Where to get fertilised eggs
So you have an incubator and you want to hatch some chicks. But where do you get the eggs? If you don't have your own chickens and a rooster, you will need to get your hands on some fertilised chicken eggs.
There are many different places to get fertilised chicken eggs for incubating. But for the best hatch rate and the healthiest chicks, you need to choose your fertile eggs carefully.
Most chicken keepers get fertile eggs from one of three sources:
- Their own flock
- A breeder
- A fellow chicken keeper such as a friend or neighbour
For eggs to be fertile, they must come from a flock with a rooster. So if you are trading eggs with a friend or neighbour, or using your own eggs, make sure there is a rooster in the flock.
Let's look at the pros and cons of the different sources of fertile eggs.
Incubating fertilised eggs from your own chickens
If you have chickens and a rooster, you can incubate eggs from your own birds. When incubating eggs from your own flock, ensure that your birds are healthy, that they have an optimum diet, and that your chickens and rooster are not related.
Only breed from healthy birds to ensure that any diseases or genetic problems are not passed down to the chicks.
Hens need to consume a high-quality diet in order to produce fertile eggs that will grow into healthy chicks. Feed your birds a premium, pelleted feed and consider a vitamin and mineral supplement for breeders.
Also ensure your roosters and hens are not related. Breeding from related birds can lead to all sorts of genetic problems. You probably won't have a very good hatch rate. The chicks may not be robust and are unlikely to thrive as adults. If you bought your birds from a breeder, they should be able to tell you whether they are related or not.
When breeding from your own birds, you should also consider genetics. If you have a mixed flock, the off-spring can be unreliable and may not lay as well as their parent birds. If you will be trying to give away any roosters that you hatch, mixed-breed roosters are often harder to give away than pure breeds.
Keep in mind that once you add your new chicks to your flock, you will not be able to breed from them unless you replace your rooster with one that is not related. This is why some chicken keepers have multiple flocks.
Incubating fertilised eggs from a breeder
Eggs from a breeder usually cost a few dollars each. But they are much cheaper than buying pullets or chicks. Although, they do have the disadvantage that you are bound to end up with a few roosters.
One of the major benefits of buying eggs from a breeder is that you can add specialised breeds to your flock. Breeders often post eggs, even interstate, so backyard chicken keepers can access hundreds of different chicken breeds.
When you buy eggs from a reliable breeder, you also have the benefit of knowing that they are disease free and fertile. Poultry Clubs are one of the best places to find a reliable breeder.
Even though breeders often test for fertility, the longer the eggs travel from the breeder, the lower your hatch rate is likely to be. For mail-delivered eggs, the hatch rate can be quite low but for many chicken keepers it is worth it to get a particular chicken breed or trait.
Breeders select the birds they breed for certain traits, so talk to the breeder to find out what they are selecting for. Some show breeds are selected for colouring or appearance, to the detriment of egg laying. By asking the breeder you can ensure the birds you get have been selected for the traits you want, such as laying, mothering instinct, hardiness, life expectancy etc.
Incubating fertilised eggs from a fellow chicken keeper
One of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to get fertilised eggs is by asking a chicken keeper with a rooster. Chicken keepers often find each other and it is easy to get eggs from a friend or neighbour.
In this case, you might not be able to choose the breed and may end up with mixed-breed chickens. You also need to ensure there is no in-breeding in the flock.
Eggs from a backyard flock may not be as fertile as those from a breeder, especially if the birds are not fed an optimum diet. But on the other hand, the eggs won't travel as far to get to your incubator so they won't lose as much fertility as eggs that are posted, for example.
If you are taking this option, ensure the chicken keeper practices good biosecurity and that their birds are healthy. Although it is unlikely, there is a risk of introducing a new disease to your flock. Fertilised eggs can carry avian influenza, Newcastle disease and avian mycoplasmosis as well as other diseases.
Only accept fertile chicken eggs from a fellow chicken keeper if you have done your homework to ensure the parent birds are healthy, protected from disease and unlikely to pose a risk.
Do you have more questions about raising chickens? Read more on our blog!
- The pros and cons of incubating chicken eggs
- Poultry Clubs - Find a breeder who supplies fertile chicken eggs
- Choosing a breed - What are the best chicken breeds for egg laying?
From Rachael at Dine a Chook Australia