Egg Selection

If you have chickens outside, egg selection will be quite simple. Choose eggs from mature hens. (I don’t recommend hatching pullet eggs. It can work, but it doesn’t always.) The hens must have access to a rooster, or vice versa. A good ratio to ensure fertile eggs is 1 rooster to about 7 hens, give or take.  Select the best looking eggs, and the cleanest. Never wash the eggs, as they are porous, and washing can force bacteria inside the egg which will kill the embryo, and possibly cause the egg to explode.

If you don’t have eggs to hatch, you’ll need to buy some. I have bought from many sources. Locally, through Craigslist, BackyardChickens.com, and Ebay. I sort of prefer Ebay. Backyard Chickens is a great site, but some of the eggs are quite expensive. They are typically from enthusiasts specializing in certain breeds. If this is what you’re after, then by all means do it! Ebay sells run of the mill chicken eggs. And the feedback system makes it much safer to purchase from the sellers.

There are many breeds to choose from, its an individual choice. Once you decide what you want, check the seller’s feedback. Steer clear of too many negatives from broken eggs and delayed shipping. I don’t pay much attention to negatives due to low hatches or claims of unfertilized eggs. Make sure the seller does not wash the eggs under any circumstances. If you get some with a little poop, no big deal. Don’t even mess with trying to pick it off, you’ll probably just break the egg.

If your eggs come on time and in one piece, leave the seller positive feedback. That’s what you bid on. It won’t be their fault if your eggs don’t hatch more than likely.

Egg Storage

Once you receive your eggs in the mail, there is an important step to take. Don’t skip it, it will affect your hatch rate considerably. Take the eggs out and carefully put them in an egg carton POINTY SIDE DOWN.

Pointy side down, this is how the egg will go into the carton.

Pointy side down, this is how the egg will go into the carton.

It may take a little practice to tell which end is which, and sometimes there really are rounded eggs that you just have to give it your best guess. Store the eggs like this for 24 hours. The purpose of this is to allow the air sac time to rise back into place at the fullest part of the egg in case it was disturbed during shipping. The air sac doesn’t come into play until really the last 24 hours the chick is in the egg, and it would really stink to get that far only to have the chick suffocate in the shell because the air sac was in the wrong place.

During these 24 hours, keep the eggs in a cool spot, approximately 50-60 degrees. I put them on top of my freezer in my basement.

Eggs waiting to be incubated.

Eggs waiting to be incubated.

By the way, the eggs can be stored for longer than 24 hours before you begin your hatch. If you choose to wait, simply prop up one end of the carton on one side one day, then switch to the other the next day. Repeat until you’re ready to hatch. This is simply turning the eggs to keep them viable while waiting, replicating mama hen in nature. She lays only one egg per day, for about 2-3 weeks before she actually begins to incubate. After this time period, hatchability declines.

In my next post, I will discuss “setting” the eggs, record keeping, and how long it will take for each phase of incubation. If you have any questions please ask!

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