If you’re incubating eggs this spring, you may wonder how long an egg can remain outside of the incubator and still be fertile.
Obviously, the sooner, the better when getting your fertile hatching eggs into an incubator, but sometimes it’s just not plausible. Maybe you need more time to gather additional eggs, or perhaps, like I just experienced, a freak snowstorm in the middle of spring kept you from picking up your eggs at the post office.
Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly fine to leave fertile hatching eggs lay dormant for a while.
The embryo does not begin developing until the eggs are at the perfect temperature.
A hen will not start sitting on her eggs until she has enough to make it worth her while.
When eggs are lying dormant, they are not developing. I may be dating myself here, but I am totally imagining Austin Powers being cryogenically frozen.
Ok, not the same I guess.
But basically everything stops, and if kept at the right conditions, fertile eggs have been known to keep for up to two weeks before incubating them.
Here are three tips for storing hatching eggs:
1. Incubating Eggs Should Be Kept Comfortable
Your hatching eggs should be kept in a cool area — 40 to 50 degrees is optimal. This space should be dry and draft-free, like an old farmhouse’s root cellar.
2. Invest in an Egg Turner
Even though the embryos are not developing, it is imperative to turn them at least two times a day. If you don’t have time for that, then either use your incubators turner or buy one. If an egg does not get turned the embryo may get stuck to the membrane of the egg. This is that filmy casing that you often find when you peel a hard-boiled egg. If eggs don’t get turned, it can cause issues with the fetus or cause the baby chick to grow slowly.
3. Ensure Eggs Remain Clean Prior to Incubating
Just like momma hen, you must keep the area clean. Bacteria can sneak into the small pores on a shell and cause problems for the growing chick or kill off a developing chick. Eggshells are amazing and can withstand a lot of things, but harmful bacteria will definitely be a problem, even before they are in the incubator.
I have personally waited two weeks to hatch some of my eggs, but the hatch rate of the older eggs was significantly lower than those of the eggs collected within a few days of a hatch.
If you are getting eggs from a hatchery, they may recommend letting your eggs set for 6–8 hours before putting them in an incubator. This is to prevent eggs that may have been in a colder temperature from sweating.
Going a few days without incubating fertile eggs is fine, just make sure you keep them in a clean area, you turn them, and they remain cool and dry.