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Sheep Care on Small Farms and Homesteads

sheep care on small farms and homesteads

Is sheep care part of your future? Can you raise sheep in a large backyard? In some cases the answer is yes. Sheep are adaptable and can be cared for in a paddock or small field if their needs are met. It may be a little more labor intensive and take a bit more effort and management to raise our sheep this way. Here on the farm we raise a little bit of everything. Well not really everything. But we do have quite a variety of animals. We have successfully raised goats for many years, a small herd of beef cattle and my sweet little herd of sheep.

Did you think that you have to have a large pasture of grassy grazing land in order to raise sheep? For many years, we did not have any grazing other than the grass surrounding the different areas of the farm. We successfully raised a small flock of sheep this way for six years. Here’s what we have learned about sheep care and how we do it.

Eventually we did add more fenced pasture area, and began working on our silvopastures in the woods. You can see more in the video towards the end of this post.

Have a Shelter

Sheep care

The shelter for sheep can be simple. They will do quite well with a three sides open shed, sometimes called a run in shed. Our small flock of four sheep actually have access to a stall in the barn but prefer to spend most of their time outside in the pen area.

Sheep Care Includes Appropriate Fenceing

When keeping sheep on a small homestead, make sure you have adequate fencing to keep the sheep from getting into the roads or the neighbor’s gardens. We are using board fencing, and livestock panels with T posts. From a durability standpoint, this permanent fencing has solved problems for us. The sheep can’t get their head trapped in the netting and walk off with the entire fence. You will need to assess your flock for potential of getting their heads stuck in the panels. Because the grass is always greener just on the other side of the fence, sheep will test the fence. We had a ewe in the past who would stick her head through, and although she could have backed up, and freed herself, she always was sure she was trapped. The message here is, keep a close eye on the flock with any new fencing style you incorporate.

Some people have success raising sheep using the netting type fences. When we first tried netting fences with our flock, they kept getting tangled up in the netting. I still think it can be a viable option, as many shepherds use this type of fence. The electric netting has to be properly grounded and have enough sun exposure to power the fence line. The advantage of movable netting fencing is being able to move the flock without having more fence installed. This might be the best option if you can set it up properly, and your wooly friends don’t get tangled in the netting.

Feeding

Raising care

Sheep are grazing animals. If you had a large pasture, they would eat grass all day long, stopping only to rest and allow the rumen to process the grass. This is called chewing the cud. Since our sheep spend a large part of their time in a pen, they are fed a grass hay. They react pretty much the same to the hay as they would to grass. They eat, then rest and ruminate. We do feed a small amount of grain to make sure they are getting enough nutrition and vitamins. By small amount I mean a small handful.

If a sheep begins looking thin and parasites and illness are ruled out, we separate that sheep out and feed extra alfalfa-timothy pellets with a small amount of grain.

Click Below to Buy My Book on Sheep Care

It is important to feed hay with grain so that the rumen does not become inflamed. When choosing hay for non-lactating sheep, choose a grass hay and not an alfalfa. Alfalfa has a high percentage of protein, and since it is not needed, can lead to urinary tract problems. It can be easy to want to over feed grain. Sheep will insist that they are still very hungry! Look at the condition of your sheep. If they are nicely filled out they are getting enough to eat. The majority of their diet should be grasses and hay. 

Cleaning the Sheep Pen

When we did not have pastures for rotational grazing, we had to frequently clean up after them in the pen. This has lessened as we can leave them out during the day, but some cleaning in the barn is always necessary. Old hay is raked up and removed along with feces and any wet moist spots. Replace the bedding in the stall or shed as needed to keep it clean and free of insects. Smelly, wet, dirty bedding is a breeding ground for insects, parasites, worms and disease. Dirty stalls and barns can lead to flystrike which you do not want to deal with.

