How to Prepare the Eggs for Incubation

by Misty Johnson

Before preparing your eggs or ordering them, you should consider timing. Will you be out of town? Will your hatch fall on a day you have plans? If for some reason you cannot care for them, is there someone who can monitor the incubator for you as often as it will need?

The first thing you must start with is preparing your incubator. Be sure it is clean; put water in the recommended troughs and pre-heat it to get the temperature and humidity stable. Keep it in a room where the temperature and humidity are stable and away from drafts and heating/air conditioning vents.

After you have prepared your incubator, chosen your eggs for incubation, and washed/sanitized them if you chose, you should bring the eggs to room temperature. Putting the eggs directly into the incubator could possibly kill your potential embryos by making them too warm too fast. A good middle temperature is about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit or about 23 degrees Celsius. One way is to sit them on a counter in an egg carton, large ends up and the lid open. Styrofoam egg cartons don't allow much oxygen circulation, which is crucial for any fertile egg. I use a large Easter basket filled with cotton balls; also what I use for gathering eggs. The eggs must be moved very carefully.

It takes about 4 hours for the eggs to warm to the temperature they are being exposed to; but if your eggs were shipped or freshly laid, you should let them "settle" for about 24 hours before setting. This will allow shipped eggs to "recover" from the trauma of shipping and for the air space to grow large enough in freshly laid eggs. I prefer to let my eggs settle for about 8-12 hours if I picked them up from someone else and they weren't freshly laid. Make sure you do not choose a place that is near a stove, oven, direct sunlight, or anything else that gives off heat. Those can cause the eggs to warm too quickly, too.

Once your eggs are settled and warmed, it's time to pencil mark them if you will be hand turning. This should be done prior to setting them in the incubator. Using a lead pencil, very gently and lightly while keeping the large end of the egg upwards, place an X on one side and an O on the opposite side. Then make a line or two small arrows going between the X and O across the large rounded end of the egg. This is so you will know you have turned all the eggs, and that you are turning them the right way. (You will want to turn your eggs in opposite directions each time: clockwise on the first turn of the day, counter-clockwise on the second, etc. This keeps the chalazae from becoming "wound up" with continuous turns in the same direction.) You are now ready to set the eggs.

by Jane Smith

Storing eggs prior to incubation: It is wise to store freshly laid eggs for 24 hours before incubating, as often the air-space will not be large enough at the end of incubation if this is not done. It just helps a little, but is not crucial.

To understand why one must let eggs settle for 24 hours after shipping, it helps to know a little about the structure of the egg. The yolk is supported in the white by chalazae. You can see them quite clearly when you crack an egg onto a plate. They look like two strands of thickened, whitish albumen radiating away from the yolk. These chalazae are coiled like little springs. As the egg is moved, they help support the yolk, like the suspension on a car. When eggs are shipped any distance, these chalazae become quite tightly coiled and need some time to unwind and relax. Also, all the other internal structures of the egg become disarranged to some extent and far more prone to damage. They too need time to sort themselves out. Without this time to settle, the embryo is far more likely to die during incubation, as it does not have the full protection of the egg.

Another interesting point is that when turning eggs by hand you should alternate the direction of turn, otherwise the chalazae become so tightly coiled that they can no longer do their job properly. So, as well as marking the O and the X on the egg, you can also mark two little arrows which point in opposing directions, just to make sure.