Hatching eggs are a great way to easily earn an income from your chickens. If you have the setup for maintaining a purebred flock and quality chickens, the word will spread and you will be cheering your hens on as they lay their eggs! This is your complete guide to hatching eggs!
Selling Hatching Eggs
For the love of chickens and having a *few* too many for the sake of having farm fresh eggs served daily for breakfast…the expenses can add up quickly. But what if you were to choose a breed or *two (*or more) and raise quality, pure-bred chickens and sell the fertilized chicken eggs?
Many people are eager to incubate their eggs and it can save you the hassle (wonderful hassle, that is) of incubating eggs and also, depending on the breed, can save your customers the outright cost of buying laying hens. But there are definitely some things that need to be in place to get your business off to a great start.
State Laws for Selling Fertile Eggs
As always, it’s worth the time spent researching your state’s laws regarding selling and shipping hatching eggs. For updated information on your state’s requirements and regulations contact your local extension office. They will help you know exactly what to do and what is required to be in legal limits with this business.
What is NPIP Certification?
“The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) is a national program in collaboration with state and federal departments of agriculture and industry representatives. The main objective of this program is to use new diagnostic technology to effectively improve poultry and poultry products throughout the United States. NPIP provides certification that poultry and poultry products destined for interstate and international shipments are disease free.” ~Source
Do You Have to be NPIP to Ship Eggs
Most states require NPIP certification, Pullorum and Typhoid testing, and a permit with health certification.
You will find most of the information that you need at this website here: National Poultry Improvement Plan
Housing for Breeding
If you are planning to raise multiple breeds, it’s important to plan accordingly even if you only start out with one breed. When I first read this, it amazed me. Did you know that if a rooster breeds a hen, they are fertile with that rooster for up to 2-3 weeks after? If you are planning to have eggs shipped out on a certain date, and there is the “oopsie-the rooster got out!”, it will delay your ability to mail purebred eggs. It would be best to wait the 3 weeks and start collecting eggs again. The eggs in between that time can be sold for eating eggs or hatched as mutt chickens and sold for less.
To keep breeds from mixing, it is best to have them separated into separate coops and runs. If you don’t have the ability to have outside runs coming out of each coop, one way to allow chickens the ability to free range is to rotate which group of chickens is allowed to free range each day. Also, a single building or coop can be split up inside to house several different breeding groups and also have access to an outside run.
Two different varieties of poultry can be kept in one coop if necessary as well. This would be like keeping chickens and quail or guineas in one coop or chickens and ducks in a coop together.
Breeding Tips and Breeding Methods
First of all, what is mating? It is the act of joining a cock (rooster) with a hen so that the eggs laid by the hen are fertile. Fertility is necessary for hatching eggs.
Young cockerel, males, can be kept with more hens than an older cock. “More females can be allowed in the mating pen during spring than during winter (where the winters are very cold). In exceptionally warm summers, mating should be suspended as fertility will be very poor and the birds get exhausted.” ~Source
In this process of becoming a poultry breeder, you need to determine from the beginning that you will be a breeder and not just a multiplier. It is absolutely necessary to know the breeds you own inside and out and be ready to cull any hen or rooster that does not match up to the American Standard of Perfection. These chickens can be sold at a discount as you work on perfecting your flock.
As a beginner, it would be prudent to find someone in your area willing to help you in your first years of selection and culling. Sometimes a hen carries all the attributes of her breed but her offspring will not have the desired traits. This hen would need to be found and culled. And to find the correct hen, it may take multiple hatches to narrow down which one it is. But these hatches can be sold for less and the customer informed of what the abnormality is.
Chicken Breeding Techniques
There are 5 different types of breeding techniques to choose from. (~Source)
- PEN MATING. In this type of mating, ten hens are kept in a breeding pen and one cock is permitted to mate and live with them freely. This is probably the easiest way to breed chickens for the small chicken breeder while also being able to easily keep track of parentage for record keeping. Eggs collected a week after letting in the cock will normally be fertile. Utilizing this breeding method will not allow you to know exactly which hen produced which chick.
- FLOCK MATING. Here a large flock of hens is kept with a number of cocks in the proportion of one cock for every ten hens. But under confined conditions, the males develop a tendency to fight each other and generally, one male becomes the aggressor preventing the others from mating. This may affect the fertility seriously. The eggs also cannot be traced to the cock concerned and so pedigree breeding is not possible. On the other hand, on a free-range, there will not be much scope for fighting and the birds are free to run about. Flock mating is preferred where ordinary farm conditions are prevalent and no pedigree breeding is undertaken. It also permits housing for a large number of fowls as one unit and thereby reduces the overhead costs.