Free Grazing Time

When we are on the farm we give the sheep time to leave their pen and roam freely. They can browse and graze on grass and various forage. One of our large grassy fields is available now that we are no longer raising cattle. Over the years we have added additional grassy areas. Since there is a large open cattle shed in the field, the sheep can spend all day lounging around and grazing as they wish. We do still bring them back to the barn at night, although with some fencing improvements, they would be fine staying in the field at night, too.

Water

Make sure the sheep have access to fresh water in buckets or a low water trough at all times. Try to keep some water in a shady location so it can stay cooler during the hot weather.

sheep

 Sheep Care includes Worming

  Keeping the sheep in a smaller area can lead to an abundance of parasites. Instead of worming on a schedule, we have switched to worming when there is a problem. Good management of your flock includes observing and checking them individually on a regular basis. Look for paleness in gums and lower eyelids for indication of a parasite problem. Check into becoming educated on using the FAMACHA scale of parasite management.

Some shepherds will choose to worm on a routine basis as part of their sheep care plan. Since we have such a small flock, we prefer to worm when necessary and avoid increasing the resistance to some worming products. 

Grooming – an Important Part of Sheep Care

Sheep care

With sheep care for a small herd there are some jobs you will probably want to just do yourself, rather than hire someone. Trimming hooves, checking for teeth problems,  checking overall condition are some things to keep in mind. Starting at an early age, train your sheep to be comfortable being handled. Hold their feet even if no trimming is needed. Inspect for stones or any softness or problems in the hoof. Check eye lids or gums regularly for healthy pink color. 

Shearing Time is Part of Sheep Care

Most sheep being raised for wool will require a once a year shearing. In some cases, with a heavy fiber producer you may be able to shear twice. Even with a small flock, doing  the shearing yourself can be backbreaking. We did all of our own shearing of our fiber goats and sheep for many years. Then we hired a professional one year and I will never go back to doing it myself! Our sheep shearer does the job in much less time and yields better fleeces. I am glad to know that I can shear if I have to. It’s an important part of sheep care. But knowing a professional and getting on their schedule will make your life with sheep much more enjoyable. If you choose to do it yourself, consider attending a sheep shearing school to learn the tricks of the trade. 

sheep care

 You can check out our available yarns here. 

sheep care for small farms and homesteads

or on our Etsy shop

Update on Our Silvopasture in this Video

Why We Keep Sheep

We raise our fiber goats and sheep for the beautiful fleece. After shearing, I will pick through the fleece to remove any badly matted parts or debris. This is called “skirting”, and is a very important first step. I ship or drop the fleece off with a fiber processor to have it made into yarn. Some shepherds will want to do the entire process themselves, including skirting, picking, washing, combing, drafting and spinning. Someday I hope to learn more of the steps but for right now I am doing what I can. 

With a little more thought and adjusting the management style, it can be possible to learn sheep care and keep a small number of sheep on a small homestead. If you want to learn more about how we raise fiber animals for our yarn business, read this post. Let me know how you have raised sheep and learned to do sheep care on small farms and homesteads.

Sheep care

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Sheep care on small farms and homesteads



Chicken Gardening for You and Your Flock

chicken gardening for you and your flock

Are you chicken gardening? Chicken gardening means growing foods that can be used to supplement your chicken’s diet. Chicken gardening is slightly different than gardening only for people. Our flock of chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea hens love all sorts of vegetable products and scraps. In the winter months, I ask the local grocer for the trimmings from the produce and then a feast occurs. During the rest of the year, we are able to grow fresh garden produce and herbs for our chickens, ducks and rabbits.

chicken gardening

Beginning in early spring, we plant the cool weather leafy greens such as romaine, kale, spinach, and cabbage. Also, broccoli and cauliflower like cool temps. Getting these plants started before hot weather hits is a must if you want them to survive a hot spell. Greens are one of the favorite treats for our flock and we save every bit that is not consumed by the humans, for the flock. If your property lacks abundant grass, feeding some other leafy greens can add essential vitamins and minerals into your chickens diet. Don’t overdo the greens however. Large amounts of fresh greens can lead to intestinal upset and runny feces. Cucumbers are a refreshing treat for the flock. Placing a large chunk of cabbage into a wire basket and suspending the basket at beak level adds a boredom buster to the flock’s day. 

