The most important thing to remember about fertile eggs meant for hatching
is that they’re living things — they must be handled gently and kept at the
right temperature or they’ll die. Don’t shake them or toss them around — if
you do, you may kill the embryo.
Don’t wash fertile eggs intended for hatching!Washed eggs are far less likely
to hatch than unwashed eggs, and the unhatched, washed eggs may also affect
the hatching of eggs around them.
When you wash eggs, you remove the protective coating that the egg gets as
it leaves the hen, and the egg’s pores often draw in bacteria. The warmth of
incubation turns the contaminated egg into a factory for bacteria reproduction,
often killing the embryo and spreading to nearby eggs
The fertilized egg starts dividing to become an embryo as it travels down
the oviduct on its journey out of the hen. When it’s laid and cools below her
body temperature, it goes into a state of suspended growth until conditions
are right again. Eggs being stored for hatching should be stored at temperatures
between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If the egg temperature drops
below 45 degrees for very long, the embryo will probably die; if it goes above
65 degrees, it may start to grow.
Growth at less than optimum temperatures makes weak chicks that seldom
survive the whole incubation period and can cause deformities in those
chicks that do survive. In cold or very warm weather, eggs should be collected
from your hens for hatching as soon after they’re laid as possible and
then moved to the right conditions. If you’re collecting your own eggs, you
may need to put them in a cool basement or even in the bottom vegetable
drawer of your refrigerator to suspend growth.
Store eggs for hatching with the small end down. An egg carton is good for
this purpose. Eggs can be stored for about a week without much drop in vitality,
but after a week of storage, the percentage of eggs that will hatch drops
sharply. After two weeks of storage, few eggs will hatch.
Eggs that are being stored for incubation should be rotated from side to side
twice a day. This keeps the early embryo from sticking to the shell in a bad
If you’re getting eggs from anywhere but your own hens, have your incubator
set up and ready to put them in as soon as you receive them. If you’re collecting
eggs from your hens, store eggs until you have about a week’s worth;
then set up the incubator and put them into the incubator all at once. Using
a pencil or nontoxic marker, mark the eggs with the date you set them. If
you’re going to be hand turning the eggs, put an x on one side so you know
which eggs have been turned.
It’s best not to have several different hatch dates in the same incubator unless
you have a cabinet incubator with multiple shelves or drawers. Eggs at different
stages of incubation require slightly different care.