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Shipped Egg Hatching Guide

Tips and Tricks to Maximize Your Hatch Rate

Shipped hatching eggs are inconsistent at best, but when the stars align they can be just as rewarding as locally sourced eggs! While this guide won't guarantee you a successful hatch every time, it will help make the most of the hand you've been dealt (yes, we're talking about you USPS and FedEx!). Due to how many factors shipped eggs have working against them there is no way to have consistently good hatches. An important thing to remember with shipped eggs is that any eggs that may not develop were not necessarily infertile from the start. You can experience anywhere from a 0-100% development and/or hatch rate from perfectly fertile eggs, even with eggs shipped and received from the same source. Since every package takes a unique route you can even experience vastly different hatch rates within the same incubator.

So with that out of the way, lets skip to the good part! You've ordered some eggs and they just arrived. What do you do now? Below is a step-by step guide on how we've had our best success with shipped hatching eggs. Already have your package opened and ready to incubate? Skip to step 5!  

  1. Power your incubator on and set it up for hatching. If you can do this a few days before arrival (such as when the eggs first ship) even better! During the first 18 days we incubate all our eggs at 99.5°, with humidity ranging from 20-40%. Since we are located in a humid climate this can be achieved in a dry hatch without the addition of water, but may not be the case for everyone depending on your location and elevation.

  2. Prepare to open your package. Start with the label facing up and carefully cut the tape along the top seam. Open the box and slowly pull the foam shipper directly upward, while keeping the side filler in the box. Eggs may shift in place during shipping, so be careful none try to prematurely jump ship! Each hole should be covered on either side with foam plugs, but some may come out of place during transit. 

  3. Now we are ready to remove the eggs! Depending on the breed you purchased some of the larger eggs may be snuggly fit in the shipper, while others will have some wiggle room. Carefully expose each egg hole as you go by removing the foam caps on both sides. With one hand behind the egg gently press it away from you. Pushing them out from the top and bottom of the egg (their strongest points) will avoid accidentally poking a hole through their more delicate center.

  4. Assess for breakage. Though unlikely, it is possible the box was compromised enough during shipping to cause some damage. While most cracks can be seen by the naked eye some may only be visible through candling. If you'd like a sneak peak of how your hatch may go you can carefully candle the eggs to visualize their air cells. Are they wiggly, but clearly defined, or do you see smaller, individual bubbles that are free moving? Saddled air cells can be recovered with the right care, but ruptured air cells will likely not attempt to develop. Minorly cracked eggs can be sealed with the wax method, but any moderate-severely damaged eggs you will want to discard. Any damage incurred during shipping should be covered through the free insurance included with your package, and you can file a claim here through the USPS website. Place all remaining eggs pointy-end down as they were shipped in an egg carton, or reuse the foam shipper and lay horizontally with a foam pad under each hole. 

  5. Let them babies rest! They went through quite the ordeal getting to you, and now their fragile air cells needs some time to heal. We like to let shipped eggs rest for 24-48 hours before incubating depending on how their air cells look. This also gives your incubator a chance to balance out if you didn't have time prior to do so. Checking parameters with more than one thermometer source is highly recommended, as many incubators can arrive improperly calibrated from the factory. We use Bluetooth Govee Thermometer & Hygrometer sensors (which can be purchased on Amazon here for $15) that can automatically alert you if your parameters get out of range.

  6. Now that your eggs have had a chance to settle and your incubator is ready, lets start incubating some eggs! Place each egg in your incubator and allow it to come back to temperature and stabilize. You can now start your 21-day countdown now to hatch day. If you have an automatic egg turner insure it is plugged in and operating. If their air cells are in poor condition you can wait to begin turning for up to 7 days if they are kept in an upright position. Trying your hand with manual turning instead? We recommend turning at least 3 times a day, insuring they do not stay on the same side overnight compared to the day previously.

  7. When can I first check for development? Although it can be difficult to hold back the urge, we try our best to limit the amount of times we remove the eggs for candling. We prefer to candle twice during the incubation process, at day 7 and 18 before moving to lockdown. After a week of incubation you should be able to clearly see development with lighter eggs, but with dark or blue/green eggs you may not be able to visualize development at all. If space is not an issue we avoid tossing any intact eggs until the second candling on day 18, unless there is obvious contamination that puts it at risk of exploding and compromising the remaining eggs. 

  8. Keep parameters as consistent as possible until day 18, insuring they are turning regularly. Once the eggs have been incubated for 18 days you are ready for the lockdown phase. After doing our final candling we will now toss any non-developed eggs, or eggs with clearly visible blood rings. Remove or unplug egg turners if you are using them. If your incubator allows it, place the remaining eggs pointy-end down in egg cartons (pulp/cardboard preferred) so they can hatch in an upright position. This helps assist eggs with damaged air cells with pipping and zipping, and can be the difference between life or death for some! Increase humidity to 60-75% for the remaining 3 days of incubation. Since we have an automatic digital incubator we also lower the temperature to 98.5°, but this is not required if you have an incubator that is more difficult to adjust. 

  9. You're on the final stretch! Depending on actual incubation temperature you may start to see some pipping on day 20 if your temperatures ran high, or as late as day 22 if they were on the cooler end. Keep a close eye on the progress of eggs once they have begun to open. Any eggs with stalled progress after 24 hours of opening you can assist with hatching. We avoid opening any non-piped and zipped eggs until day 23-24. If you need top open the incubator at any time before this point you will want to do so as quickly as possible, as drastic drops in humidity can cause your new chicks to stick to the eggs and will no longer be able to hatch on their own. 

  10. If all is well your chicks are now fully dried and ready to be removed from the incubator. Place newly-hatched chicks in a heated brood box with easy access to clean water and chick starter crumble. We maintain 98° in our brooders, and add vitamins/electrolytes to their water for their first week. It is essential to maintain a clean living space during this phase. We have had equal success using a variety of brooder flooring including wire bottom, hardwood shavings and newspaper (if changed daily), though newspaper should be avoided if chicks are not yet stable on their feet. 

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