Herb Gardening for Chickens 

I grow as big an herb garden as I can each year. Starting in the early spring with some seeds and some started plants, I tend the herbs and frequently harvest and disperse to the flocks here on the farm. Since some herbs are tender I grow them in raised beds or container gardens away from the chicken flock. I don’t want them trampled or the roots destroyed by a scratching chicken. 

There are very few herbs that your chickens can’t have as a treat or a health boost. In addition to garlic, pumpkins and dandelions, herbs will do the most good for your flock if fed fresh in small amounts frequently. In addition to herbs, many other plants are safe for chickens to consume. The herbs can be used to make infused oils, salves and teas to help correct health issues in the flock, too. 

Many herbs will lend specific benefits to your flock, marigolds, borage, carrots, and parsley, in particular, will boost egg laying and egg yolk color.

Don’t forget the benefit of growing herbs for the coop environment, too. Not only will the herbs freshen the air, calm the hens, and relax the egg laying mechanism, herbs are great at repelling rodents and insects naturally. I love snipping herbs on the way to the chicken yard. Sprinkle the herbs on the nests, in the feed bowls, and even in the water! An herbal “tea” will add many health benefits to your flock.

Edible Flowers for Chickens 

A great addition to your vegetable garden are edible flowers. Not only are some garden flowers good for insect repellent in the garden but chickens can eat some of the flowers too. Violets, roses, mallow, daisies and sunflowers are good choices for a garden that you share with chickens.

Pumpkins Take Room to Grow, But the Chickens will Love the Treat

Pumpkins are an essential treat on our farm. Last year was a great year for pumpkins and markets in our area were selling pumpkins at the most reasonable price I have seen in years. I supplemented what we grew ourselves, with a huge box of small pumpkins from the farmers market. We had fresh pumpkins to give the chickens up until March. 

Many chicken keepers point to the unproven fact that eating fresh pumpkin seeds will prevent worms in your flock. While pumpkin is a healthy treat, the real story is more complicated. Eating pumpkin seeds may not cure a heavy presence of intestinal worms but feeding pumpkin can help the gut stay healthy and unwelcome to future worms looking to stay. Pumpkins are also high in Beta carotene which helps promote good overall health. Make sure you give your pumpkins plenty of room to roam while they grow and provide well draining soil and almost full sun.

chicken gardening

Cool Treats for Hot Summer Days 

By far the favorite treat we plant is watermelon. Cool and refreshing to humans and flock members alike, nothing beats it on a hot, sultry summer day. I chop the watermelon into large chunks and they dive right in. The ducks will gobble up the sweet melon center all the way down to the thinnest rind. The chickens will eat the entire watermelon, rind and all. So the pieces the ducks leave behind eventually end up in the chicken run for the chickens to finish off. No waste here! If you have leftover cut up melon from a cook out, you can freeze the leftovers to bring out on a super hot day. Water melon Popsicles! It’s a nice way to keep them hydrated during the heat. Watermelons also contain valuable vitamins.

growing watermelon for chickens
chickens eating watermelon

Legumes – Cooked First!

Beans, such as green pole beans or peas are another item to plant in your garden for both humans and chickens and ducks. My ducks particularly love cooked green beans (Feed only cooked or sprouted beans!). Oh the quacking it brings on when I show up with leftover green beans. Tomatoes and corn are also welcome treats. We have trouble keeping the raccoons out of the corn. They seem to know exactly when we are almost ready to pick the corn. The night before that, the raccoons start partying in our corn field.

corn in the garden

Other Chicken Gardening Cautions 

When you are chicken gardening, you may be tempted to throw the entire plant to your chickens. This is not a good idea. The fruit of the tomato plant is an acceptable treat, but the green plant is toxic and can lead to illness in your chickens. Err on the side of caution and only feed the fruit and then compost your plants after garden season is over.

