Storing Hatching Eggs

Most of us take great care with our incubation but how much care do we take with egg storage before the eggs are placed into an incubator or under a broody hen? I prefer to avoid storage for any time if I can get away with it but sometimes it is unavoidable.

This list of points to help you store your hatching eggs in the correct way before incubation.

Nest boxes should be clean to start with. You want the least amount of soiling of your eggs as possible. I would rather not wash eggs at all so I am lucky enough to be able to operate a clean nest only policy. I have selected over the years and removed hens which dirty the nest from my breeding groups. This can be more difficult with ducks and geese but if their nesting areas are kept clean, there is no reason why their eggs shouldn’t be reasonably clean when you collect them. Dirty eggs can be incubated or washed using a suitable egg disinfectant before incubation but heavily soiled eggs are better off left out of the incubator unless they are particularly valuable.

Hatching eggs should be stored in a cool area that is humid, not too dry. I store my eggs in my garage as this is well insulated and stays cool throughout the day but a cooler room in the house will be your best bet, one that doesn’t have the sun on it during the day and stays cool. Ideally the room should have a humidity of around 60 to 70% but this is hard to find in modern houses.

Eggs should be collected regularly – 2 or 3 times a day if you can. If the weather is hot, eggs need to be collected as soon as they have been laid. This is different from eggs that are to be eaten where once a day is sufficient.

Eggs should always be stored with the pointed end pointing downwards. The egg is actually damaged if it is stored with the round end down for any significant length of time.

Tilt the eggs. Just like your eggs require turning in an incubator, eggs that are being stored should also be turned regularly. I turn mine every morning and evening by tilting the egg box or tray the opposite way. The yolk contains a lot of fat relatively speaking and will float in the white. If it is allowed to settle, the membranes may stick. If you store them on their side and turn them make sure you turn the backwards and forwards and not in the same direction all the time as it can twist the supports (chalazae).

Only store eggs for hatching for up to 7 days. After 10 days hatchability starts to decline quite rapidly and after 14 days it is unlikely the will develop.

When you are ready to incubate, you should allow your eggs to come to room temperature slowly and wash them with egg disinfectant (if you have decided to do this, not everybody does) before putting them into your incubator.

If your hatching eggs are not cared for in the correct way, you will suffer from a reduced hatchability or difficult hatches with chicks trapped in their shells.

Remember once eggs have been cleaned with a disinfectant keep them on a clean sterile surface or in clan plastic egg trays to stop them picking up bacteria.