Congratulations on your hatching eggs, one of the most fun and rewarding projects for anyone from hobbyist to expert!
Shipping fertile eggs is a gamble for the buyer and seller, as the postal service can make the entire process very unpredictable. There are, however, some things you can do to help have a successful hatch on day 21!
Northwoods Poultry has been shipping eggs for 10 years, and over time, you learn the best way to pack an egg! We focus on preserving the integrity of the egg and most importantly, the air cell. Detached air cells are often the culprit of a bad hatch of shipped eggs. The jostling that eggs take in shipment can leave air cells damaged, which prevents proper chick development. Our packing strategy makes the eggs as immobile within the package as possible, suspending the eggs in layers of materials and immobilizing them to prevent shifting and movement. Though nothing is a guarantee, we have found much greater success in the preservation of air cells this way.
You will receive a tracking number the day your eggs are shipped. All eggs are shipped Priority Mail through USPS, unless priority express is arranged separately. You can estimate shipping to take about 3 days. Egg packages will be held at your post office and you will receive a phone call when they arrive. Please be prompt in picking them up!
When you arrive home with your eggs, carefully un-package each one and begin the inspection process. Candling the eggs at this stage is always a good idea. You will easily be able to check for hairline cracks and detached air cells. I will link a video below that will help guide you through the process of candling for detached air cells. Look for a saddle shaped air pocket!
Not all is lost if you have discovered some maligned air cells. I will details some steps for dealing with them below!
We do our best to send clean or mostly clean eggs. Poop and debris is an inevitable part of dealing with chickens. We do no recommend washing your eggs before incubation. The outer coating of the egg, called “bloom”, is essential for protecting the developing chick from bacteria and facilitating proper air exchange through the incubating egg.
Once egg inspection is complete, place each egg “fat” side UP in an egg carton. You will now allow the eggs to rest for 12-24 hours in a cool, undisturbed area. This process will allow the eggs to slowly acclimate to a steady temperature and also allow the air cells to re-establish their position and possibly even re-attached if they have detached slightly. Do not skip this step!
While your eggs are resting, it is a great time to get the incubator set up and started so your temperature and humidity have some time to regulate. The temperature should be set to 100.0 degrees F throughout incubation. Humidity on Days 1-18 should be between 40-50%. Once your eggs have rested and your incubator is regulated, you can set your eggs. This is your Day 1. Be sure to set your eggs “fat” end up, and turn them regularly. An egg turner is well worth the small investment to be sure your eggs are turned every day. Most all tabletop incubators have the option for an egg turner add-on.
Be sure to monitor your temperature and humidity levels every day! Otherwise, leave the eggs undisturbed until Day 18. Day 18 is a big day! This is the day you will candle your eggs and put them in “lock down”. A properly developed chick on Day 18 will show an obvious dark area in most of the egg, and an air cell on the fat end. You may even see some movement! Our Marans eggs are often hard to candle because of their dark color. When in doubt, go ahead and set the egg to hatch. You just never know! If you know for sure a chick has not developed, you can opt to go ahead and pull it out at this time. The rest of the eggs that are developed will need to be removed from the egg turner and placed on their side. Putting some paper towels down underneath them will help newly hatched chicks find their grip and also help for an easy clean up after the hatch. The temperature should remain at 100.0 degrees F, but the humidity needs to be bumped up to 60-70%. Once the egg are set on Day 18, DO NOT open the incubator until the hatch is done!
One exception to note for setting your hatch on Day 18: If you had eggs with detached air cells that then developed a chick, it is a great idea to hatch these eggs upright in an egg carton, fat end up. It is not a guarantee for the chick, but it can greatly improve the outcome of a successful hatch from a detached air cell egg.
We do not recommend “helping” chicks hatch, unless you are a very experienced hatcher and know what distress signs to look for. Some chicks will just take longer to work their way out. It is very easy for a chick to become “shrink wrapped” by the egg membrane in the hatching process, so we highly recommend leaving the incubator CLOSED until the hatch is complete!
You may start seeing chicks as early as Day 19 or as late as Day 23. Any hatched chicks will be happy and healthy in the incubator for several days until they are fluffy! They have absorbed the egg yolk and can thrive for many days from those nutrients. This is a good time to ensure your brooder area is prepped and warm, ready to receive your new baby chicks!