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Chapter 3: Where to find hatching eggs
If you have decided to hatch eggs, you will want to know where to get them!
Your Own Nest Box
Of course the easiest and least expensive
option is to hatch eggs from your own hens. If you have a rooster with your hens, you can expect their eggs to be fertile (contrariwise,
if you don't have a rooster, your hens' eggs will not be fertile and will not hatch). It won't matter if your rooster and hens are of
different breeds: the babies may be beautiful, funny looking or as ugly as a mud fence--you may not be able to predict what the offspring
will look like, but it is a joy to hatch eggs from your own flock, and it's exciting to see what they look like as they grow. If you have
roosters and hens of the same breed, of course you will be producing your own purebred hens: very exciting! Hatcheries and serious
breeders breed "to standard," meaning they choose birds that match the APA (American Poultry Association) guidelines for the breed,
which may include how many points should be on a comb, the precise angle tail feathers are held, slight color variations, leg color,
depth of plumage color and so on. If you are breedeing for your backyard flock, you can breed to standard, or you can try to choose
eggs from hens you like, whether it is because you value their beauty, their laying ability, their friendliness or some other quality.
I only hatch eggs from my friendliest, healthiest hens.
Another option is to find eggs from a local farm and feed store, or from a local breeder. You may often be able to buy fresh farm eggs
from someone who sells their extras. If they have a rooster, you may be able to hatch those eggs, and they may only be a few dollars a dozen.
Eggs have their best hatchability when they are stored at about 60 degrees or so, and occasionally turned. For that reason, buying eggs
that have been refrigerated for eating is not the best of all options, but if you want to try it before progressing to expensive, rare
breed eggs, it might be a possibility. Occasionally we hear of people buying fertile eggs at their grocery store to hatch them! This has
even less chance to work, since those eggs are old, most are not fertile, and they may have shipped a considerable distance, anyway. However,
if your store sells fertile eggs, there's something to be said for the inexpensive price, especially if you have never hatched before and
just want a practice run. We don't recommend it, but hey--we do hear of people hatching them, and there's nothing wrong with that so long
as you're prepared for whatever breed or cross hatches out! But keep in mind that very few stores will sell fertile eggs. Sometimes they may
be found locally or at specialty food stores. However, you don't know what you're getting, and you may be getting very high-strung
Ebay and Craigslist are other possibilities for buying hatching eggs. However, be sure to purchase hatching eggs from someone with an NPIP
compliant flock--otherwise, you don't know if you will be bringing in illnesses with the new birds. Flocks with NPIP certification have been
tested for the worst diseases that can be passed from a mother hen through the egg to a chick. You can find eggs from breeders, as well--this
is a great option. Again, be sure to ask for NPIP status. If you are looking for a specific breed, your best bet would be to contact a breed
club to get a list of breeders willing to ship eggs for hatching. If you buy eggs from a breeder of Orpingtons, you may have find a breeder
who has several different colors of orpintons to choose from. But if you would like Orpingtons, Marans, Rhode Island Reds and Mille Fleur D'Uccles,
a single breeder simply may not have them all. Getting eggs to hatch at different times from different breeders can be complex, as you must try
to integrate different broods of baby birds together, or try to arrange receiving all the eggs on the same day.
Rare Breed Specialists (Like Us!)
Hatcheries like ours often offer hatching eggs,
as well. My Pet Chicken has some especially rare breeds, and the advantage of buying from a hatchery is that you may already have an idea of reputation
when buying from an established business, and you may also be able to get many different breeds at once, some that otherwise you may have to make
arrangements with several different breeders to get.
Keep in Mind...
Wherever you choose to get your hatching eggs, there are three main things you should be aware of. First, remember that if they ship, their AVERAGE
hatchability will be about 50%. If they don't ship (that is, if they are from your flock or if you get them locally) the AVERAGE hatchability is
about 80%. So, even under ideal circumstances, not every fertile egg will hatch. It just doesn't work that way. Second, be aware of your guarantees
BEFORE you purchase. Third--to repeat--remember that the average hatch rate for shipped eggs is 50%; it is 80% for eggs that have not shipped. We
sometimes hear from people new to hatching who are LIVID that only 10 out of their dozen eggs hatched, and from old hands, ECSTATIC that five did.
If you want to hatch eggs, you must understand it is not a pursuit for the inflexible or the easily disappointed!