Buying eBay hatching eggs a quick and simple guide

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Mon, 04/09/2018 - 06:46

Getting Started:

I have over the years bought and sold a great many eggs on eBay for hatching with both good and bad results. Some sellers are good, honest and happy to help, while others are only after one thing - money.

Buying hatching eggs on eBay is hardly fraught with peril and there is a few ways you can protect yourself and make things a bit easier and more likely to succeed. Although I have written this as a guide to eBay eggs it could be used for any business that sells hatching eggs.

Eggs are normally purchased from eBay in 6's or multiples thereof. I used to sell them in nines 9's as I felt this was the best number for a decent hatch. 

You don't generally get 6 out of 6 or 12 hatching from 12 eggs when buying posted eggs although it does happen. Eggs are a natural product and as such cannot be guaranteed. 

The big problem with buying hatching eggs is you cannot see how the bird will look when it hatches or is grown up.

How to Buy Hatching Eggs on eBay :

eBay is a market place and is governed by it's own rules and the trading laws of the country it operates in. Goods sold have to be fit for purpose and the buyer has a responsibility to make the best of what they have bought.

Not every countries eBay will let you sell hatching eggs and some get around it by selling fertilised eating eggs.

Head over to the Pet Supplies category then the Poultry/ Hatching/ Incubation portal. Click on the hatching eggs sub-category or search the site for hatching eggs or "your Breed" hatching eggs.

Everybody seems to want chickens these days and lets face it - hatching your own is a thrilling and very rewarding experience.

Buying the eggs in this manner can be a bit of a mine field and this guide might shed some light on matters for you:

What do you want your stock for? 

There is a great difference in wanting eggs for showing or breeding purposes and getting eggs for ordinary laying birds.

If you want a rare breed you need to be very sure that you buy into a good line which will give you strong healthy birds. 

Don't be persuaded into buying eggs of a breed that, due to its genetics, will probably die before or just after hatching. If you want to be able to show your breed at exhibitions, check that the breed you are planning to buy is listed as such in British Poultry Standards or the corresponding standards of perfection for your country.

There are some other tried and tested ways of buying hatching eggs aside from eBay:-
 
Specialist breeders. This is the best idea if you want a specific type  or breed as a show bird and want to go on to produce your own. You get to see the parents and take the eggs home with you rather than entrusting them to delivery driver with targets to meet.

Farms. Farms are a good place to get hens that lay well and are productive. There are plenty of smallholders or homesteaders that batch grown young birds on for sale.

Poultry markets or auctions. The best and most cost effective way of getting fertile eggs is to go to a livestock auction - since it is often cheaper than eBay because there are no postage costs involved. 
Hatcheries

A good number of these will allow you to see the birds first hand and the eggs you will be getting which you cannot if you buy hatching eggs from eBay unless the seller lives near you and allows collection.

So what hatch rate should I expect from eBay eggs?

It is unusual to have all the eggs hatch.  So bear that in mind.  

It is not unreasonable to expect a 4 out of 6 hatch rate. If the hatch rate was less than 50% I would be disappointed. So that's your answer, somewhere between 50 and 75%.

Be prepared for a zero hatch as they can and do happen.

The courier or post office can be rough with packages, often they are handles by machine and tipped from one conveyor belt to the other during the sorting process, even the ones marked "fragile" or "hatching eggs". 

This could prevent the embryo from developing and it would not matter if the egg was fertile. Rough handling can tear membranes.

 

Identifying suitable sellers!

This is the biggest and best reason never to buy eggs, the seller has a trio of birds and is selling 12 eggs. That makes the a minimum of 7 days old before they are even posted and possibly a lot more as most rare breeds do not lay every day.

Avoid a seller who has obviously come to blows with a buyer. 

Spelling mistakes. Someone who takes pride in their birds and eggs would not call them camping instead of campine.

a good example of posted hatching eggs

Above is a good example of eggs. They are clean , well packed with a little tissue under to stop them rattling in the polybox and they came in a card sleeve and several layers of bubble wrap.

