Egg Holders

Tillie Lays an Egg gave me an excuse to buy more vintage chicken items than anyone should ever collect. Most of the items came from ebay. I’d never have been able to accumulate all of the board games seen in the bedroom tableau, or many of the other props used in the book, without that on-line marketplace. But, I also go to flea markets where I find things that I don’t even know I’m looking for.

Last week was Brimfield, one of the biggest and best flea markets in the country. It’s exhausting, but the miles that I walk up and down the aisles always pay off. This year, what I saw made me think about egg holders and how eggs used to be handled and how precious they were. There were plenty of egg baskets at Brimfield. I already have a number, and didn’t purchase a one.

There are large baskets for the commercial farms, and smaller ones for backyard chicken keepers. They are utilitarian and beautiful.

Cardboard egg cartons are a comparatively recent invention. (If you can believe it, I don’t collect them, even though the graphics can be wonderful.) In fact, it wasn’t until the 1930’s that eggs were regularly sorted and packaged in dozens. Nor were eggs refrigerated. They were kept in holders on the counter, or on the kitchen wall. A friend has a metal rack, so I knew such things existed, but it took me two years of searching on ebay to find this one.

I brought this wire rack with me to the Martha Stewart Show. A producer scooped it up and put it front and center for the cooking segment. It got more air time than me! It is special.

Eggs were shipped in wooden crates. There’s always a lot of such boxes at flea markets. More unusual is this egg holder, obviously homemade, with springy wires to hold the eggs safely and gently. I enjoyed looking at it, but didn’t buy it.

Here is my big find at Brimfield. I’ve never seen one of these before.

It’s an egg cabinet with it’s original key. Was this in a store? In a home? Who would lock their eggs up? Do you know?


  1. Hi Terry, This gives me such great ideas for school. I work in a K-2 building and every year the kindergarten hatches eggs. I can hear chicks chirping as I am typing this!! I am going to share your Hencam and read Tilly Lays an Egg. I have an egg basket at home and a bunny eggholder.I think I will bring them in and share them with the students. I really love your site and I check your blog everyday.Thanks for keeping all of us informed! Ann

  2. Hi Terry, those are really cool egg holders, I was wondering how are the hens with lice doing? And how is your little goat with the chipped knee doing also? I so enjoy this website, i learned about it when you were on Martha Stewart. I eventually want to get hens and have my own fresh eggs, but i want to do more learning before i start that endeaver. I have two pet cows, and that is a little weird huh! but i love them, and i have two boy dogs, one with diabetes and is on insulin twice a day, so i don’t go alot. And one rescue cat a girl. that is my life. So your life is very appealing to me. Take care

    • Two pet cows? Tell me more – what breed? To answer your questions:
      Caper is limping, but it does NOT affect his appetite, so I’m not worried.
      The lice is back in check and all of the girls are doing fine.

  3. I wondered about the egg holder on Martha- I fell in love with it!
    Just saw your post on Purple Podded Peas- had to laugh because I just painted my nails with sherbert orange polish and had the same reaction from the hens…I was hoping maybe they could tell the difference-HA!

      • my girl cow is a free martin, which means she was born sterile. she was a twin and lot of the time twins are sterile. she is your basic holstein, when she was a baby she would forget how to suck on her milk bottle and my vet had to keep coming to give her a shot. or she would get the milk in her lungs and get pneumonia. My boy (steer) is a red angus. I would like to someday get a miniature cow.

  4. I would imagine if you had cats or raccoons that could get into the kitchen, you’d want to shut your eggs away, but the only reason I can think of for the lock is untrustworthy hired hands.

  5. maybe they were extra special and they only used those eggs for special guests! Ones they wanted to impress I think! Its beautiful!

  6. We see a lot of those little ‘egg safe’ cupboards over here. I always assumed it was light-fingered servants that people were worried about, in the same way as locking up your tea in a caddy!

  7. I love that cabinet! Did you buy it? I want one. I have a shaker pie cabinet and several other small cupboards. I love the character of the wood. I can’t believe that one still has the key.

  8. Terry! You need to take that to the Antique Roadshow! I have NEVER seen anything like it and it is quite beautiful! And it has the key? That is amazing! What a find! But you are right….why would you lock your eggs? I tend to go with the hired help theory.

  9. Alas- I didn’t buy it. The price tag was $250 and I’d already spent more than that on something else (which I won’t say, but will fill you all in later at some point!) My British readers need to chime in and tell me whether I missed a bargain, or whether I need to go to England and go antiquing and find another at a reduced price (let’s not figure in the cost of air fare, shall we?)

    • They tend to be about £50 over here and there are many new reproductions with chicken-wire doors for under £20. Yours is a very fancy one though!

  10. It might be a cabinet from a plantation…north or south, plantation owners locked everything from the wine cabinet to the smoke shed…only trusted servants and house slaves had keys.