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Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by ryanboi1234, May 29, 2016.
What age to set chicken eggs in incubator?
For me I like to set eggs that are 7 days or less. You can still get results with eggs that are 14 days old. As they age though the hatchability can diminish.
Are you asking about how long after they are laid or how old the pullets need to be before you can hatch their eggs? I’ll attempt to answer the age of the chicken question.
It’s not so much the age of the pullet as how long she has been laying. When a pullet first starts to lay you often get some pretty strange eggs, shell-less or thin shelled eggs, very thick shells, no yolk, no whites, double yolks, or some really weird looking shells. Sometimes that just drop them wherever they are instead of laying in a nest. The internal egg making factory is pretty complicated, sometimes it takes a pullet a while to get all the kinks worked out. What’s probably most amazing is that so many actually get it right to start with.
For an egg to hatch there are even more things that have to be right. The ratio of white to yolk size, the chalaza has to be right (the strong white strands that holds the yolk in the middle of the whites), the thickness or runniness of the whites, and just so many other things. Another issue is that the first eggs that are laid are often really small. Even if everything else is correct there is just not enough nutrients for a strong healthy chick to form. The longer they lay the bigger the eggs become.
In spite of all this you can hatch pullet eggs. Your hatch rate is very likely to not be as good as eggs from older pullets or hens. Your mortality after hatch may be higher. The longer you can wait after they start laying the better your hatch and survivability will probably be.
Knowing all this I still hatch pullet eggs. I’ll recount my experiences earlier this year from my two hatches. My first hatch back in February I set 13 pullet eggs, six from one specific pullet and seven from another. I could tell by color which eggs came from which pullet. Those were the only two pullets laying at that time. Both had been laying about a month before I started collecting the eggs. I had 5 chicks hatch from the first pullet’s six eggs, five healthy active chicks. All five survived and are doing great. I had zero chicks hatch from the second pullet’s seven eggs. Zero. None. I opened them after incubation. None had even started to develop. My assumption is that the pullet may not have matured enough to allow the rooster to fertilize her eggs so behaviors can make a difference in this too. It’s also possible the pullet had something internal to her eggs that prevented them from developing. So that was five chicks out of 13 pullet eggs. Not a great hatch.
In my second hatch I set 20 eggs from four different pullets. They had been laying from 1 to 3 months. Out of those 20 eggs I had twelve chicks hatch. Again there was a difference in egg color and size. The ones that did or did not hatch were from all four pullets, sort of scattered. All twelve that hatched are five weeks old now and doing great. Most of the eight eggs that did not hatch never even started to develop but a couple started and quit. In that same hatch I had eight eggs from hens that were over a year old. Seven of those eggs hatched. So 12 out of 20 pullet eggs and 7 out of 8 mature hens’ eggs. A pretty clear difference. The difference is not always this dramatic. I had none die after hatch this year. I usually don’t but when one dies it is usually one from a pullet egg.
You can incubate the eggs at any time. But the longer you wait the more likely you are to have success. I strongly suggest you wait at least a month after they start to lay to give the pullet time to work out the kinks in her egg making factory and to give the eggs some time to get a bit bigger. I think your odds of success greatly improve.
Thanks for you'r time