Storing Eggs in the Old Days

newly laid egg in straw

John Parris A Good Way to Store Eggs – Jonathans Creek

“A hornets’ nest,” Mrs. Tiltha Messer said, “Makes the finest place in the world to store hen eggs in the wintertime. Keeps ’em from frezzin’.”

She sat in a rocking chair in the shade of the porch and talked of the old ways and the old days when folks back in the hills and coves had to use their wits to get along.

“When I was comin’ on,” she said, “the only way we had to keep our eggs from freezin’ when hard cold came was a hornets’ nest. Back then houses were hard to heat. Just a fireplace and a cookstove for warmth. And the cold would seep through the cracks in the logs and under the doors. It was hard to keep things from freezin’ and ruinin’. The biggest thing we had to contend with was the eggs freezin’. And that’s where hornets nests come in. We’d go out and get these big old hornets’ nests and bring ’em in and put our eggs in ’em.”

“We didn’t get many eggs durin’ the wintertime, and we’d always have to store up enough for our Christmas bakin’. We’d start puttin’ eggs in there two or three weeks before Christmas. Didn’t matter how cold it got, they wouldn’t freeze.”


How blessed I am to never have to worry about my eggs freezing.

Pap told me a few of the houses they lived in when he was a small boy only had a fireplace for heat and for cooking. He said those days surely made a body dread cold weather.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Lisa Pyles
    October 12, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Okay, so during the summer, there were hornets in the nest. Did they leave or was the nest full of dead hornets? Where did the hornets go ? If they died out, was there ever a problem with one (or more) of the “dead” hornets not being dead?

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    October 21, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    I remember when we got power in 1957. we went from a kerosene lamp to a 25 watt bulb. that was bright back then but now we think we have to have 5 – 6 bulbs on now days just to see.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    I’m amazed that even an insulating hornet nest would keep eggs from freezing in winter! Gosh. I hope someone tries it. I hope it isn’t me! Awful curious though 🙂
    I remember years ago when I first had hens and a surplus of eggs, reading about storing eggs in “water glass” – have you heard about that method? I never tried it, but I have frozen eggs without their shells, cracking them into little muffin tins or such, and freezing them solid then popping them out and storing them in a container so I could take out 2 at a time or however many I wanted for baking. I don’t recall if I ever cooked them as “just eggs” for breakfast, but I know they worked fine for baking. My two hens are giving me two beautiful eggs every day now, but with the power off to the barn for almost a week now, I’m afraid the short days may make them stop – I had been leaving a lamp on for them for a couple of hours after dark. I hope the power company cuts the tree off my line soon!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 21, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I always knew about Hornet Nests being insulated good, but we never thought about storing eggs in them.

    One time before I started to school, Daddy made me and Harold a bow-and-arrow a piece. I had just got a capbuster with real caps and holster and all, I thought I was really a Cowboy. Harold was the Indian. He hid behind a rockpile and got some weeds and sharpened them. I had good eyes back then, and I spotted him hiding behind some rocks. I was out in the open, and I shot at him with my capbuster. He acted like he was hit, but shot the arrow as he was fallin’. That blooming arrow got me right between the Blinkers. Mama was in the kitchen and saw what had happened and came running. She put some Mercurochrome on it, because it didn’t burn anyway, and I was alright in a few days. I recon the Good Lord looks after His youngin’s. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 21, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Daddy raised hatching eggs. They were fertile so not only could they not freeze but even a chill would render them useless for hatching. And they were subject to overheating as well. Daddy built a room back into the side of the mountain that had rock walls, a dirt floor and a tin roof with 6 inches of sawdust between the joists. A little branch ran right in front with a bridge across it. Inside it stayed cool in there year round no matter the temperature outside. About 45°. No fans. No coils. No electricity at all but for a single light bulb.

    Even after Daddy “went out of the chicken business” that Egg Room served us well. It became a root cellar and can house. Canned foods kept well in the cool darkness. Potatoes and onions lasted up into spring if we didn’t eat them up first.

    Another benefit of the “egg room” was as a shelter from the weather. It always felt warm in the winter and cool in the summer. During a storm you could duck in there and feel as snug as a babe in arms. Snow storm, wind storm, thunder and lightning, it didn’t matter, you were safe.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2019 at 9:38 am

    How interesting to know this. Not that I ever plan to attempt storing eggs in that way, but always good to know any information. Some of the old ways of staying warm or storing food were mentioned to me by my Mother. She said her Dad turned cabbage upside down in the dirt leaving just the stub to pull it out from the dirt. Grandpa had lots of free range chickens, and we children could find eggs weeks later that were still fresh. Fourth of July was my favorite holiday at Grandpa’s, as their place crawling with kids and grandkids. Some brought ice cream on dry ice, and watermelons to place in the cool mountain spring nearby. We children enjoyed dropping metal on the dry ice when they were finished with it.
    Dad grew up in a large two story house with only fireplaces and a wood cookstove for heat. He always complained that fireplaces lost more heat than they gained. Mom said with so many children, they could stay snug by snuggling to sisters and having quilts so heavy it was difficult to lift them. They would spring to the warm kitchen each morning, because there was no heat in their bedrooms. I cannot imagine, but it certainly did them no harm, as they all grew up to be hardworking honest people. They seemed to also be blessed with longevity.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2019 at 9:36 am

    The Kentucky Explorer ran a story this month in their “I Remember” section that mentioned eggs. The writer said they used to take an egg to the store and trade it to a bottle of pop. Both items sold for about five cents each at that time. An egg hasn’t gone up in price the way a bottle of pop has during the past 40-50 years.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 21, 2019 at 9:12 am

    How lucky we are today. I don’t know if we could survive the harshness of some winters in the way our forefathers did. Such strong folks. It seems like now all folks do is complain.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    October 21, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Nope,never heard of that. The only thing I ever used a hornet’s nest for was in a muzzleloader shotgun.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 21, 2019 at 8:09 am

    What a smart idea! I had never heard of that but it makes perfect sense that hornet nests are good insulation. They are essentially many layers of paper with air space in between.

    And I remember the old cold uninsulated houses. Folks would paper their walls to stop the drafts but the paper would billow out when the wind blew. The warm spots were right around the fire or the stove. At my Grandma’s hiuse we always dreaded the dash into the back rooms to go to bed.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    October 21, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Your post this morning was a good one, Tipper…..Your reminder of what a blessing it is not to worry about eggs freezing sure applies to every part of our lives….It made my heart feel gladder!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 21, 2019 at 7:27 am

    My Dad was raised in a large two story house with no insulation and a fireplace as the only heat source, any times he told of how he hated fireplaces since he said even though you stood so close to the fireplace to almost blister your face your back would still be freezing.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 21, 2019 at 7:27 am

    Interesting….brings back memories of our ‘tater hill.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 21, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Never thought about the eggs, Indeed, life was not easy then even though it was a lot simpler. They didn’t even have to charge their phone! My family used a spring house in summer to keep milk from spoiling.

  • Leave a Reply