Hatching eggs are both tough and delicate at the same time. They require proper handling in order to ensure a good hatch. Our experience has shown us, that one of the most important things is to store hatching eggs under the proper conditions. Eggs to be used for hatching should never be washed. Extremely dirty eggs should not be used for incubating. Slight dirt can be rubbed off gently. Eggs need to be stored in a cool, but not cold location. We store ours in the basement, in a plastic drawer container. Eggs lose moisture in storage, and so require a humid environment. We place a small container containing a large sponge or folded up paper towels inside the drawer, and fill the container with water. Keep the drawer closed. This keeps the eggs from drying out while they are waiting to be put into the incubator. Stored this way, hatching eggs can wait for up to 14 days and still have high hatching rates.

Eggs need to be stored with the large end up and the pointy end down. This is usually easy to distinguish, but if you have problems telling which end is which, candle the egg prior to storage, and note which end has the air cell. This is the large end and should be placed up. A note here--many people suggest turning or tilting their eggs two or three times a day during storage. We have done many experiments to test the merits of this, and have found that it appears to make no difference in the end result. We do not turn our eggs during storage.

Before placing the stored eggs into the incubator, make sure to bring them back up to room temperature by bringing them upstairs for 24 hours or so. This prevents the eggs from getting shocked by heating that is too rapid. When warmed up, spray them with a 50/50 mixture of gold listenine and water. This will kill any bacteria on the outside of the eggs, but will not harm the eggs or embryos. Use only the old gold listerine! Do not use any of the other flavoured or coloured listerines. Place in incubator and prepare to be patient for 21 days!

No matter how well hatching eggs are stored, hatchability depends on fertility. There are many things that can affect fertility, but for our purposes, we will talk about weather. During cold snaps, eggs may not be fertile, both due to the low temperatures the chickens endure, as well as a temporary loss of fertility in the rooster. Hatching in the winter is a hit and miss proposition, as fertility can change so rapidly.