Plants from the nightshade family are toxic. These include potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. The chemical solanine is contained in the plants and green fruit of the plants in the nightshade family. Potato skins are toxic. Some people will cook the skins and feed them to the chickens. I have always erred on the side of caution and not given the potato peels to them, cooked or raw. If I feed the chickens any potatoes at all, it is cooked first and probably left over from our dinner! We love potatoes too! 

Other Potential Problem Veggies 

Eggplants – Again, not a big favorite of my flock, maybe because I just don’t give it to them.

Tomatoes- This is a tough one for me because my chickens have always loved tomatoes. The green tomatoes and the plant itself are potentially hazardous because of the solanine contained in the plant. I try to limit the amount of tomatoes to a few a week mostly because the flock seems to get some digestive upset from over indulging in tomatoes.

Onions have a different chemical in them that can prove to be toxic to chickens. Raw onions and the thiosulphate chemical can lead to anemia if fed to the chickens regularly. I don’t give them onions unless there are some cooked onion in a bit of leftovers from our kitchen.

Peppers- Again, fruit is fine and enjoyed, the plant and any unripened fruit should not be given to the flock. Avocados should be avoided and the leaves from the rhubarb plant are toxic. 

Fruit Trees 

If your chicken gardening efforts include fruit trees, you should know that large amounts of the seeds of apples can cause toxicity and death. The chickens will enjoy some apples for sure but skip the seeds containing naturally occurring cyanide, to be safe.

Many in the chicken raising community feel that it is acceptable to feed all compost items to the chickens. The argument has been that chickens will eat what is ok and stop or avoid foods they shouldn’t eat. In my flock observations, I have not found this to be true. My raptors will eat everything in sight, and they have free choice layer feed, two times a day of free ranging time and occasional treats from the garden and produce aisle. 

Chicken Gardening and Destructive Chickens 

If you do not fence in the garden with some material that keeps the chickens out when you aren’t watching them, you will not have a garden for long. Yes, the chickens will do a fantastic job of eating garden pests, aphids, tomato worms and will help with some weed control. Unfortunately, their ability to know when to stop scratching, and when to stop taste testing every tomato on the vine is limited. When using your flock for true chicken gardening, I suggest supervision!

These are just a few ideas to get you started on your chicken garden. The list of potentially toxic plants is not complete but is based on the more common garden grown produce. There are plenty of sources available on chicken gardening. Here are a few more references to help you get started.

chicken gardening

Other Suggested Resources on this topic:

What Herbs Keep Chickens Healthy

keeping chickens book cover



Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

Add A Place for Eggs

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest. Be careful to secure the nest box somehow. Nest boxes that are lightweight can tip over, trapping a chicken underneath. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Coop Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. While all of that is fun, your flock will not feel less important if you don’t totally pinterest up the coop. (did you know pinterest could be a verb?) I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget




Why Keep the Rooster with Your Flock?

Why would you keep the rooster? The general feeling from most chicken keepers seems to be just the opposite. Rightly so in the case of neighborhood rules, or possibly having small children around. But in many cases, if you keep the rooster, your flock will benefit from a good leader.

When you picked up your chicks this year, the little fluffy balls of fun were so cute! No doubt one was your favorite. Now that the chicks are reaching 10 to 12 weeks of age, you have begun to notice something a little different about your favorite chick. It may be slightly bigger, stand a little taller, have bigger feet and it may be growing a slightly more noticeable comb or wattles. You may have a rooster! But will you keep the rooster?

Sexing Chicks is Rarely 100% Correct

Before you get upset and jump to possibilities and options, lets explore some reasons why you might want to keep the rooster. If you can legally keep the rooster in your neighborhood or town, there are some good reasons to have one around. You may have heard that a rooster is mean, ornery, and dangerous. These reasons can be true but they are not always the case. (Read more about Cranky Roosters in this post.)  I am not advocating keeping an overly aggressive rooster.

