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7 Years
May 15, 2012
Cornwall, England
How long can you leave eggs in the cool before they get incubated? I have a mixture of 6 chicken eggs i;d like to incubate but don;t know if they've been left too long (2-3 weeks tops)
That may be a bit too long. The answer is not real clear-cut. How you store them has a lot to do with it.

In general you can store eggs a week or so and they do great. With a few extra steps, two weeks is not usually too bad. After two weeks it starts to get real “iffy”. It’s not that at a specific magic time they all go bad. It’s that each egg is a little less likely to hatch the longer it is stored and the more out of bounds it is stored.

What I am about to tell you are guidelines, not absolute laws of nature. The closer you can follow the guidelines the more likely you are to get a good hatch. There are no guarantees associated with these, just odds. If you follow all guidelines perfectly you are not guaranteed a great hatch. If you violate some of these guidelines you are not guaranteed an awful hatch. Very few of us follow these guidelines exactly yet many of us regularly get pretty good hatches. Just do the best you can.

You should try to store the eggs around 13 degrees Celsius, say 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one a whole lot of us violate. In summer my house is often in the mid to upper 70’s Fahrenheit. That’s the best I can do. Some people in really hot climates store the eggs on their fridge. That’s a big no-no, but it is the best they can do. A lot of the time we still get good hatches.

Try to avoid temperature fluctuations. Heating and cooling cycles can hurt hatchability.

You should store the eggs pointy side down. The air cell is in the fat end. You want that to stay up when you are storing them so it doesn’t migrate. If it moves away from the fat end the odds of the chick hatching go way down.

You should turn the eggs a minimum of three times a day with more often being better. The experts say you don’t really need to turn them the first week of storage but I do anyway. I just take the turner out of my incubator, plug it in, and store the eggs in that. There are several different things that can happen if you don’t turn them and none of those things are good.

By turning them I mean stand them on end pointy side down, then rotate them about 45 degrees one way. When you turn them, take them back to vertical and keep going until you get 45 degrees in the other direction. This takes them through a 90 degree turn each time. One good way to do this is to store them in an egg carton and put a block of wood under one end. Then when you turn them move that block of wood to the other end. It’s a pretty good idea to put an “x” on one side of the egg and an “o” on the other (or some other marks as you wish) so you can tell which side is supposed to be up when you turn them.
Thankyou for all of the information. I will try my best with the hatch. The last egg stored would have been 3-5 days ago and the first could be up to 2 weeks. I have an automatic incubator so hopefully this will be better than my last incubator which i used only twice and each time i got 2 survivals but one couldnt walk and died soon after hatching. This was the same with the ducks first then chickens after.

How long after being hatched can they be put outside? They smell quite a lot being in the house aha
Totally depends on your set-up. My brooder is built into my coop. I put them outside on Day 1. They hatch in my house because that’s the only place I can stabilize the incubator temperatures. If I tried to raise chicks in the house my wife would probably leave me. Dust, smell, and noise.

In the brooder in my coop they have good predator protection, protection from the adults, a good draft guard, and I can safely heat one area. I let the rest cool off as it will. That way they can find their own comfort zone. So if you can safely provide heat and keep the older chickens from killing them, you can put them outside anytime you wish.

If your question is when they can go outside without you providing heat, that’s going to vary some. It depends on your weather and a bit on your chicks. Some chicks feather out faster than others. If you have normal chickens they probably are fully feathered around five weeks, but some of those fancy chickens may not feather out as fast. I don’t raise them so I don’t know.

Last summer in our triple digit heat wave with the nights very hot, I turned the daytime heat off in the brooder at 2 days and the night-time heat off at 5 days. In Cornwall I would not recommend that at any time of the year.

I have put 5 week old chicks in an unheated grow-out coop when the overnight lows were in the mid 40’s Fahrenheit, maybe around 8 Celsius. It had good draft protection and they were fine. They were acclimated to the cooler weather some in my brooder because it was big enough and ventilated enough to cool down in the far corners quite a bit. They spent a lot of time in the cooler parts of that brooder, just going back to the heat when they needed to warm up.

I don’t know what your weather is like this time of the year, but I’d think you should be OK sometime after 5 weeks as long as they have decent draft protection. If you are getting down below freezing and have cold wet blustery weather you might want to wait a bit, but you probably don’t need to wait very much. You also have to think about integrating them with your older chickens which I won’t get into. I trust you can handle that.

Good luck!
I think the last time i had chicks inside under heat they stayed in for roughly 3 ish months. The weather was a bit wishy washy and i just generally wasnt sure. Thanks for all of the advice. Its been extreamly helpful and i might start to incubate within the next week so i hope it works out a lot better than last time :)
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