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How to Choose the Best Chicken Eggs to Hatch

Do you have a chicken coop and are anxiously awaiting the new arrival of your tiny, feathered friends? Wondering why those eggs your hens have been nesting on haven’t hatched yet? Considering using an incubator? Stick around to find out How to Choose the Best Chicken Eggs to Hatch.

If you are taking egg hatching seriously then investing in an incubator is the way to go. They allow consistent conditions and give you the best overall control. Now before you throw in any old egg, there are a few things that you need to consider.

How to Choose the Best Chicken Eggs to Hatch | Choosing the right fertile eggs to incubate

This is perhaps the most important step in the whole process and yet is often neglected. Choosing poor-quality eggs can result in low hatch rates and weakened chicks, so you need to make sure you are choosing high-quality eggs from the start.

So how can you tell if an egg is of high quality? There are a few rules to follow.

  • First, choose picture-perfect eggs. Ones that are 1.4 times longer than they are wide. Avoid eggs with blemishes, uneven, crinkled, porous, or fragile surfaces, or eggs with cracks. They need to be the correct colour for that breed and the correct sizing. Not too big and not too small, just right.
  • Make sure the eggs you choose are clean. As the embryo inside requires air which is transferred through the pores of the shell. If the shell is dirty, the air is unable to seep in, resulting in unsuccessful hatching. And the bacteria can prove harmful to a growing embryo. Make sure you keep a tidy nest, and frequently maintain it, to ensure clean eggs. While you can clean the eggs yourself, it’s best to have them clean from the start. As washing eggs can remove what is called the ‘bloom’ which is a protective coating on the outside surface of the shell that protects against bacteria and helps to retain moisture.
  • Age can play a major factor. How old are the eggs you are trying to incubate? The earlier you incubate the better. Any longer than seven days after laying and the success of fertility and hatching decrease dramatically, it’s not impossible, there’s just a lower chance for success.
  • Avoid choosing eggs from nests that take on a lot of sun, as the heat can potentially jeopardize the embryo.
  • Avoid double-yolkers because they will not develop properly.
  • Make sure your laying hens are healthy and free of health issues and disease and are of good laying age.

There are different kinds of incubators and they require different handling, as can be seen below:

  • Manual Incubators require all egg turning to be done by hand. The eggs need to be individually picked up from the incubator, turned by hand, and placed back inside the machine.
  • Semi-Automatic Incubators again require egg turning to be done by hand. However, Semi-automatic incubators allow all the eggs to be turned at once, saving you time. To turn all the eggs at once, a semi-automatic incubator will use an external push/pull rod to move the incubator floor; or, the machine will have a specially shaped base that allows the incubator to be tipped from one side to the other, thus gravity will change the position of the fluid inside the egg.
  • Fully automatic incubators feature fully automated egg turning. Once the machine is set up, egg turning is achieved automatically via a cradle to rock the incubator or a moving floor. Some fully automatic incubators, such as the River Egg Tech Automatic Incubator (pictured above) include a motorised egg tray that slowly tips the eggs from side to side.

When setting up your incubator, use only clean sterilised equipment, and use the egg candling method to check for any abnormalities.

Candling will reveal all kinds of problems that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise, including hairline fractures, missing yolks, and infections.

There are many ways to candle an egg if you don’t have the proper equipment including using the torch on your mobile phone. If you are taking your incubating seriously though we recommend getting a candling kit, which contains a strong lamp light.

This is a great way to keep an eye on the developing process and see the different stages of embryo growth.

Feel free to check it every day if it interests you, just not during the last 3 days before it hatches as you don’t want to disturb the humidity levels. Remember to not keep the egg out of the incubator for more than 30 minutes in a row. The less time away from the incubator the better.

The hatching cycle is approximately 21 days. From day 3 onwards you might be able to see the embryo start to form.

Only incubate eggs of the same species at the same time. Any chickens are fine but not ducks and chickens as they have different incubation periods and required humidity levels. A more in-depth breakdown by subspecies can be found below:
  • Bantams: 18 Days
  • Standard Fowl: 21 Days
  • Ducks ( Indian Runners etc): 28 Days
  • Ducks ( Muscovy): 35 Days
  • Geese: 28 – 35 days

Eggs can be up to 21 days old and still viable to incubate, but the hatching success drops significantly after 7 days. If storing eggs prior to incubation, store in an egg carton and invert the carton daily to improve viability.

How to Choose the Best Chicken Eggs to Hatch | How to tell if the egg is a dud during the incubation process.

By using the candling technique, you will be able to tell.

  • If the egg is still clear after 10 days in the incubator.
  • Little to no vein development.
  • An obvious blood spot with no further development, after several days.
  • A blood ring where the embryo has died after it started to develop.
  • If there is little to no development in comparison to the rest of your eggs. Some may be late developers so be patient.

Dud eggs must be removed from the incubator because they risk exploding and contaminating the rest of your eggs, remove them by day 10-14 if you are sure they are duds.


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