Washing eggs for incubation - Good or Bad?

There seems to be a lot of debate on this subject, even in the scientific field. I have read articles published that state the washing of eggs is not good or safe. I have read articles saying it's good and it's safe.

For this reason the decision on to wash or not wash is a personal choice. I will offer some insight and instructions to help you make your own informed decision. 

I believe the most important thing to do is to provide adequate, clean, nesting boxes to help prevent the eggs from becoming dirty. In my experiances setting eggs without debris leads to successful hatching of eggs. 

Why is this a debate?
Poultry eggs naturally have a protective coating on them called a bloom. This bloom protects the egg from bacteria getting into the egg contaminating the egg and any growing fetus inside. If the bloom is removed or compromised then so is the egg and fetus inside. 

So then why would anyone suggest to wash the egg with a peroxide or any egg cleaning solution right before incubating? 
There are many who believe that the bacteria on the egg enters the incubator and contaminates the incubator plus other eggs which can increase risks to eggs. So, they believe it's best to sterilize the incubator when cleaning it and then also sterilize the eggs when it's time to set them into the incubator. Which then reduces overall risks to eggs altogether. 

They also wash really dirty eggs with debris on them because those can actually contaminate the eggs. Which is why I say it's important to avoid dirty eggs to start with. However, eggs getting dirty can happen no matter how much you try.

So, then why would anyone think washing them was bad?
This goes back to removing the bloom: When putting eggs into water the risk that the water can get sucked into the egg during the washing process and any containments/bacteria that is in the water mixture and egg will be getting inside the egg.

It also is risky that the incubator was not even fully sterilized. There are places that are practically impossible to reach to clean fully. Now, that there is no protective coating on the eggs, the eggs are at risk to be contaminated from a non-sterile environment.
*Be mindful that even though incubator is cleaned before and after use, the hatching of eggs leaves incubators very dirty, as hatched chicks will go to the bathroom inside which leaves urine and fecal matter, plus tiny little dawn feathers will be everywhere in the incubator. So any of that can remain inside the incubator if any areas are difficult to reach.

In Conclusion:
This is the nutshell explanation to this debate. Currently there is no right or wrong answer. Which is why it's a personal choice and can even depend on the type of incubators you use, how clean you can keep your eggs by the collection time, how you wash your eggs, and your incubator cleaning abilities. 

How to wash eggs:
First I recommend always cleaning your incubator before and after each use. I explain how to clean incubators in my "Learn to hatch chickens successfully" post.

When you're ready to set your eggs for incubating you should get your supplies ready. 

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Warm (not hot) Water
  • 2 Hand Towels
  • 2 Wash Cloths or Strong Paper towels
  • 2 Bowls
  • Sterile gloves or Wash Hands

Set down a clean hand towel for placing wet eggs on. Open incubator to set eggs into once dried.

For eggs that have debris on them use the first (dry) wash cloth to gently remove as much as you safely can of the debris. Do this will all the eggs setting them back into the egg holder pointy side down as you do. 

After you're done

Using a 50/50 [1:1] mix of peroxide and warm water pour into two bowls; one is a cleaning solution and the other is a rinse solution. Stir. 
Take the cleanest eggs first. Dip into peroxide cleaning solution bowl. Then using second washcloth or paper towel gently clean egg. If it's already clean as it can be (100% debris free) one quick gentle wipe will do.

Take the cleaned egg and dip into rinse solution bowl for a rinse. Place egg onto dry hand towel laid down and then use second hand towel to quickly dry egg. *It's important to move quickly but carefully, do not let egg get cold as it needs to stay room temp. 

Now place dried egg into incubator. Repeat this process with all the eggs. Keep using a clean side of wash cloth with each egg. Which is why I prefer paper towels with a lot of eggs. If cleaning solution bowl gets dirty or water cold, make a fresh bowl to complete washing of remaining eggs.

**If you wash any eggs, you must wash all eggs you're placing in the same incubator together. Otherwise, you are going to contaminate the washed eggs now without a blood from the unwashed eggs' bacterias.
*** If you only have a few very dirty eggs and you don't want to wash all your eggs. Then don't incubate those, instead use them as eating eggs or offer to someone else to hatch. 

All Set:
Now you can follow the instructions for hatching eggs in your incubator, or mine also located in my bog post. 

*disclaimer: This is not professional or medical advise. Using my help tips and personal experience instructions is at your own risk. I always recommend doing your own research before proceeding with any animal care or information use.  

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