I find the roosters are a great addition to our flock. We currently have fourteen roosters. Before you make a move to have my sanity checked, let me tell you that they are not all staying! But we do keep quite a few throughout our six flocks. They work hard every day, keeping the hens safe. Let me explain a few reasons that I am glad we keep the rooster.

The Rooster as a Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper – The rooster in a flock is in charge. He will assume this role and do what he has to do to maintain his position. Other roosters may be able to be part of the flock, too, as long as they don’t challenge him. In addition, the rooster will keep the hens from squabbling among themselves. In the absence of a rooster, a hen will often take the role of flock leader.

keep the rooster

Keep the Rooster for Flock Protection

Protection – Roosters are on alert most of the day, watching for predators, alerting the hens, and making sure they take cover. While the hens are dust bathing or eating, the rooster will stand guard and stay alert to possible danger. When a hawk or some other predator is spotted, the rooster will sound the alarm. He is calling the hens back to safety. If they free range, this might be a bush to hide under, or the nearby coop. In our case, with multiple roosters, the alarm is picked up and the other roosters begin to gather their hens too. It’s quite amazing to witness.

The Rooster will Provide

Providing – The rooster will search out tasty food bits and call the hens over to enjoy the snack. He makes sure that his hens get started eating first in the morning and then he begins to eat too. In addition, roosters provide the necessary actions for having fertile eggs, in case you want to hatch out eggs in an incubator or let a broody hen set on a clutch of eggs.

Keep the Rooster

The Crowing?

Crowing–  Now I am sure you are wondering how I can put a positive light on this noisy ear splitting wake up call. First, roosters don’t necessarily start crowing before  dawn. Ours will often stay quiet until they hear me in the feed shed, dishing up breakfast. Roosters crow to warn other roosters to stay away. They also crow to celebrate, such as when breakfast arrives, after mating, or to show pecking order. In addition, they will crow to let the hens know the location of the flock, when it’s time to head back to the coop at night and various other reasons. But the best reason for flock security would be the crowing to warn of an approaching visitor.

keep the rooster

While you may decide to re -home your cockerel and just keep the pullets, I am very glad I kept one particular oops rooster. Even though I ordered all pullets, we received a rooster in the bunch. He is a white rock cockerel who we named King.

I see benefits and uses when you keep the rooster. Let me know how your surprise roosters turn out.




Water Glassing Fresh Egg Storage

Spring brings on the egg laying which can quickly lead to an abundance of fresh farm eggs. What methods work for fresh egg storage? One method called water glassing has been around since pioneer days and probably earlier. Is this method of fresh egg storage safe? Let me share with you what one of my friends learned using this method. Barbara Whitford Fox wrote the following guest post for this site. Barbara and her husband farm in Utah and she can be messaged through Facebook or Instagram.

fresh egg storage using the water glass method

Guest post by Barbara Whitford Fox

During the late fall and winter, our chickens don’t produce quite as many eggs as we would like. One of the things I love about the homesteading lifestyle is the self sufficiency. It bothers me when I have to buy eggs. Food preservation is a key aspect of homesteading and self sufficiency. I began to look at different ways to preserve eggs. Freezing eggs individually is one method. Dehydrating cooked eggs is another but the amount of work seemed daunting to me. Pickled eggs are also good but not for everyday. None of these methods gave me the fresh egg satisfaction that I was seeking.

Water Glassing for Fresh Egg Storage

In my research I learned about a way to preserve fresh eggs. There are numerous ways to get longer storage of fresh eggs. This method uses no electricity and no fancy equipment. The water glassing method was used in the 1800’s. Deciding I had only the risk of it not working and ending up with rotten eggs, I set up my experiment.

The following describes the method I used for water glassing fresh eggs storage. Here are the items you will need.

