Can I Eat Fertilized Chicken Eggs? Plus Other Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat fertilized chicken eggs? If you don’t have any chickens, it might seem weird to eat eggs that come from a flock with a rooster. After all, wouldn’t those eggs develop into baby chicks? Could there be a moral issue there for you to worry about?
If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I eat fertilized chicken eggs?” you’re not alone. It’s a common worry among experienced and newbie chicken keepers alike. In this post, we’ll go over why fertilized chicken eggs (and even eggs of other poultry, such as quail, ducks, and geese) are totally fine to eat, plus some important information to keep in mind if you do.
Fertile and Infertile Eggs Taste the Same
Here at Little Onion Farm, we’ve eaten countless fertilized and unfertilized eggs. We can confidently promise that they taste exactly the same. Fertilization makes no difference whatsoever in the taste of the eggs. Whether you like them scrambled, hard-boiled, or sunny side up, your eggs will taste just as delicious fertilized as they always have unfertilized.
Fertilized and Unfertilized Eggs Are Nutritionally Identical
There is no significant nutritional difference[1,2] between fertile and infertile eggs. Some people like to claim that fertilized eggs are better or worse for you for various reasons, but the truth is that even if there is a difference, it’s so small that it won’t make a difference to your body.
We’ve Eaten Fertile Eggs for Hundreds of Years
Farmers have been eating fertilized eggs for decades, and for good reason! Back before mail-order hatcheries existed, the main way for farmers to replenish their flocks was to hatch their own eggs. They still ate the majority of the eggs that came from their hens, but they could also hatch a few more whenever their flock became too small. When necessary, they could swap eggs with a neighbor or friend to increase genetic diversity, but their main source of chicken and other poultry was from their own eggs.
Store-Bought Eggs May Be Fertile, Too
While it’s extremely rare here in the United States, it’s still possible for store-bought eggs to be fertilized. Factory farms – which are where the eggs you get at big grocery stores usually come from – don’t keep roosters with their egg-laying hens. Their business is in selling eggs for consumption, so roosters have no benefit.
If that’s the case, how is it possible for store eggs to be fertilized? Sometimes, despite the factory farms’ best efforts, a rooster or two slips through and “infiltrates” their operation! If you want to learn more about this phenomenon, just run a search on YouTube for hatching store-bought eggs. You can find examples of people all over the world successfully hatching store-bought chicken eggs (and those of other species, too!)
We’ve also read that it’s much more likely that you’ll get fertile eggs from non-factory farms – if you buy pasture-raised or free-ranged eggs, for example. Eggs from backyard operations, like from your neighbor down the street, are especially likely to be fertile. However, in either scenario, it’s most likely that you’ll never know that the egg is fertilized anyway (more on this further down).
Eggs Are Not Always Fertile, Even With a Rooster
Even if a rooster is present in your flock, your eggs still may not be fertile. The cause of this can range from weather changes, to personality mismatch between your birds, to inexperience, or even plain old infertility. Just like people, chickens can have trouble conceiving, too!
We have a single hen in one of our flocks here on the Farm who has never laid a fertile egg (not for lack of trying – she’s an excellent layer). She’s a tailless chicken, and her breed – the Araucana – commonly experiences fertility issues due to their unique physiology. That being said, she could produce nonviable embryos for other reasons, too, and we’ll probably never know for sure why she doesn’t.
Fertility naturally changes through the seasons, too. Eggs are more likely to be fertile during the summer months when temperatures are warm. However, if your temperatures are too hot, summer temperatures can also negatively affect your chickens’ ability to breed. In winter, fertility tends to naturally drop, since the embryos can die when exposed to the cold for too long. Plus, your chickens will be more focused on staying warm!
Finally, if you have a rooster that’s at the bottom of the pecking order, he may have trouble finding an opportunity to get to know your hens. He’ll usually figure things out as he matures, though.
If you’ve ever wondered, where and how can I eat fertilized chicken eggs, the answer is basically anywhere! What better place to carry your delicious eggs than in a durable, environmentally-friendly ECOLunchbox? These reusable containers are made with stainless steel and silicone, meaning you’ll be one step further on your way to getting away from plastic. While I do think plastic has its place (especially if it’s recycled or recyclable), I definitely like to avoid plastic near my food, and ECOlunchbox provides the perfect portable solution. I can see them being especially useful on day-long hunting and fishing trips, where the sturdy nature of these products can really shine through – no need to worry about banging them around or stuffing them into a duffel.
Now, an ECOlunchbox is a lot more expensive than a plastic bento box, which you’ll see if you visit their store. However, the beautiful thing about these lunchboxes is that you’ll only ever need one. They’re made to last for years, and the stainless steel construction means they’ll stand up to stains and odors better than most any other material.
My favorite ECOlunchbox product is the 3-in-1 Giant Bento box. However, ECOlunchbox also carries a really impressive line of thermoses that I’ve been eyeing, too. The Blue Water Bento can keep your lunch temperature-stable for eight or more hours, so that means warm macaroni or cool salad on the road. As much as I love sandwiches, more lunch options – especially hot or cold options through the year – is always huge.
