Fortunately she has come back to us and is laying in her usual spot. RJ actually found the first egg in the middle of the yard and after that she has been consistent with 1 - 2 per day in her nesting box.
Usually I just collect them daily, date them, and place them in the container in the fridge. However, I got to thinking that maybe I should be a little more careful when cleaning the eggs. So, I did a little research.
I went to a few sites and was relieved to find that I am doing everything correctly, but if I want to be a little safer I can make sure to follow these guidelines.
1. Make sure that nesting boxes are clean and that there are enough of them to go around. Usually 1 box per 2 chickens is sufficient.
2. Collect eggs daily. If you have a bunch of chickens laying make sure that you collect in the morning and then again in the late afternoon or evening.
3. If you notice any broken eggs make sure that you clean them up ASAP and place clean bedding in the box. Chickens apparently will eat their own eggs and once they figure out they can will purposefully break them.
4. If any of the eggs are dirty you really only need to wipe them off with a clean dry cloth. The surface of an egg is porous and using harsh cleansers will only absorb into the egg.
5. If there is a lot of junk on the shell of the egg, you need to clean your nesting boxes, you need to collect the eggs more often, you may need more nesting boxes, and you will need to do more than just wipe down the shell. To clean a super dirty egg make sure that you use water that is warmer than the egg, it was recommended that it be 20 degrees warmer, and gently rub the area with a soft cloth or sponge. The warm water ensures that the egg shell does not contract (what happens if you use cold water) and draw bacteria into the egg. Warm water will allow the pores of the shell to expand keeping bacteria on the outside.
6. Make sure that your eggs are dry before placing in a bin for storage and I always write the date on each egg.
7. Eggs keep for a fairly long time. They are a perfect little package if you think about it. The food inside is never exposed to air or bacteria until the moment that you open it to prepare. If you keep eggs at a consistent temperature they will be good for about eight and a half weeks. Crazy, right? Think about it though, often farmers will have the eggs for while before they are sent to the market. If you want to test an egg before cracking it, place it in a cup of water. If the egg sinks it is good and if it floats at all then you should probably just get rid of it since it has begun to take in air.
So, I have been doing everything right, my mind can rest easily. The only new fact that I learned was how long eggs will actually keep. I definitely have kept some for 6 weeks and they have been fine, but in the back of my head I always wondered.