It is best practice to collect the eggs before 9am and to check back at midday in case the hen has laid any more. However, the more frequently eggs can be collected; the less chance there is of them becoming soiled or dirty. Eggs that are left in the nest for more than 24 hours tend to result in poor hatch rates.
Eggs are usually collected in a basket or rubber bucket. It is very important that eggs are handled carefully to avoid them getting jarred or cracked. Many people add an extra layer of kitchen roll or wood shavings into their basket for increased security.
It is also important to wash ones hands before collecting the eggs. Your hands are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and this can easily be spread to the eggs. If your hands are sweaty or greasy, this can pass onto the eggs; blocking their pores and preventing respiration and moisture loss – all of which can affect the chances of a hatch. Before collecting the eggs, wash your hands carefully with anti-bacterial soap or incubation disinfectant. Rubber gloves can also prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
Egg storage is an optional step before egg incubation. Many breeders of hatching eggs prefer to build up a “batch” of fertile eggs before commencing egg incubation. The duration for which to store your eggs is completely up to you. However, it is not recommended to keep your eggs any longer than 10 days before incubation.
During storage, it is very important that you ensure the quality of your eggs. Cracked, misshapen or heavily soiled eggs should be discarded to avoid contamination. Some slightly dirty or soiled eggs can be washed with incubation disinfectant. When washing eggs, make sure that the water or solution you use to clean the eggs is significantly warmer than the egg temperature; this will cause any bacteria to be drawn away from the pores.
Washing your eggs is highly recommended. However it is important to note that this process will remove the egg’s natural, thin outer coating. This will leave the egg vulnerable to future infection so it is vital a high level of cleanliness is maintained throughout the egg incubation period.
Storage Temperature & Humidity
When storing eggs it is recommended to keep them at a room temperature of between 15°C and 18°C. Cool, draft free locations are ideal places to store your eggs. Before incubation, eggs should be brought steadily up to room temperature. This avoids drastic temperature changes and “thermal shock” to the egg.
As for humidity, lower is better, but not essential. Some breeders of hatching eggs recommend a humidity level of between 45% and 55% RH; this is ideal, however, unless you plan to incubate eggs on a large scale, you are not likely to witness any difference.
Egg Turning During Storage
During storage, eggs should be turned a minimum of once a day; two or three times per day is much better.
When turning eggs, try to make sure each egg is turned 45 degrees each way, totalling 90° over the course of a day. Turning the egg during storage ensures the eggs outer membrane does not stick to the shell.
The method you use to turn your eggs is up to you. Some people prefer to turn their eggs manually by hand, whereas some prefer to place their eggs pointy side down in an egg box at an angle, and change the angle of the egg box two or three times a day. However a growing number of people use their egg incubators to turn their eggs before incubation. This can be achieved simply by using removable automatic egg trays, or by placing the eggs in the bottom of a rocking incubator with just the rocking motor on.
Egg Handling Tips
Eggs should always be handled with the upmost care. Severe bumps may rupture the egg’s internal membrane, even if the egg shell appears undamaged.
Care must still be taken when handling eggs in the incubation stage. A severe bump can rupture blood vessels; causing the chick to bleed to death.
If eggs have endured a lot of handling, perhaps from being sent in the post, it is important to set them pointy side down for at least 24 hours before incubation. This will allow the contents of the egg to settle.