Every spring, I start thinking about the farmyard flock and what we need from our poultry for the year. Because we raise heritage birds for meat, spring is the season to collect eggs for hatching!
It doesn’t matter if we’re letting our hens do their own thing, or if we’re relying on an incubator. We still collect and hold the eggs until it’s time to begin the incubation process. This way, all our birds conveniently hatch in a 2-3 day window.
Because I’m in the throes of the season and because you might be interested in trying it yourself one day, I thought I’d tell you all about it! Here’s how you collect eggs for hatching!
#1: Choose and Set Aside Clean Eggs
Clean eggs are the nicest to work with. Before you start collecting eggs for incubation purposes, it’s a good idea to clean out the bird house, placing fresh litter on the floor and in the nesting boxes.
It’s not just for ease of handling. Excessive mud or manure will clog the pores of an egg’s shell. This is problem, because the pores supply oxygen to the baby bird as it develops. Open pores are also necessary for the release of carbon dioxide and moisture during the incubation process.
So choose clean eggs if at all possible!
#2: Dry Brush Dirty Eggs
It can be difficult to keep some bird’s eggs clean. Waterfowl are usually the worst! Regardless of how dirty the eggs are, you should never wash them with water! If you do, you’ll remove the bloom, which is part of the shell’s natural defense barrier. Once this is removed, bacteria can more easily enter the shell and destroy the egg’s chance of hatching.
If you have a dirty egg, try to rub it semi-clean with a dry cloth. If it just won’t clean up, wash and eat it for breakfast instead!
#3: How to Store Your Egg Collection
I always store my eggs in cardboard cartons. All the experts say to store hatching eggs with the little end down. There are numerous reasons for this, an important one being so that the air sack (naturally found in the large end) doesn’t rupture!
Did you know that once a baby bird develops lungs, it uses the oxygen found in that sack? Handle your eggs gently and always store them with the large side, up!
#4: Proper Storage Temperatures
Whatever you do, don’t refrigerate your eggs! Cold temperatures can kill the embryo inside. Instead, store them in a semi-cool place, around 50F. A basement room, your garage or even a cool place in the barn is ideal.
#5: Don’t Wait Too Long Before Incubating
It’s recommended that you (or a hen) begin the incubation process within 12 days of collecting the first egg. You can keep them for longer, but the hatch-ability rate begins to drop after this.
I try to start the process no later than 14 days after the first egg is collected. Just my preference!
That’s how you collect eggs for hatching! The process is simple, but it’s well worth your time and effort. Most poultry eggs take at least 21 days to hatch. That’s a long time to monitor an incubator, for a hen to sit on the nest. Don’t waste your time (or hers!), but do your part and you’ll soon have fluffy little birdlets to show for it!