  • three gallon food safe plastic bucket with a lid
  • pickling lime-https://amzn.to/3mZAzxS (calcium hydroxide) often found where canning supplies are sold Other names may include slaked lime or hydrated lime.
  • clean water. If your water is high in iron or other mineral content, you may want to purchase distilled water.
  • scale for measuring the lime. (8 ounces of lime by weight for each quart of water)
  • eggs! 7 or 8 dozen will fit in the bucket but you can preserve the amount you choose. Do not wash the eggs. Use eggs clean of dirt.
 white food grade three gallon bucket

The bucket can be found in the paint department of home improvement or hardware stores. A large crock can also be used for water glassing fresh egg storage, but the crock will be heavy once filled.

Using the clean water, and weighed lime, stir to mix the two together and dissolve the lime. Some people suggested boiling the water before adding to the lime for easier dissolving. I used cold water and the lime never fully dissolved. Next time I will boil the water first. Cool the water to room temperature.

Collecting the Eggs to Preserve

You will want to use fresh eggs that you collected recently. (Within the past few days) Do not wash the eggs as that will allow the lime to seep into the eggs. Washing the eggs will remove the bloom on the egg that is added as the egg is laid. It protects the egg from bacteria. For this reason, do not use store purchased eggs for water glassing!

fresh egg storage

Start adding eggs to the bucket of lime water. As you add eggs, try putting them in pointy side down. When you add more eggs it’s easier to get them to stay that way! I ended up with about 80 eggs in a 3 gallon bucket. Honestly, I lost track of how many but this is a close estimate.

Did it Work as a Method of Fresh Egg Storage?

I began the experiment at the beginning of September. I left the eggs at room temperature until the middle of February. It was time to try the eggs. Did this fresh egg storage method work?

fresh egg storage water glass method of egg storage

First, I broke a fresh egg from that day’s collection into a glass bowl. Taking a second glass bowl, I broke a water glassed egg into it. Side by side the eggs were identical. Both eggs smelled exactly the same. Now it was time for a taste test! The water glassed egg was dropped into the frying pan and a little salt and pepper added, just as I do with our fresh eggs. I took a bite. Amazing! It tasted just like the fresh eggs we had for breakfast that morning. Six months in the water glassing solution and the eggs are as fresh as they can be. I am super excited to have found and tested this method.

Fresh egg storage

What You Need to Know…..

A few things you should know when you have your own water glassed eggs.

  • If you are going to hard boil the water glassed eggs, first do a pin prick through the shell. After sitting in the water glassing solution, the egg shells are no longer porous, and will quickly pop when you start to boil or steam the eggs.
  • Rinse the water glass preserved eggs well before use. The lime water will cause the eggs to curdle if it drips into the bowl of fresh egg.
  • The eggs will feel very smooth when removed from the solution.
  • Store the bucket or crock in a cool area of the house, out of direct sunlight. This is true of any preserved food.

The water glassing method is said to preserve fresh eggs storage for up to two years. I am not sure I want to do that. For our family, keeping the eggs fresh for six to eight months is plenty of time.

Editor note: The recommendation is to store and use the eggs within the same year. Older water glass preserved eggs can start to rot.

fresh eggs in bowls

A Word About Using Lime

It isn’t expensive. If you’ve found yourself with quite a bit of lime left over after this process, you can use the lime in the creation of other pickled items. Although pickled eggs do not call for the use of pickling lime, here’s a tasty recipe for pickled eggs should you want more than one fresh egg storage idea.

If you are looking for a lime product specifically made and safe for chickens and livestock, look for First Saturday Lime.

I love the connection to the past that this method brings. I was talking to my father who is 84 years old. He remembers going into the pantry when he was young and getting eggs out of a big bucket of water. Of course he had no idea at the time that it was lime water. This was just how they preserved eggs on the farm. I love that we can use this method and bring back some of the old ways to our homestead.