- STUD MATING. Stud mating consists of keeping the cocks and hen in separate pens or confining the males in separate coops in the pen of the females. The hens are let into the male’s pen one by one at intervals, and after mating, they are removed to their own pen.
- ALTERNATE MALES. In this method, it is also impossible to determine paternity of the offspring. Two males are used for mating, but only one is allowed to serve the hens at a time for one full day, while the other is confined to the coop. The following day the male that had been employed is removed to the coop, and the second one is let in with the flock.
- ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION. Artificial insemination may not be a feasible proposal for a smaller poultry breeder because of lack of necessary expertise, understanding, and funds.
It will, in the end, be up to you how many records you keep and how detailed. But keeping detailed records will help you as you define and refine your flock. Don’t ever assume that you can remember every detail. You can’t. There are too many other things to keep track of. Writing as much detail down about each mating group and the results will be how you will know what direction you are going and which direction you should be going.
You can find detailed record keeping worksheets on our free resource page.
Eggs collected to sell for hatching purposes should be collected several times a day. In the winter, depending on temperatures, they probably will need to be collected even more frequently. Eggs that have gotten too cold, froze, or cracked will not hatch or incubate well and should not be shipped. Summer months, with high heat, will also be a detriment to hatching eggs. In fact, the embryo may begin to develop all on their own and when they are collected, the development stops and won’t begin again when set in an incubator.
Collecting eggs more frequently will also help prevent other problems like breakage, eggs being eaten, getting poopy, allowing bacteria into the egg, broodiness, predator snatching, and temperature fluctuations.
If you want this to be an income source, collecting eggs frequently will just be a part of the “job”.
Maintaining a Flock
You will also need to find a good system of replacing older hens and those that aren’t up to your standards. It makes sense to sell those hens as laying hens if possible and if you’ve established and maintained a strong set of breeds, people will be more than happy to purchase your hens.
Here are several reasons you will need replacement hens:
- As you cull hens that you’ve determined are not improving your genetics, you will need a replacement of higher quality.
- Hens over 2 years old will probably need to be replaced with younger pullets.
- New bloodlines are needed.
Any time you add to your flock, choose hens that will be a marked improvement to your program.
People buying your eggs have made several assumptions: that you are feeding the parent birds appropriately with a breeder ration, that they are in excellent health without any deformities or sickness and that the eggs were handled properly and with utmost care.
Choosing Hatching Eggs
Collecting the eggs frequently is important but the final cut in which eggs should be shipped still needs to be made.
Candle the eggs and eliminate any of these eggs with these flaws:
- Too porous
- Hairline cracks
- Too large, small, or odd shaped
Also select eggs from multiple hens and roosters if possible, to provide as much genetic diversity as possible.
Handling Hatching Eggs
Hatching eggs must be handled very carefully or they won’t hatch. Here are the do’s and don’ts:
- Do put them in an egg carton with the pointy end down.
- Do store between 55-65° with 75% humidity.
- Do not wash eggs. This removes the very protective “bloom” that keeps bacteria from entering through the shell.
- Do not use too large, too small or odd shaped eggs. Most likely none of these types of eggs are fertile or will hatch.
- Do rotate the eggs by placing one end of the egg carton higher than the other at approximately a 30% angle. Then “rotate” which end of the carton is higher several times a day until they are set in the incubator. This prevents the yolks from sticking to the side of the shell. A book or piece of plywood works great for this.
- Do not use eggs older than 10 days old. They lose viability after that.
Sale and Pricing of Hatching Eggs
As you are collecting your eggs and getting the word out about their availability, be very careful with your record keeping of when eggs were picked. With a pencil, write what day they were laid, and any other details that are important to remember on the side of the egg. If you do write a “code” on the eggs that help you with your records, include the key to the code with the shipment of eggs.
Don’t sell any eggs that are older than three days old. By the time they reach their destination, they will be between 5-7 days old already. You want success for your business and success in the incubator will bring you great reviews and more business!
Eggs are usually sold in bunches like this: 6+, 12+, 8, 10, 16, 24, or 36. Did you notice the +? That would mean that there will be a few extras included to make up for any breakage in shipment. One added egg for every 6-8 is reasonable. And people LOVE getting extras!
When you do create your ad or are working on working for flyers or social media posts, be sure to be very specific in how many you will be sending. If you won’t be sending any extra use the word “exact”. Here would be an example: “You will be getting exactly 6 eggs in your order.”
As far as pricing, due diligence in finding out pricing for your area and for your specific breed will help you in determining your price. If you take part in an auction where there is a “buy it now” or fixed price, price competitively. Remember, if everyone undercuts the lowest price, that’s what customers will expect to pay in the future and profits will continue to get less and less.
