It’s very unlikely you will be able to hatch shop-bought or supermarket eggs. Although, it’s not impossible and certainly not unheard of. Generally speaking, however, supermarket eggs come from all-female flocks of hens raised specifically to lay unfertilized eggs that cannot develop chicks.
Why Do Store-Bought Eggs Not Hatch?
There are a number of reasons why you do not need to worry about supermarket or store-bought eggs hatching.
In summary, it’s mainly because:
- Chicken eggs need to be fertilized by a rooster to hatch, and
- Chicken eggs need to be incubated at around 100 degrees F over a 21-day period
So, as you can see, even if you wanted to hatch an egg from a supermarket, it’s incredibly unlikely just based on the fact that it (should) not even be fertilized.
Why Supermarket Eggs Are Not Fertilized
This actually comes as a surprise to a lot of people (so don’t worry if that includes you), but shop-bought eggs are not fertilized.
Hens lay eggs whether they are fertilized or not. For an egg to be fertilized and stand a chance of hatching a chick under the right conditions, there first needs to be a rooster in the flock.
That rooster then needs to mate with the hen at the right time for the subsequent egg to be fertilized. There is quite a long window of time for this, I believe after a rooster mates with a hen she can lay a fertilized egg for up to 3 weeks.
Typically, at egg farms and other places where shops buy their eggs, there will not be any roosters. Therefore, it’s almost always impossible that an egg will be fertilized.
This is because roosters don’t do anything useful for an egg farm. In fact, there are more of a nuisance than they are a help!
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Where Can You Buy Fertilized Hatching Eggs?
If you want to hatch some chicks, you need to buy some hatching eggs. These are eggs that hatcheries know are fertilized, so you won’t be disappointed when they do hatch.
You also need all the starter kit, such as an incubator, brooder, heat lamp, and so on. Hatching chicks is not something you should try without being properly prepared!
The best advice I can give you is to check out Cackle Hatchery. This is one of the largest online hatcheries stocking a wide range of hatching eggs, all the kit you need to incubate and hatch eggs, and everything else you could possibly need to get started.
Click here to see the range of hatching eggs and hatching equipment Cackle Hatchery has available.
Eggs Need To Be Incubated if You Want Them To Hatch
The second point I covered above is that an egg needs to be incubated for around 21 days to be able to hatch.
Incubation is essentially the process by which chickens provide adequate warmth to their eggs to stimulate and sustain embryo growth.
It’s no accident that a chick develops in a fertilized egg. The egg needs to be kept within a certain temperature range for a set time period.
Generally speaking, this means keeping the temperature and humidity around the egg around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Which, as you can imagine is not easy without the help of an incubator or a live hen!
Do We Eat Fertilized Eggs?
We can, and probably do eat fertilized eggs at times, yes. Despite making most people feel a little uneasy, it’s perfectly safe to eat a fertilized egg.
Obviously, there is a difference between just being fertilized and cracking open an egg to find the embryo has started to form.
The important thing to note is that there is nothing wrong with a fertilized egg. If you buy eggs that came from a free-range farm with roosters present, there is a good chance you’re buying fertilized eggs and will never know the difference.
Related - Here's how chickens reproduce without a rooster in the flock.
How Can You Tell if an Egg Is Fertilized?
The most common - and I think the oldest known way - to tell if an egg is fertilized and whether or not the embryo is starting to develop is by using a technique called ‘candling’.
Candling involves holding the egg up to a light so you can literally see inside and look for signs that there is an embryo.
When incubating eggs, it’s good practice to candle them every few days to check how the embryo is developing. You can, of course, do this once just to see if you have a fertilized egg or not.
It’s easier to see an example of candling than it is to explain it. Here is a video demonstrating this technique. They even use a mobile for light, showing you that you don’t have to buy a special candling machine:
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If you wanted to hatch an egg from a supermarket, I’m sorry to have shattered that dream! Although, without all the proper equipment, like an incubator, a brooder, lamp, etc. It’s not a good idea to start hatching chicks.
At least you’re now better informed about why eggs from the supermarket will never hatch into chicks.
As well as how you can ensure eggs are fertilized if you do want to hatch them, how to incubate eggs, and everything else related to bringing chicks into the world!
Image credits - Header photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash