1. Obtaining fertile hatching eggs may present a problem, especially if you live in an urban area. Most of the eggs sold in grocery stores are not fertile and cannot be used for incubation. Fertile eggs can usually be obtained from hatcheries or poultry breeding farms. Some large hospitals may also be able to provide them. Contact your local Extension office for suggestions. The WWW support page also has links to sources.
- For a basic observation and hatching project, 12 eggs per incubator are adequate. If you are planning to do an experiment or activities, additional eggs may be required.
- When you obtain fertile eggs from a source which does not routinely hatch its own eggs, you may want to test the eggs in an incubator to ensure that good fertility and hatchability can be obtained before you use the eggs as part of the class project. Laying hens raised with a male does not guarantee fertility or hatchability. You are also strongly encouraged to use chicken or coturnix quail eggs to hatch in the classroom. Duck, goose, pheasant and other species of fowl can be more difficult to hatch in classroom incubators. Duck and goose eggs often rot and may explode in the incubator.
- When you have located a source of fertile eggs, pick them up yourself, if possible, rather than have them shipped or mailed. It is difficult for hatcheries, the postal service and transportation companies to properly handle small orders of eggs.
2. Caring for eggs prior to incubation.
- The eggs should be collected within 4 hours from when they were laid.
- If it is necessary to store fertile eggs before setting, store small-end down at a temperature of 50º F to 65º F and at 70% humidity.
- 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 car. In winter, don't let the eggs get below 35 degrees F.
- It is always best to set the fertile eggs in a prepared incubator within 24 hours of obtaining them.
3. Preparing the eggs for incubating. Fertile eggs from a commercial hatchery are usually already presorted. However, it is usually wise to check your eggs before setting them.
- Candle eggs prior to setting to check for cracked eggs, thin-shelled eggs and double-yolked eggs. Do not incubate these eggs since they usually do not hatch.
- Do not wash the eggs unless necessary. The eggs have a natural protective coating that is removed by washing. Only wash eggs that are visibly dirty. Then wipe the egg clean with a wet cloth warmer (at least 10 degrees warmer) than the temperature on the eggs. Do not set eggs that are excessively dirty.
- Bring fresh eggs to be placed in the incubator to room temperature two hours prior to setting.
- Mark the eggs with "X" and "O" on opposite sides to aid in daily turning. Also, number the eggs on the top of the large end to aid in identification and records during the project. When marking eggs always use a pencil or wax crayon. Do not use permanent or toxic ink pens or markers.
- Eggs that are warmed to room temperature should be immediately placed in the incubator.