Take a look at the sellers other items. If they are selling a lot of different types of eggs then the chances are they are running a hatching eggs farm for maximum turn over rather than the birds. A decent breeder will only have one or two types.
 
eBay sellers ask their buyers to leave feedback not on the fertility rate of the eggs but on how quickly the eggs were delivered and how well packaged they were.

From your point of view as a buyer this is taking away any rights you might otherwise have had to a refund if eggs were infertile. Why? Because if you had left positive feedback but then when/if you found that the eggs were not fertile and tried to open a case through eBay or PayPal, the chances are it would be declined because you had left positive feedback and so said you were happy with the purchase.  

So my advice is DO NOT LEAVE ANY FEEDBACK until you are satisfied with the fertility of the eggs.

How many transactions have they completed? This is a difficult one. I am more than happy to give a first time seller the benefit of the doubt if the listing is good and they answer some simple questions but some people prefer a history of completed transactions.

 

Before bidding on eggs:

1. What breeds you would like. Research the breed and do not buy white eggs if the breed you are after lays brown eggs.

2. How many birds you need. Bear in mind genetically 50% are males. If you want 6 hens you will need 18 eggs for the best chance.

3. Decide how much money you can afford to waste as you may get nothing for your outlay.

4. Have a look to see how many types of eggs the seller has listed. A genuine breeder will normally only have one or two types for sale.

5. Check the feedback before bidding or buying. Check as far back as you can and look for any follow up's regarding hatch rates.

6. Are there any known lethal genes that might affect the success rate?

7. How far are they coming. Eggs that have been flown have a much smaller chance of hatching successfully.

8. Look at the sellers images, are the birds in a mud bath or cramped conditions. Use Google image search to see where the photos came from or if they are actually the sellers own birds.

9. Do the sellers tell you how the package and post their eggs.

10. Is the listing clear and concise with test hatch results. Correct spellings and not trying to pass off hybrids as breeds.


You need to know at least the basic breed characteristics of the type you are after. make sure the birds look true to type and lay the correct eggs in both colour and size.

Decide how many you want and whether you intend to breed them yourself or enjoy fancy hens in your backyard.

How much can you afford to waste as buying hatching eggs from eBay is likely to be a gamble on several fronts.

Look into the sellers other items. If they are selling 20 or 30 different breeds of eggs then they are likely into the mass production market for financial gain. So a seller with 6 types of Wyandotte bantams is likely to be a reliable breeder with quality well looked after stock. I know which i would rather buy eggs from.

Check the feedback. This is self explanatory. Look at the good, the neutral and the bad. Pay particular attention as to whether the eggs are clean. Read a seller's detailed star ratings and do not bid if they are poor.

Does the breed have lethal genes like the Japanese bantam short leg gene for example that mean you will need 25% more eggs than you might ordinarily.

Take a good look at the pictures of the sellers poultry. Have the images been cropped to disguise something and what sort of conditions are the birds in. Copy the pictures to your desktop and use Google reverse image search to see if the photo's have been 'borrowed' from someone else. Chick photographs on listings are a good way of checking that the seller has actually tested fertility and hatching success at home and has chicks as proof. If in doubt ask for chick pictures, but steer clear if the seller refuses. 

How far are the eggs having to travel. This article has a whole section about postage and packaging below but as a rule the more time they spend in transit the lower the success rate is likely to be. Eggs that have been flown by the delivery company will have a very high failure rate. This is because the changes in air pressure during take off and landing can bust membranes. I had a customer in the highlands of Scotland who had a completely failure with my eggs on 3 occasions. When we looked into it the mail took a long helicopter journey between the islands and the vibration and pressure changes was killing the embryo's.

Postage and packing:

Special delivery options are best used if available as these reduce the risk of rough handling, though are very expensive and you may still be unlucky. Collecting eggs from home offers a better chance of hatching and you may be able to view the parent birds and even chicks, that is if the seller is prepared to allow home collection. 

