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How to store eggs for hatching

A good egg for incubation is regularly sized and cleanI haven't really decided what our eventual forage-friendly, pure-bred egg-layer chicken will be, but with three votes for Rhode Island Reds and with free fertilized eggs available from my father, I decided to give them a shot.  Time to read up on incubation!

I think that our biggest cause of failure when we tried this last year was storing the eggs improperly before incubation.  I honestly have no clue how my friends saved eggs for me, but there is a right way.

First, choose good eggs.  Don't bother to incubate eggs that are abnormally large or small, cracked, or dirty.  Chances are, they won't hatch right.  Finally, don't wash your eggs --- they come out of the hen with a protective membrane that is damaged by water.

Once you've chosen your eggs, put them in an open egg carton with the big end of the egg up.  The eggs should be stored in a cool moist place, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 75% humidity --- think root cellar.  You might need to dampen a towel to keep the eggs moist enough.

Store eggs in an open egg carton, with one end raised up on a block of woodIf you're storing your eggs for more than four days before putting them in the incubator, you'll need to rotate the eggs once a day, while maintaining the large end up.  Sounds impossible, right?  It's not --- just put a block of wood under one side of the egg carton and move the block of wood to the other side of the carton once a day.  This prevents the embryo from sticking to the shell.

Be sure that your eggs make it into the incubator by the time they're a week old.  Older eggs will have lower hatch rates.

Finally, let your eggs warm up slowly rather than sticking them straight in the incubator to prevent condensation on the eggshells.  More on incubation at a later time!

While you're preparing for the hatch, check out our chicken waterer, the best way to get your chicks off to a healthy start.

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