Shipping Chicken Eggs Overseas…

“I thoroughly enjoy your newsletters, please keep them coming! I live in Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. I keep a variety of chickens and ducks – in my backyard – I call them my living lawn ornaments. There appears to be a shortage of good breeding stock of Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island reds, Faverolles, Turkens etc locally. The people who do have them seem loathe to part with them.

I have seen many overseas websites that offer fertile eggs or day olds sent to people across country by post. In my case fertile eggs would be the only option as I don’t expect anything to make it over alive! How long would fertile eggs remain fertile to hatch in an incubator, and are there laws that prohibit this kind of overseas transaction? I look forward to your answer.” ~ Regards, Samantha

Thanks so much for the question Samantha,

I’ll start with the answer that I don’t know – I don’t know if there are any laws that would prohibit fertile eggs being sent across borders. I would imagine that the laws would vary from country to country so this is something you’ll have to check into with your local magistrate.

Assuming it is legal, there are some things to keep in mind when considering shipping fertile eggs across long distances.

Let’s look at the ideal conditions in which you would store fertile eggs if you were collecting them from your own hens, and then we’ll compare those conditions to those you might find if the eggs were sent a long distance by post.

You would choose only clean (meaning not manured), medium sized, uniformly shaped eggs. You would collect 3 to 4 times a day until you had assembled enough eggs to set.

While you are collecting eggs, they can be “held” for up to 7 days. After 7 days, hatchability declines rapidly. After 3 weeks, you can expect 0% hatchability. Being “held” refers to a period of time where the fertile eggs are in a limbo state prior to incubating them.

However, you can’t just put the eggs on the counter or stick them in the refrigerator while you assemble your clutch.

For the best hatchability, the eggs should be stored in a cool and humid storage area. Ideally the temperature should be steadily around 55 degrees F (13 degrees C). A 75% relative humidity should be maintained for best results. Variations in either the temperature or humidity will reduce hatchability.

So I think you can see the challenges in sending fertile eggs long distances.

I spoke with two large hatcheries today regarding your question.

Both said that they ship their eggs overnight.

Both said that they did not use packaging that would maintain either temperature or humidity and that they were unaware of any available packaging that would do so, hence the reason they ship overnight.

So Samantha, I just don’t see a way that you could be guaranteed a successful hatch if you were ordering overseas.

However, depending on the length of time from which the egg is laid to the time it arrives to you, the possibility does exist that you would have some of the chicks hatch, although it is a very slight possibility.

My suggestion to you would be to get very chummy with those people who have good stock, offer to clean their coop for a month, or some other unpleasant task.

You know your situation best and what might work for you but it doesn’t look good for receiving stock from elsewhere.

I wish I had better news for you but I do wish you the best of luck.

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