The only problem I foresee with the ECOlunchboxes is that, since they’re metal, they can’t be microwaved. It’d be nice to be able to throw it in the microwave in the morning before leaving for work and have it still be warm by lunchtime. The metal design necessitates warming food up in another container, then loading it into your bento – or taking it out of your bento to microwave later. I do think the extra effort is worth it, though.
Am I Eating a Baby If I Eat Fertile Eggs?
Can you eat fertilized chicken eggs, from a moral standpoint? Yes! As long as you collect your eggs frequently and keep them refrigerated, your fertile eggs will not develop into baby chicks. An egg won’t start developing into a baby chick unless it’s incubated, or exposed to the right temperatures. This means that as long as you collect your eggs once a day and put them right into the refrigerator, they’ll always look and taste the same as store-bought, unfertilized eggs. The chick development process will never begin in the first place if the egg stays cold.
If you still have moral objections to eating fertilized chicken eggs, that’s totally fair! There’s a lot to consider there, and different people have different ideas on what’s okay and what isn’t. If you just can’t bear to eat your fertile eggs, but you’d still like to have a rooster on your farm, keep reading – we have a solution explained in the FAQ section at the end of this post.
We caution against storing your eggs outside the fridge if you keep a rooster with your flock. While a fertile egg should not develop at room temperature, it does sometimes happen! In the chicken world, we sometimes call these unexpected surprises countertop chicks.
If you don’t have a rooster, it is totally safe to leave unwashed chicken eggs unrefrigerated for several weeks (though they will last longer in the fridge), as unfertilized eggs will never develop into chicks.
How Do I Get Fertile Eggs?
If you have a flock of hens with no rooster, just keep an eye on your local classifieds or join a local rooster rehoming group on social media. It’s very common for people to rehome a rooster or two when they get a “surprise” rooster with their chick order. If you don’t have any chickens at all or want to raise a rooster from scratch yourself, consider purchasing baby chicks from a trustworthy hatchery (We recommend Cackle Hatchery and My Pet Chicken, both of which we’ve used) or sourcing fertile eggs from someone local. You can buy fertile eggs directly from Cackle and My Pet Chicken, too, though we recommend checking eBay first for the breeds you want first (it’s usually a lot cheaper).
It’s extremely easy nowadays to get fertilized eggs if you don’t care about the breed or appearance of your chickens. There’s a chicken farmer who lives down the road from Little Onion Farm that sells fresh eggs for $4/dozen. They come in all sorts of striking colors, and they’re all big, beautiful, and delicious! The chance that you’ll get fertile eggs from a backyard chicken owner like this is pretty good. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be fertile unless you ask the owner, but for just $4, it’s certainly worth a try.
If you’d rather purchase purebred eggs from a breeder or want to seek out a specific breed, eBay is a fantastic place to start. eBay is a great place to purchase mixed breeds eggs, too, and they are extremely affordable – usually, they sell for just barely more than the cost of shipping! We sell our own hatching eggs on eBay, too, fresh from the Little Onion Farm bantam flock.
FAQs and Concerns
We hope this post answered all your questions about eating fertilized chicken eggs! However, if you still have questions that we didn’t answer above, feel free to take a look through these extra FAQs. If you still can’t find the answers you need, feel free to send us a message so we can add it to this post!
I don’t like eating fertile eggs, but I need a rooster to hatch baby chicks. What do I do?
Build a “bachelor pad” coop! Most roosters are very happy to live with one or two other roosters to keep them company. This way, you can keep them in a separate coop when you want unfertilized eggs to eat, and you can let them join your main flock for a few days at a time when you need their “services.” Please note that we never recommend keeping a single chicken in a coop alone, even if they can see other chickens through the fence. Chickens are flock animals, so they should live with at least one other partner whenever possible.
Will my chickens lay eggs if I don’t have a rooster?
Yes! Chickens lay eggs naturally, even if there isn’t a rooster present to fertilize them. Same thing with quail, ducks, and other species of poultry. Your girls will lay several eggs per week throughout their lifetime, though this may change seasonally and decline naturally as they get older.
Do I need to refrigerate my fresh eggs?
As long as infertile eggs are unwashed and not covered in dirt or poo, they can safely sit on the counter for several weeks. However, it’s not a good idea to store fertile eggs outside of the refrigerator, as the potential to develop into a baby chick is still there. If you don’t have a rooster, countertop storage is generally safe. Do note that, once you wash your eggs, the natural bloom coating that keeps bacteria from entering the egg goes away, and it is no longer safe to store them outside the fridge. Washed eggs should always be refrigerated.
How do I hatch fertile eggs?
Hatching fertile eggs is a process in and of itself, and it’s too involved to write it all here! In short, you’ll either need a broody hen or an incubator to hatch fertile eggs. We’ll go over the entire egg hatching process in detail in a future post.
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