odors from other contents in the refrigerator. Storage limitations of eggs and egg products are outlined in a table below.