year, we had to buy
hatching eggs, so I
wasn’t able to be choosy.
But now that I’m saving my own, it’s much easier to select the
best eggs to go in the incubator.
You should have already
thought about the parent birds before you start gathering eggs.
Remember, eggs from hens more than two years old don’t hatch well, nor
do eggs from pullets who are just starting to lay. Of course, you
have to keep one rooster for every twelve hens, and both parents should
be in prime health, having been allowed to eat fresh greenery and
invertebrates for at least a couple of weeks. The graph below
shows how hatch rate varies due to time of year, but keep in mind that
you can get much better hatch rates than this.
I collect eggs at least twice
a day when saving them for hatching, and refresh nest box straw before
I start so that eggs are less likely to get dirty. After
collecting eggs, I set them pointed side down in a tilted egg carton,
and swap the egg carton’s orientation twice a day so that the yolks
don’t stick to the shell. Each time I add an egg, I pencil a
number on the blunt side of the shell and note down the date on my
Once I’ve saved up
enough eggs to fill my incubator plus some, it’s time to discard eggs
that are less likely to hatch. First step is to look at the size
and remove abnormally large or small eggs. Some chicken breeds
naturally lay larger or smaller eggs, which is fine — you’re trying
to take out eggs that are bigger or littler than that breed normally
Next I discard porous
eggs. Once you get an eye for it, you can tell that the shell of
an egg is a bit thin by noticing very slight grey blotches scattered
across its surface. If in doubt, hold an egg up to a bright light
— good eggs will be a solid color while porous eggs will be blotchy.
Finally, it’s time to
remove dirty eggs. If you’re gathering eggs during mud season the
way I was, a lot of the shells may have small smears of dirt. In
a perfect world, you’d only incubate pristine eggs, but a bit of mud
isn’t nearly as problematic as manure. (Do remove any
manure-tainted eggs from the incubator.) You can gently sand off
mud, wash the eggs with a special egg wash solution, or ignore the
problem. Whatever you do, don’t wash eggs in plain water since
you’ll remove the protective bloom from the surface and make the embryo
inside less likely to survive.
I gathered 23 eggs over the
course of seven days, but ended up deciding that seven were too small,
too porous, or too dirty to add to the incubator. Even though the
discard eggs have been sitting out for a week, they’re still fine to
eat — mine went into a butternut
squash pie. I
figure another day or two will fill my incubator tray and get me ready
for an early March hatch.
it never drowns day old chicks and keeps the bedding clean and dry.