I 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.
If 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
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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