Guide to caring for hatching eggs before and after sale

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Hi and welcome to my guide. Firstly let me tell you about me. I'm a stay at home mother with a passion for poultry. I've been around all kinds of animals all my life. Chickens especially have always been a big part of my life. One of my earliest memories was visiting a poultry exhibition with my grandfather. I've many qualifications and have studued at degree level though college and employment in Veterinary, NVQ 1 & 2 Animal care, Exotics studies, Embryology, Ornithology, Pet store Management, Animal Management, NPTC Safe use of veterinary medicine, National Diploma in animal care and have qualified as an AMTRA SQP.  

As a seller

Sellers have a responsibility to their buyer to offer a quality product no matter what the product they are selling is. A seller of hatching eggs is no exception. Even if they make up a set of their own rules in their listing they must still offer a quality product. In selling eggs for hatching purposes you must ensure that what you are selling to your buyer is a satisfactory product. Satisfactory quality eggs must conform to the following -

* They must be clean - clean pens equal clean eggs, dirty pens equal dirty eggs - it's as simple as that. Of course a natural product is not expected to be pristeen, however lumps of excriment, mud or in grained dirt are unacceptable for sale. Avoid washing eggs as this does damage them, however dirty eggs should simply be discarded. A dirty egg is a liability and is dangerous to other eggs in the incubator, not to mention for other chicks when hatching. The avian egg has a semi permeable shell which means that it can breathe and substances from the outside can travel to the inside. If there is faeces on the egg this can sometimes get inside the egg through the pores in the shell, this resutls in the egg becoming rotten and not being viable. Such eggs may explode. Excriment and mud from dirty pens can carry all sorts of bacteria and viruses, these will infect the chick and other chicks hatching in the same incubator. So do not send dirty eggs.

* They must be the correct shape - the classic ovoid shape egg must be selected and sent to the buyer. Eggs which are almost completely round, are torpedo shaped, or are irregular in shape are not suitable for sale as their chances of hatching are greatly reduced. These must be discarded.

* Shell quality - it is vital that eggs are of quality shell structure. Eggs which posess flaws, lumps, bumps, thin shells, overly thickened shells, wrinkled shells, pitted shells, mottled appearances on shells, ridged shells, or shell colours which do not adhere to the breed standard etc are not suitable for sale and must be discarded.

* Size - If you buy true bantam eggs then the buyer expects small eggs, miniature bantams then the buyer expects a medium egg and of course large fowl should lay large eggs. Those who lay incorrect sized eggs in accordance to the size of their breed should not be used to sell eggs from. Plus eggs which are overly large or overly small are not usually viable and should therefore not be offered for sale.

* Tested fertility - I personally believe that at least 5 settings of at least 4 eggs from the same pen should be tested and have satisfactory fertility of 90% or more before selling eggs from that pen. This ensures that fertility is maintained and is high. Setting just one egg every now and then is not good enough. If you do not have the means to test fertility in an incubator this can be done under a broodie hen or you can simply crack some of the eggs onto a plate and examine the germinal disc which in fertile eggs should appear as a white ringed structure situated on the yolk, the discs of infertile eggs should appear as a completely white spot with no rings. Though this method does not offer the opportunity to test hatch success.

* Damaged eggs - Of course this is a no brainer, never sell an egg which is chipped, cracked or has a pin hole, even if it is only a hairline crack. They are not viable and can explode if incubated. Dispose of these.

* Never sell eggs older than 1 week old - The viability reduces with each day an egg has been laid therefore the buyer will have reduced success the older the eggs sent to them are. Plus old eggs are more likely to become rotten and leak or explode. You want the buyer to have good results right? So sent the eggs as fresh as possible.

* Egg maintenance - Eggs after laying must be closely inspected for the above, then stored correctly. Keeping them in bowl in the kitchen or in the fridge is not suitable! A cool room away from strong odours, fluctuating temperature and humidity is best. A mouldy damp and cold shed is a definate no too! Keep the eggs away from electrical appliances as these produce heat and static which of course can affect the eggs. Radiators, heaters and fires are other things to stay away from. Eggs once stored in a suitable location must be turned at least 3 times per day, and not end over end either as this compresses and can dislodge the airsacks! They must be rotated while lying on their side as a rolling tray style incubator or broodie hen would do or stood pointed end down in an egg tray with one side of the tray elevated, to "turn" the eggs all is required is to simply elevate the opposite side changing it 3 times daily from one side to the other as a rocking style incubator would do.

* Do not use aerosols or paints - again as stated previously the egg shell is semi permeable meaning things can move in and out of the shell. Using aerosols and paints near to eggs can damage them and render them unviable. Air fresheners are something to definately steer clear of.

* Marking eggs - If you need to identify eggs from different pens then you should never mark them using a pen unless it is a specific egg marking pen. The ink from pens can be harmful and pass through into the egg damaging it. A crayon again is unsuitable as the wax blocks pores. A plain HB pencil is the safest option, applying as little pressure as possible and keeping the writing to a minimum eg Belgian Bantam can be shortened to "BB" etc.

* Handling - Avoid excessive handling of eggs as the oils and heat from your skin are not good for the egg. Handle as little as possible. Do not shake or drop eggs. Eggs which have been shaken or dropped, no matter if the shell remains intact must not be sold as the internal structures may well be damaged. The air sack position is vital for the hatching chick and even slight knocks may dislodge this leading to the egg failing to hatch.

* Posting - Always package securely using non plastic mateirals, plastic carrier bags are completely unsuitable! (except for purpose made poly boxes). Ensure eggs are wrapped securely and that they cannot move about or knock together. Always ensure there is padding top, sides and bottom of each egg and that the outside of the parcel is sturdy and cannot easily be compressed. Shredded paper, cotton wool, clean soft straw, clean wood shavings etc are all good packaging materials. Use the fastest service provided eg Special delivery or 1st class, never use 2nd class options as this takes too long. Mark the parcel as "FRAGILE" and "DO NOT DROP" you may also like to quote Royal mail rules requesting that hatching eggs be kept out of mail sacks as per regulations as these are deemed "EXTERNAL MAIL".

As a buyer

As a buyer you too must adhere to a set of rules to ensure all the sellers hard work is not destroyed by incorrect care of the hatching eggs.

* Arrival - Always unwrap your eggs as soon as they arrive. The longer they are kept in their packaging they less viable they become.

* Unpacking - Avoid shaking, dropping or excessively handling the eggs while unpacking.

* Check -  For breakages, flaws etc and contacting the seller if need be in the event of unsuitable eggs as discussed above.

* Now it's all down to you! The seller is not resposible after this point!

* Storage - Store the eggs pointed end down in a cool stable room for 24 hours without turning before setting them in the incubator. Remember do not set eggs you are not 100% satisfied with.

* Setting - Set your eggs under a broodie hen and leave her get on with it. If she gets up and refuses to sit again then provided the eggs are not yet wamred and chilled you may move them to an incubator. Ensure the incubator is set at the correct temperature for your selecet variety and that temperature is suitable for your particular style of incubator as forced air and still air machines must be operated at different temperatures to achieve successful hatching. Once youve researched thoroughtly and have had your machine running for at least 3 hours with no fluctuation you may set your eggs. Ensure you research humidity requirements for your specific breed and are accustomed to the needs of your selected variety.

* Hatching - Again research is key to succesful hatching so you must research in detail your breeds specific hatching requirements.

* Chicks - Once hatched you will be resonsible for their every need to ensure you know exactly what those needs are through detailed research.

I hope my guide has been helpful! Thanks for taking the time to read it!




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