Hatching Trader Joe’s Fertile Eggs and Grocery Store Quail

Spring Hatch-along: Trader Joe's Eggs and Grocery Store Quail In An Incubator

Spring Hatch-along

It’s that time of year again. The warmer weather has my silkie hens turning broody and it puts me in the mood to raise a new batch of chicks.

Last year’s hatch of Trader Joe’s fertile chicken eggs was so successful that I’m trying again this year.

Update: 7 days after the first batch of TJ’s eggs went into the incubator, I stopped by the Asian grocery store and picked up a carton of quail eggs on a whim. I’m probably being selfish, but I added all 8 quail eggs to the incubator. Since quail take one week less to hatch compared to chicken eggs, they should hatch at the same time.

Will refrigerated eggs really hatch?

Yes! With some prep work:

Since the eggs were kept in the refrigerator at the store, they have to come up to room temperature before they’re added to the incubator. It’s so dry here that I can just leave the eggs out on the counter until they warm up. If it’s humid where you live, make sure you wrap the eggs in paper towels to prevent drops of condensation from forming on the eggs.

The last time I hatched TJ’s fertile eggs, the eggs were 11 days old. I set 8 eggs in the incubator and got 5 healthy chicks. I’m hoping for a similar result this time.

How to tell when supermarket eggs were laid:

Hatching supermarket eggs are a bit hit and miss since the rate of success depends so much on the storage conditions at the store. If the eggs are refrigerated at too cold a temperature, the cold will most likely kill any fertile eggs. Likewise, if the eggs were laid more than 2 weeks ago, the rate of viability goes down.

Commercially farmed chicken eggs are usually packed on the same day they are laid, so the packing date is a good guideline to use when guestimating the age of eggs.

The packing date should be stamped on the egg carton near the best by date. Do not confuse the two!

  • Best by date: Given in normal MMDD format. This is not the date you want!
  • Packing date: Given in Julian format (day 001 is January 1, day 365 is December 31). In this picture you can see that this carton of eggs was packed on day 39, or February 8. These eggs were only 7 days old when we bought them. Excellent! (Unfortunately the eggs must have been mishandled because 0 out of 12 showed signs of life.)

Quirks of using a JANOEL/Magicfly 12 incubator

I’m using a rebranded JANOEL 12 (Magicfly 12) incubator and the thing about this incubator is that while it’s very good at keeping a stable temperature, the thermometer is not always accurate. Before adding any eggs, I have to calibrate the incubator with a candy making thermometer. I’ve lost batches of eggs by skipping this step, so being lazy is not an option.

There’s also a lot of complaints about the instruction manual that comes with this incubator:

it’s basically Chin-glish gibberish and sparse on details.

Here’s what you need to know to use the JANOEL 12 properly.

Make sure the temperature sensor is pointing straight out and not bent up towards the top of the incubator. The Janoel 12 is supposed to be a fan incubator, but the fan is so weak that it operates like a still air incubator. This means that you need to adjust the temperature so that it is in the 101F-102F range near the top of the eggs. The temperature will get hotter the higher up the temperature sensor is located, so it must be pointing straight down like so:

setting up a janoel 12 incubator

How to adjust the temperature settings on the JANOEL/MAGICFLY 12

You can set the temperature of the incubator by holding down on the ‘SET’ button for a second and then adjusting the temperature with the ‘+’/’-‘ buttons. Leave the settings alone once you’ve picked a temperature and the incubator will exit out back to normal mode.

Calibrating the temperature on the Janoel 12

If the temperature on the display does not match your own thermometer (which you know is correct), then you will need to calibrate the incubator.

To do this, press and hold down on the ‘SET’ button until you see one of the following on the display:

  • HU
  • CA
  • Hd
  • LS
  • HS
  • AH
  • AL

Cycle through each of the settings (I’m not sure what all the settings are) by pressing the ‘+’ button until you get to CA.

This is the calibration setting for the thermometer. Press ‘SET’ again quickly and you’ll be able to adjust the temperature up or down with the +/- buttons.

You will want to adjust the setting until it matches the difference in the temperature between the incubator display and your own thermometer.

For example:

The incubator display reads 38.3C (101F) but your own thermometer reads 100F.

100F corresponds to 37.8C, so that’s a difference of 0.5C. You should thus adjust the CA setting to +0.5C.

*The important thing to remember is that a + CA adjustment will lower the actual incubator temperature relative to the current temperature even though the temperature on the display doesn’t change. Likewise, a CA value will raise the actual temperature inside relative to the current temperature.

What about the other settings on the JANOEL 12?

I haven’t had to fiddle with the other settings since the default ones work fine as long as you calibrate the machine.

HU, Hd, AH, AL settings are locked by the factory so you cannot adjust them.

HS and LS are adjustable andthey control the highest and lowest temperatures before the machine kicks into action and adjusts the temperature back down/up.

That’s enough about the incubator, back to the hatch-along…

How do I set the humidity inside the JANOEL 12?

There’s no hygrometer inside this incubator, so you’ll need to add one or just go by feel.

I’ve had successful hatches by running a dry incubation until lockdown. On day 18, I add enough water to cover the bottom of the incubator with about 1/4″ of water.

How does the automatic turner in the JANOEL 12 incubator work?

I gave up on using the automatic turner since the eggs from Trader Joe’s were so huge! I couldn’t fit two eggs into each slot in the turner without the eggs bumping into each other and getting stuck. Bah.

You’ll notice a round plastic disk in the top of the incubator with a piece of metal sticking out of it. That’s the turner and the metal piece is supposed to go into the lip located on one side of the turning tray.

You’ll also notice that the incubator came with two bottoms and one of them has two ridges running along the long sides. These are the rails to keep the turning tray in place. Use this bottom piece if you plan on using the automatic turner.

Days 0-4

It’s too early to tell if there’s any development in the eggs. Refrigerated eggs can also be slow to develop, so blood vessels might not be visible until days 5-6.

Days 5-6

Removed 3 eggs which failed to show any signs of development. One egg was cracked which I somehow missed on the initial candling. 8 TJ’s eggs remaining in the incubator.

Day 7

4 of the developing eggs stopped developing and look like blood rings. I’ll monitor them for one more day and remove them if there are no changes.

Day 8

One of the 4 developing eggs stopped. Another blood ring. 3 remaining. Added quail eggs to the incubator today.

Day 9

One more stopped developing. Of the 2 remaining TJ’s eggs, one looks like the blood vessels on one side have shrunk. I’m so disappointed in this hatch since the initial results were so promising.

I suspected temperature spikes so I’ve been monitoring the temperature inside the incubator with a thermometer, but it’s consistently in the 100F-101.5F range. I even checked the thermometer in boiling water. The problem isn’t the temperature. 🙁 Maybe I got a batch of eggs with bad genes. Fingers crossed that remaining egg makes it all the way to hatch day.

Days 10-13

No changes to report. One lonely chick is developing according to schedule.

Quail eggs are notoriously difficult to candle, but I think there’s some development in one of the eggs. Or it might be a hallucination from staring into the bright flash of my phone. The quail eggs have been in the incubator for 5 days.

Day 14

Candled eggs with healthy blood vessels and development: quail egg (day 6) and chicken egg (day 14)

Chicken is developing and takes up almost half of the egg already! I can see some blood vessels but the egg is mostly a dark shadow.

Apparently I wasn’t hallucinating yesterday! Look at that healthy red blob in the quail egg!

I’m really hoping the little quail makes it and hatches at the same time as the one TJ egg. I don’t want little TJ to be a lonely chick. Plus the 3 silkies are horrible bullies when they aren’t in a broody mood. 🙁

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