Hatching eggs are live embryos. Their natural cycle would be to be laid in a nest and tended by a hen and gently turned daily during 21 days of incubation. In that perfect world, most fertile eggs would hatch.
Eggs aren’t intended to cross the country before they get back under the hen, but shipping eggs is a good way to send stock. It avoids the issues live birds raise, and they don’t cheep or cluck in the post office.
The Welsummer eggs shown here have arrived at their destination and incubation has begun.
The embryo in a fertilized egg that has been promptly collected and, if necessary, cleaned, hasn’t started to develop yet, but the fertilized ovum is very delicate. It can’t stand much jiggling, so securing it in its packaging is important. Eggs should be packed with plenty of soft padding, wide end down. Bubble wrap around each egg works, or plenty of absorbent shavings. The eggs can be secured in an egg carton or some other box that can be protected in another sturdy box.
The sturdy box with the wrapped eggs inside should then be wrapped in bubble wrap, foam or other packing material. This layer cushions the eggs and protects them from excess movement as well as insulating them against extremes of heat and cold.
The wrapped box is then packed into a heavy cardboard shipping box, protected with plenty of bubble wrap, air packs or other protective packing material. Make sure that it is packed firmly enough that the box is not subject to any movement. The less jiggling, the better their chances of hatching are.
Tape the box securely and label it as Live Embryos – Handle With Care – Avoid Shaking and Extreme Temperature Variations. This helps the postal employees know that special handling is required. I’m convinced that they do their best, but they handle hundreds of packages every day and need something to alert them when to special consideration.
An excellent Web site on the subject is Rocking T Ranch and Poultry Farm, http://www.poultryhelp.com/eggpacking.html.
When the eggs arrive, unpack them carefully and inspect them for cracks. Discard the cracked ones. Note which eggs arrived in good condition. They should be marked to identify them as to breed or breeding line. Allow them to rest overnight in a dark place before setting them under a hen or in an incubator.
The number of eggs that hatch divided by the total set is the hatch rate. The breeder who sent you the eggs will appreciate your report of the condition in which the eggs arrived and a follow-up of how well they hatched.
Shipping eggs requires care, but can be the best way to get new stock that isn’t available in your area. It can be successful and is worth the effort.