Can You Hatch A Store Bought Egg?
If you’re hoping to bring a dozen eggs home from the supermarket and hatch some baby chicks, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s probably not going to happen. There have been some very rare instances where people picked up fresh eggs at a store and managed to find one that was fertilized. It is not impossible to hatch a chicken from a store-bought egg but the odds are not in your favor.
In this article, I’d like to take a look at what it takes to fertilize an egg and the conditions needed for that egg to hatch.
Why will your eggs from the store probably Will Not hatch?
- Most commercial farmers will not have a rooster with the hens to fertilize the eggs.
- The eggs will have been refrigerated which would kill the embryo even if it was fertilized.
Facts About Fertilization And Hatching Chicken Eggs
Chickens Do Not Need A Rooster To Lay Eggs
Chickens can lay eggs without any help from a rooster. Chickens ovulate and eggs are produced. Depending on the breed of the chicken, a chicken may lay between 4 and 7 eggs a week. Certain chickens like the Barred Rock, Wyandotte, and Rhode Island Red have been bred specifically for egg production. They can lay 300 eggs a year, but not one of those eggs will be able to hatch without the help of a rooster. A rooster must be present in order for the egg to be fertilized.
How To Tell If An Egg Is Fertilized or Not
For eggs to be fertilized and capable of hatching, a hen and a rooster must mate. Once mating occurs, the eggs become viable for developing into embryos. You can tell if an egg is fertilized by holding the egg up to a strong light. When the inside of the egg is illuminated, if you see a small red spot in the yolk, that is beginning of an embryo and the egg has been fertilized.
You can also tell if an egg has been fertilized when you crack it open. The white circle around the yolk is more defined and you will notice small red lines across the surface of the yolk. People often mistake the white stringy material in the egg white part of an embryo but it is just a barrier to help prevent the eggs from breaking.
Can You Eat Fertilized Chicken Eggs?
There is no harm in eating fertilized eggs, in fact, some people actually prefer eating them. However, there has been no evidence to support that they have a greater nutritional value.
Once an egg is fertilized, certain conditions must be maintained for it to hatch. Refrigeration will kill the embryo. An egg must maintain a temperature above 50º F to hatch.
5 Tips For Hatching Your Own Chickens Eggs
1. Buy Fertilized Chicken Eggs
You can research local chicken breeders in your area. If you have a certain breed in mind, search for the breed to find breeder lists. If you find one local, great. Eggs can be shipped so there is always the option the breeder can ship the eggs to you.
2. Eggs Can Be Purchased Online
If you’re not picky about the breed or the quality of chicken you will be hatching, you can look in your local paper, on eBay, or Craigslist to find fertilized eggs. Another source will be a local feed store. They may have eggs for purchase. You can bet a copy of a poultry magazine will provide sources for buying fertilized eggs.
3. Buying Fertilized Eggs is Not Expensive
You can expect to pay between $1.00 to $5.00 an egg depending on the rarity of the breed. Eggs are most often sold by the half dozen.
4. Purchase an Incubator
Incubators can be purchased online or from a local feed and livestock store. Tractor Supply is a chain store that will have incubators. An incubator will start around $50 for the homesteader and run up to thousands of dollars for commercial use. You can save money by looking up DIY plans which are simple and inexpensive. I recommend a fully automatic incubator, like the HB Life Incubator as seen in the image above.
5. Incubate Your Eggs For 21 Days to Hatch
Once you have set the ideal conditions for incubation, in approximately 21 days, your eggs should begin to hatch.
Tips for Incubating Eggs
- When selecting eggs to incubate, fresh is best. If you can’t pick them up from a local farmer, expedite the shipping. This will increase the chance they will hatch. Eggs should be well-formed, large and clean.
- Do not wash the eggs yourself. There is a natural coating around the egg that is essential for the eggs to hatch. Getting eggs that are already clean means they came from nests that were clean and well-cared for.
- Transfer your eggs to the incubator immediately. If you have to store them for a brief period, store them in an egg carton. Store the eggs with the large side facing up to help keep the embryo alive. Make sure they are kept at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees. The eggs will also require a humidity level of around 75%.
These are key factors in allowing the embryos to survive until they can be placed in an incubator. If you adhere to the above recommendations, you may delay incubation for up to 10 days without destroying the embryo.
In the last few days before the chicks hatch, you may notice the eggs shifting on their own. This means the fetus has become active and is ready to begin pecking his way out. The first sign of hatching is when you see a small hole at the large end of the egg. The chick pecks a small hole to allow air into the egg so he can take his first breath. Do not attempt to open the egg and try to help the chick. This will probably kill it.
Once an airway is opened, the chick will rest for 6 to 12 hours and let his lungs adjust. When he is ready, he will begin to break his way out of the shell. Let nature run its course. A healthy chick will be able to hatch all on his own. Once he is free of the shell, make sure there is a warm area for him to dry off and fluff his down.
Make sure you have a plan on what to do with your chicks after you hatch them. They are lots of fun to incubate and hatch, but you will have both males and females to deal with once they arrive. Be prepared to donate the chicks or get busy creating your own coop so you can reap the benefits of being a backyard chicken farmer.
Don’t be disappointed in the fact that you can’t hatch store bought eggs. There are many opportunities for you to get your hands on chicken eggs that are actually fertilized and prime for hatching yourself. A quick search online, or even a call to your friend who keeps chickens can get fertilized eggs into your hands today.
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