If your eggs are going to be sent to you make sure that you get a next day service and by Special Delivery.

It is not sensible to accept First Class post as the eggs are likely to go through the sorting machines and are very likely to suffer embryo or air sac damage.

Eggs packed in polystyrene boxes offer good protection with other layers of packing included.

With normal egg boxes the eggs should be wrapped in tissue so there is no shaking or movement of the egg in the box and should be secured within an outer box with further layers of packing like pellets, straw or shreddings.

Polystyrene has an advantage in that it protects the eggs from major temperature changes.

Check Quality on Arrival. Are they clean and is the bloom intact. Candling the eggs will show any hairline cracks or large air cells from ageing or previously being incubated. If you are unhappy get in touch with the seller at once. 

Every countries post office or couriers can be rough with packages - even the ones marked "fragile. Live eggs". This could prevent the embryo from developing however it wouldn't change the fact that it was a fertile egg.

Good packaging methods for eBay eggs:

Good packaging methods generally involve lots of layers and as hatching eggs are a natural product with a live embryo these should be breathable to some extent. 

Polystyrene egg boxes are OK but should not be relied upon as the only packing. They should have at least a card outer and a layer of bubble wrap. The trouble with these poly boxes is they are used by sellers to cut costs by trying to get the package into the small parcels size bracket. 

hatching eggs packed in multiple layers for safety

Cardboard boxes filled with non plastic packaging materials like straw or paper shreddings are good packaging methods. I once had eggs come from Germany to the UK in just a big box of straw and they were fine. It was one of the best hatches I had ever had with posted eggs.

I used to wrap my eggs first in a layer of bubble wrap but with the ends open. They were then placed in a box filled with paper shreddings leaving at least 1 inch from the edges and each egg and above. Then I added a layer of bubble wrap around the whole package with fragile tape.
   

Bad packaging methods for hatching eggs.

Plastic bags of any kind. There is a live embryo inside and temperature changes can cause sweating and or suffocation of the eggs. 

Any packing without enough layers.

a bad example of hatching eggs and packaging

These Wyandotte eggs are dirty, and the two in the middle are cracked.

An ordinary egg carton with no other packaging is not suitable for posting.

I personally have been sent eggs in a plain cardboard egg carton wrapped in dirty plastic bags. There was no way I was going to risk them in my incubator or under a broody hen. 

 

There are plenty of other things to think about:

Is the listing accurate and the seller knowledgeable.

If a listing is using phrases like eggs are believed fertile. I really hate this one statement. I would always perform a test hatch of at least 10 eggs before even thinking about shipping any out.

The males are treading well is another of these ambiguous phrases you get in listings but it says nothing about the fertility. Leaving feedback on fertility is a bit difficult as you cannot prove if the eggs that were sent were fertile before posting but have been damaged internally during transit rendering them unviable.

Has the listing asked you to leave feedback not on the fertility rate of the eggs but on how quickly the eggs were delivered and how well packages they were. 

Technically if you proceed to buy these eggs you agreed to the terms and conditions of sale and this can affect your rights.

From your point of view as a buyer this is taking away any rights you might otherwise have had to a refund if eggs were infertile. Why? Because if you had left positive feedback but then when/if you found that the eggs were not fertile and tried to open a case through eBay or PayPal, the chances are it would be declined because you had left positive feedback and so said you were happy with the purchase.  

The most common eggs used for hatching are chicken. You might want to hatch eggs for ducks, geese or even turkeys and the advice on choosing eggs is the same but more important as the eggs for these species tend to be much more expensive and the incubation period is longer.

So my advice is  DO NOT LEAVE FEEDBACK until you are satisfied with the fertility of the eggs after candling about day 10.

Some sellers will offer a replacement on eggs that Don't do anything within 10 days or so upon return of the items. This is good.