It is quite common to see eggs that are priced between $2.50-$6.00 per egg. If you have what might be considered “average” eggs from an average flock of chickens, the prices can range from $6.00-$18.00 a dozen. But if you have spent the time to develop your flock to meet up to the standards of the breed and are confident that your eggs could produce show quality chickens, the price can range from $25.00-$200.00 a dozen.
How to Write an Ad for Optimal Egg Sales
Having a quality product isn’t enough to attract sales. And just “getting the word out there” doesn’t guarantee a sale. It also comes down to selling your product like a professional. What will that look like?
When buyers are looking for additions to their flock, they want to know all the details. It gives people a sense of connection to you as a seller and to the birds that they will be caring for.
Here is a list of pertinent information that should be included in the ad. What are you selling:
- Breeds included
- Information about the particular breed. People love to read all they can about a breed they are looking in to. They want to know why they have made the best decision in the breed(s) they chose.)
- How many breeding groups are included
- How many cockerels and hens were included
- How old your flock is
- And details about how you selected your flock to begin with
- Include information about how you manage your flock: breeder rations, free-range, organic food etc.
- Include any test hatch rate results and overall fertility if you have them
- Include any awards you have won
- Post terms and condition very clearly
- List where you are not willing to ship
- Write out clearly your policy on replacement eggs
- Include any organizations or breed clubs you may be involved with
- Provide pictures of your flock. Keep them professional, clear and focused on your animals. Provide a clutter free background. In short? Show off your chickens with amazing pictures! Why? Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Here is a standard statement that could be used:
Where to Sell Fertilized Hatching Eggs
Selling fertilized eggs possibly may have never been easier. There are so many proven options available these days.
Here are great options for selling hatching eggs:
- Rare Breed Auctions
- Feather Auction.com
- Best Farm Buys
- Ad in local newspaper
- Flyers around town at feed stores, Pet stores, Veterinarian offices, Coffee shops, Gas station bulletin boards
- Social media
- Poultry swaps
In selling online, you will usually have two options: auctions or set price. In a set price situation, you can set a price and are guaranteed that amount. In an auction, you can have a minimum price, and may even get much more than the minimum!
Breed a great quality bird, take care of those eggs and make it worth your time to sell those eggs!
Taking the Order
Yay! Orders are coming in! How do you handle them properly?
You will want to collect this information from your buyers:
- Shipping address
- Email address
- Phone number
- Ask the buyer if they prefer to pick up the package from the post office (held for pickup) or if they don’t mind the eggs being driven around in the (sometimes bumpy!) ride in the mail truck.
- Do they desire any other notes to be included on the outside of the package?
Prompt and efficient communication between you and your buyer will help make a difference between a good experience and a bad one.
Shipping Hatching Eggs
There are several ways to ships eggs. And this probably is the most important part of the whole process. If you can’t get eggs safely to their destination, you don’t have a business. So as you package your eggs, make it double your best effort.
Eggs will ship well when they are packaged correctly with lots of padding (bubble wrap for the win!).
Individually wrap each egg in small strips of bubble wrap and tape well. Place them in an egg carton that has been cut in half (the lid wouldn’t close otherwise). Then place the lid on top of the eggs and wrap with bubble wrap. Tape well. Place in a flat rate box and add filler all around the egg carton.
Use the Meeks Method. Each egg will be wrapped in a long strip of bubble wrap and taped well. These long tubes are placed side by side on end in a box with bubble wrap and packaging all around them. You can find awesome pictures and a tutorial here: Meeks Method
Whichever method you choose, you will want to mark the package as “fragile” and “this side up”. If the buyer chose to pick up the package, include “Hold for pickup. Call: xxx-xxx-xxx”. Also, attach the NPIP paperwork to the outside of the box if you have it. Ship it priority mail and also require a signature.
After the Sale is Complete
Immediately after the eggs have been shipped, email the buyer with the tracking information.
If there does happen to be problems with an order or after hatching, remind them of your terms and conditions. Some sellers negotiate and offer to send more eggs for half the price and paid for shipping. Usually, this maintains good customer satisfaction.
If at all possible ask your customers to send you pictures of their chicks after hatching and for a testimonial. Good recommendations are always useful for future business sales.
Keep their email address for future use. Send information about available eggs, new breeds, or any discounts that are available. This is a great way to stay in communication and have repeat business.
You did it. All of your hard work has paid off. You have hatching eggs available for people to continue your line of chickens. If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is!
Keep breeding and maintaining a healthy flock. Get rid of birds that are not an asset. Keep an eye out for hens that are better and will raise your flock to the next level and then be ready to sell eggs for hatching!