Got a rooster and hens already?
This is where you get started. If you have your own birds already, you want
to gather your eggs at least 3 times a day, and get them in storage as soon
as possible to keep them fresh. Storage is simple. Keep them in a cool place,
such as a corner in the basement, or in a little cooler with an ice pack, with a
moistened dishtowel covering the ice pack. The best condition for your eggs is
50 degrees, and 50% humidity while in storage. They will keep well for 1 week,
and fall off rapidly in terms of hatchability after2 weeks. The best situation?
See if your chickens will lay them in the incubator for you. The worst?
Placing them in the refrigerator before you set them. The refrigerator dries the
eggs out, and really does a number on the eggs' hatchability.
Don't have any birds?
Try to find somebody locally that has. See if you can squeeze some eggs out of them. Most people that keep birds will have just what you need to get started. Make sure they know that you want to hatch them, and ask for tips. Be willing to pay a fair amount for them, and be Thankful! If you are particular about what breed of bird you want to start out with, it will make things difficult on you. Take what you can find, and try them out.
Can't find fertile hatching eggs locally?
Try to order some from a reputable breeder, hatchery, or hobbyist. The most important thing is to find someone who is willing to help you with your hatch. Price shouldn't be your only motivating factor. As with anything, cheapest is probably not best, and the most expensive may not be any better. Try to order from a source that is closest to you.
Shipped eggs can be a problem. Eggs are fragile, and while they may arrive unbroken, they can easily be destroyed internally. It's a gamble, but sometimes one you have to take to get what you want. Be aware that specific breeds have different levels of hatching difficulty. Some eggs are more fragile, and ship poorly, while others ship very well, and hatch well. We have fertile hatching eggs available for sale at all times, at different prices, ranging from excellent to ridiculous. Hatching egg prices vary for a million reasons.
Cleaning your eggs?
This is a tough area. You shouldn't clean your eggs, unless it is necessary. Last I checked, chickens don't clean their eggs. But they don't put them in an incubator in the house, either. If they are terribly dirty, you should carefully wash them in 110 degree water, and rinse them in 120 degree water. Water temperature is very important, and never let the eggs soak for more than 2 minutes. If you like, you can use a commercial egg sanitizer. I sometimes use Tek-Trol. I clean all my eggs with water, then spray them lightly to disinfect. You can, and should, do absolutely nothing to your eggs and have an excellent hatch. I clean my eggs because I don't like a stinky incubator. It may even affect my hatch rate, but I'll take the loss. Hundreds of eggs in a small area like the incubator can make for a lot of stink. It helps to have a fresh smelling incubator in case a bad egg shows up. You can easily smell a bad egg in a clean incubator, and remove it before it becomes a problem.
Once your eggs are clean, you want to keep them that way. When handling your eggs after cleaning, be sure your hands are free of dirt, grease lotions, nicotene, perfume, etc.. You made them clean, you want to keep them clean!
Sorting the eggs?
Don't use any hatching egg that looks less than perfect. It's difficult to throw them away when you've just paid a lot of money for them, but a spoiled egg can cause a lot of problems in the incubator. Discard any cracked or misshapen eggs, or any others that you expect might cause a problem.
Marking your eggs.
When marking your eggs, use a good, old-fashioned pencil. NEVER a permanent marker. Remember, anything can travel in and out of an egg. If you are wondering if the chemicals in a marker are good for a peep's development, touch it on your tongue once, or just smell it. Make as small, and as few marks as possible, because every mark you make plugs pores in the shell. If you don't feel the need to mark anything, then don't.