I used to adjust the number of eggs in the package depending on the test hatch results. If my test hatch had 9 fertile eggs from 12 set then i would add and extra 3 or 4 eggs to mitigate the effect of clear eggs.

You can pretend to live or be visiting the area near the seller and ask if you can see the birds or collect the eggs by hand. Send a message along the lines of " I'm visiting your area on Monday, can I see the parents and collect the eggs" and see what sort of response you get. 

Ask lots of questions of the seller and read the item description carefully. If something is not clear ask for clarification with specific questions.

Is the seller a member of a breed club and registered stock has to have quality about it. Most will state in the listing if they are. 

If they claim to be show winners then take a look at what level the show is, local, regional, county or country wide. Almost any chickens can win a local show.

 

So I have received my eggs, now what?

When the eggs arrive inspect the packaging and the contents. If you are not satisfied with the quality then return the item for a refund. 

Take pictures of the packaging as these may be needed in the event of a dispute. Do not set eggs which have been badly packaged as they are likely to be damaged and unlikely to hatch. 

I have personal experience of this where more than once a seller sent me eggs which were covered in mud or faeces or deformed. Needless to say they exploded and resulted in a terrible mess. 

A large number of sellers will tell you to settle your eggs for at least 24 hours. And they are very specific about how, always make sure they are pointy end down and turned at least 2 times in 12 hours.

This is nonsense for a number of reasons. Eggs need 90 minutes to 2 hours for the temperature to stabilise and that is all. Any damage that has been done will not be undone with 24 hours rest.

Firstly you are just wasting more time You should have your incubator ready to accept egg when they arrive so unless it is very cold outside in the delivery van then you might as well get a move on.

Secondly eggs need to be turned so they might as well go straight into the turning mechanism of your incubator.

What happens to eggs in transit that prevents them from hatching.

We have all seen videos of delivery drivers kicking packages and throwing them over walls. This is rare and most are just fine. The trouble is they have a job to do and like to get it done as quickly as they possible can. This means your package is likely to spend at least half of its travel time rocking about in the back of a van with hundreds of other parcels.

Temperature. Too warm or cold will cause defects and death of embryo's. A properly packaged parcel will be excellent insulation and keep the eggs fine.

Vibration and shocks can jar the yolk and tear membranes

Time. I always used to reckon that posting eggs reduces the time they were viable by around 50%. When I started selling eggs I actually posted myself a few batches to test the packing I was using and I incubated these as well just for interest sake. 

I never incubate an egg over 14 days old regardless of how it was looked after as hatchability drops off markedly after this point. My findings with posted eggs showed this figure to be about 7 to 8 days. If you think the seller may have collected them over the weekend, posted them on Monday and delivered them on Tuesday that means they are already 5 days old by the time you get them. If you leave them laying around your results will suffer and it could be your fault and not the sellers. 

I once had someone open a case against me after they had kept my eggs for 16 days after they arrived before starting them. It was obvious they were never going to hatch.

Humidity is much misunderstood. The guidelines for storage are the same for incubation, to little moisture in the air and they will dry out or desiccate and too much may cause droplets to form on the shell and infection to pass into the egg through the pores.

What should I do to maximise my success rate from eBay hatching eggs?

To wash or not to wash, that is the question.

Do not buy eggs when the seller has said in the listing that they have been washed and cleaned.  This can lead to infection in the egg. If damp eggs are packaged they will likely go rotten regardless of how you treat them.

I personally would wash someone elses eggs in a brinsea disinfectant or similar following the instruction on the bottle unless the eggs are perfect or i knew the seller.

But the choice is yours just like with your own eggs, some people never wash their eggs and some swear by it and still others do sometimes if they are dirty.

 

Understanding fertility and hatch rate.

Fertility and hatch rate are not the same thing. Many eggs that are fertile never hatch. As an example my fertility last year averaged across my birds was 92% so 92 in 100 eggs I set was fertile. My hatch rate was 81% so just over 81 chicks for every 100 eggs I set. 

