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Culling and Caring for Eggs

Prior to Incubation

Keeping a male with a laying hen does not guarantee the hen's eggs are fertile or will hatch. Culling fertile eggs prior to setting them in an incubator can increase the number of eggs that will hatch. Fertile eggs from a commercial hatchery are usually already sorted; however, it is usually wise to check your eggs before setting them. Cracked eggs, thin-shelled such as body-checks, and double-yolked eggs hatch very poorly. These eggs should be removed before incubating.

Proper care of fertile eggs prior to incubation is essential for success. The eggs should be collected within 4 hours from when they were laid. Never wash the eggs unless absolutely necessary. Then use water warmer than the egg so the egg sweats and releases the dirt. If you use cold water, the egg will contract and pull the dirt and bacteria deeper into its pores.

If it is necessary to store fertile eggs before setting, store small-end down at a temperature of 50°F to 65°F. Cell division can begin if temperatures exceed 82°F. Refrigerators can be used to store eggs only if room temperatures exceed 80°F. Modern frost-free refrigerators can dehydrate eggs stored more than a couple of days. Never store eggs more than 10 days after the eggs are laid. Hatchability drops quickly if they are stored for more than 10 days.

Transport fertile eggs in a protective carton, small end down. Do not leave eggs in the sun or a hot-parked car. In winter, don't let the eggs get below 35°F.

It is best to bring the eggs to room temperature for a few hours prior to setting them in the incubator.