I have had a few questions about eggs lately with people citing broken eggs, poor hatching rates and even disappearing eggs.
Let's then talk about eggs in this issue and get a few of these problems solved.
Eggs are the reason most people keep chickens and we want them to be fresh and healthy.
Collect eggs every day and clean out boxes regularly. Soiled eggs can be washed in lukewarm water and refrigerated, but they should not be used for hatching purposes.
Eggs really are what the chicken eats so it begins with diet which I have covered before.
I would add here though that calcium in the form of shell grit will stop about ninety-five percent of shell issues and you can even buy calcium powder to mix through feed these days.
Access to green feed and/or range will also help.
Hens and pullets lay eggs in the best spot they can find so this means if your nest boxes are not up to scratch they will go elsewhere.
Nest boxes should be big enough for your breed, darkish, safe from predators, bug free and soft to protect the eggs.
Hens will scratch about in them to get comfortable so some sawdust, straw or equivalent needs to be checked regularly.
Collect eggs every day and clean out boxes regularly.
Soiled eggs can be washed in lukewarm water and refrigerated, but they should not be used for hatching purposes.
I tend to give these to the dog!
There should be few of these if you follow the nest box guidelines.
Disappearing eggs are usually the result of rats, snakes or goannas.
But if the birds are laying in the open, other birds will get the eggs as well.
Collecting daily eliminates this and vermin should be eliminated anyway.
The odd egg lost to a python is no hardship compared to the mice and rats they get - bargain really and I've found they rarely eat large fowl.
For hatching purposes in an incubator, eggs should be collected at least twice daily and stored with the pointy end down in a cool, dark place - but not a fridge.
I like to keep the cartons at a 45 degree angle and change them about morning and night before placing in the incubator.
Keep no longer than about seven days or fertility will be affected and it can decline to nothing after a longer time.
Eggs should be warmed a little to room temperature before being placed in an incubator.
If you follow these few simple rules and the incubator guidelines then hatch rates should be fantastic.
I hope this helps with those egg problems.
Keep the questions and ideas coming in and I'll answer them in the column.
Have a great spring.
- Bruce Pattinson is a past president of the NSW Exhibition Poultry Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Chook Feed, PO Box 25, Kogarah, 2217, with your name and daytime contact number.