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In Japanese Quail #3, we looked at the incubator in terms of its role, its component parts and how it works.

When it comes to producing healthy viable chicks, however, the incubator is only part of the process – so it’s appropriate that we give some thought to the production and care of the fertile eggs that we’re looking to hatch.

Let’s start with the understanding that you can’t hatch what wasn’t in the egg at the commencement of incubation.

Everything that happens to that egg from that point onwards is all downhill – so we need to care for the birds that produce the eggs to preserve their viability – and we need to look after the eggs after they’ve been laid to optimise their hatchability.

Ensuring viable fertile eggs requires that the breeder be fed a diet that meats their full nutritional needs and that they have continuous access to clean drinking water.  Ensuring that the breeder ratio is adequate (one male to each 2 – 4 hens), and that the birds live free from stress, is also important.

Once laid, fertile eggs are impacted by time and temperature.

Eggs should be collected regularly.  We only collect clean eggs.  Soiled eggs are put into the bucket containing the food for our soldier fly larvae.

The longer the interval between collection and setting, the lower the likelihood of a healthy chick – so we try to limit ensure that all eggs that we set are less than one week old.


Fertile eggs should be stored somewhere cool and dry.

We store the eggs in plastic racks in a dry cool space in the house where the temperature does not exceed 15 degrees C (60 degrees F).

Once upon a time, we used to fumigate incubators to kill of any pathogens on the eggs or lurking inside the machines.  We used a mix of chemicals that (it was subsequently discovered) posed a serious health risk to people.  These days, we just wipe out the incubator with a veterinary disinfectant.

So, we’ve set our 100 fertile quail eggs in our incubator where they’ve been for the past 14 days or so.  Our next move will be to get them ready for hatching so, later today, I’ll move them out of the turning trays and lay them on the mesh floor of the incubator.

I’ll also add more water (which has the effect of increasing the surface area of water inside the incubator) to raise the humidity for the hatch.

The hatch is due on Thursday 2nd May…….so let’s keep our fingers crossed.