So my fertility was 92% and my hatchability was 91.1% (81 of 92 in % terms).


There are two ways of hatching eggs; the natural way with a broody hen or in an incubator.

If you are planning on hatching your eggs under a broody you really need to have one ready and sat on golf balls or pottery eggs so as you can slip the eggs under as soon as you can. Ordering eggs whilst waiting for a hen to start sitting is madness.

  What happens if it all goes wrong?

You're incubator could break or you're hen get of the nest.

Take pictures, crack the eggs open and take more pictures. Place suspect eggs inside a clear plastic bag and crack that way if you think they may be rotten or smell.

Infertility is always a disappointment, but unfortunately is part and parcel of eggs sent through them postal system. Most sellers are generally honest and will have tested fertility already.

If you have been sent rotten, poor quality, badly packaged eggs and the seller is not helpful or is rude. Report them to eBay immediately.

shipped eggs that did not make it to their destination

These eggs were badly packed in just a polystyrene box with no extra padding and they did not really stand a chance.

If you receive threats from a seller then inform eBay and police if necessary.

Remember it is your right to receive a quality product and if the eggs do not meet quality packaging standards, or are of a poor shell quality, or are particularly dirty, or leak, ooze or explode then they are a defective product and you should seek a refund. 

Eggs that arrive well packaged, are secure, clean and have good shell quality are a satisfactory product whether they actually hatch or not.

My eBay eggs are rotten.

Always a sign of poor hygiene or storage or both. Eggs become rotten after weeks, not days. 

If you have set eggs and they begin to ooze, leak or explode after a few days, remember to check your incubator settings first. If all is well then this is a sign they are either too old, have already been incubated, have been badly packaged or stored before sending. 

Best remove the rest of that batch as one egg can contaminate them all.

Take pictures and report to seller and eBay if necessary. 

You have a right to a refund on a defective product and an egg which has gone bad in a few days is definitely defective. 

Hatching chicks: 

What happens if you're chicks look nothing like their meant to. I had this once and the chicks of a great many breeds are just yellow and fluffy and you can't tell what they will be until they feather up.

Now buying eggs is not always doom and gloom and I personally have had several successfully hatching's of quality birds from posted eggs. You are unlikely to get good eggs for little money and you get what you pay for.

In conclusion:

Read the listing  with care and do not bid if you are unsure about the text or images whatsoever. If a seller is selling cross breeds as pure breeds as I have come across before with a seller advertising rare Polkins which are Poland's crossed with Peking and are not rare in the slightest. They are mongrels.

Do not bid with looking up first whether the colour or variety actually exists or is rare. The seller is out to make a quick buck. If it looks dodgy then it usually is. 

A rare breed is one without it's own national club or body not a breed that is difficult to get hold of.

Look at the photographs. Never purchase from a seller who has used another person's images, be it in their item description or in their other eBay pages such as guides. Not only is this illegal and considered an offence by police, but it is a misrepresentation of what you will get, as they may not even be of the same breed. 

Avoid if the birds in the images appear in poor health, dirty or poorly looked after.

Never set dirty or deformed eggs or eggs with lumps or unusual shell structures.  They may be genetic and your birds could end up with the same defect. These should not have been sent by the seller in the first place and are unsuitable for sale. You would't expect your new laptop to arrive covered in poop with lumps and bumps all over it now would you? 

The seller has a responsibility to provide you with eggs which are externally clean, of optimum size, shape and shell quality. Remember if the seller keeps their birds pens clean then the eggs should be pretty clean, though they do come out of the hen's bottom so are not't usually pristine, but eggs with dirt in grained in their shells and poop lumps on them are not good and are a sign of poor husbandry. If you are not't happy then return them for a refund. 

Your duty is to incubate in good time with good practise.

Again make sure you take pictures of the eggs in case of a dispute. 

Good luck and happy bidding. Thanks for reading. If you found this helpful please share.

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