At Walpole Valley Farms there really isn't anything better than clean eggs in the nesting boxes at the end of the day. Well, maybe calving season is even better, but clean eggs are certainly at the very top of the list of our favorite things here on the farm. We've tried many techniques to ensure that our eggs stay extremely clean but nothing has kept them as clean as they are now since we made one simple change.
I'll fill you in on the change in a moment but first I'll tell you that we used to close up the nesting boxes in the late afternoon at egg collection time before the hens settled in for the evening and opened them back up in the morning. This was keeping the eggs somewhat clean but witnessing the hens fighting for a place to lay in the early hours was enough to make us think twice about closing them at night. The problem that we ran into with open nest boxes at night was hens soiling the bedding, resulting in dirty eggs which take precious time to clean, not to mention having to change the bedding so frequently.
We have tried electronic doors in our eggmobile (moveable coop) on pasture but without success. In the winter months the chickens live in one of our hoop houses. This year we decided to build and "egg room" with an electronic door. The door opens and closes on a timer so the hens are only able to access the egg room during the prescribed hours. When we go in to collect in the afternoon, we remove any broody hens and place them outside where they can't sleep in the nest boxes. So far we have been so much happier with the clean state of the eggs. We hope to replicate this situation for the pasture this year. One of our dreams is to buy this contraption which would ensure clean eggs on pasture even at the muddiest of times.
Until then, we'll be using the chicken guard automatic door to keep our hens happy and clean!