Collecting and processing eggs on a breeding/conservation farm is much more time consuming than gathering and processing generic market eggs. We track the production of our pure-bred Partridge Chantecler and Standard Bronze turkey hens so we know if we are on the "right track" for historic production standards. This means we need to keep the eggs from all the various coops and family groups separate so we can track the quantity of eggs, the quality of the chicks produced and the fertility of each group. With close to 300 birds, that means extra time and lots of marked containers.
Each day our Chantecler chicken and Standard Bronze turkey eggs are collected, each group of eggs is counted and the quantities are marked on a spreadsheet. The eggs that are the best in shape and size are marked with a pencil to note the family and set aside to potentially be incubated or shipped to customers seeking to hatch their own chicks. All the other eggs go into a community basket to be rinsed with hot water, packaged in cartons and refrigerated for market eggs. (THANK YOU for buying the eggs so we can keep more hens which means additional genetic diversity in our flock!)
The eggs set aside for possible incubation are candled (checked with a flashlight) to make sure the air sac is at the top of the large end of the egg and stationary. They are also checked to make sure there are no cracks and the shell quality is strong and consistent throughout. The eggs are then placed in the bottom drawers of cabinets in our basement and stored for no longer than 1 week before setting in the incubator (or a couple days before shipping). Storing them longer may reduce the viability of the egg. We have a spring that flows under the basement so it stays very cool year round.
Incubation for fertilized .chicken eggs takes 21 days and 28 days for turkey eggs (turkey eggs are less "mature" when they are laid). The eggs are moved off the floor earlier in the day to avoid too much shock from putting them in a warm incubator. I candle the eggs one more time and set them in the incubator. The incubator has a stable temperature and rotates the eggs automatically to "exercise; the yolk". Ten days after being in the incubator, the eggs are candled for signs of life and the eggs that are not viable are discarded.
At day 17 for chicken eggs and day 21 for turkey eggs, the eggs are candled one more time to make sure all are viable and moved to a "hatcher". The hatcher has stationary trays where the eggs are laid on their sides for the chicks and turkey poults to get into position for hatching. If all goes well we hear peeping and the rumble of little chicks or poults in the trays on the hatch date!
Old Time Farm