Hatching Trader Joe’s Fertile Eggs and Grocery Store Quail

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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.

We won’t be letting our girls hatch any eggs as they lose so much weight and it puts such a strain on their bodies. However, last year’s hatch of Trader Joe’s fertile chicken eggs was so successful that I’m going to fire up the incubator and try 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 and they 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.

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. 🙁

Day 16

Bad news.

The quail egg with that healthy red blob just two days ago is now empty with a light staining of blood at the edges.

The quail egg was a long shot, but I’m still disappointed.

Little TJ is still showing strong and thick blood vessels, but I’m a bit worried as I’m not seeing any movement during candling. Hopefully it’s just asleep…

Day 17

More bad news.

This has to be the most depressing hatchalong ever.

I candled for the final time before lockdown and to my disappointment, all the dark healthy blood vessels that were there the day before were gone.

In it’s place was a fuzzy pink ring of blood.

There’s absolutely no movement in the egg.

What went wrong?

I’ve had luck hatching Trader Joe’s fertile eggs twice last year with this incubator, so I’m incredibly disappointed at this year’s results.

I’ve checked and rechecked the incubator temperature and humidity settings as well as disinfected the machine.

As I’ve already tried hatching several cartons of TJ eggs this year, all without success and some with no development at all, I suspect that something has changed with the fertile eggs at my local TJ’s:

  • There might have been a change in the farm where the eggs come from
  • There might have been a change in supplier
  • Changes in the shipping and storage of the eggs

Following along the BYC grocery store hatching thread here, and here, it seems that success of hatching TJ eggs varies from store to store.

Our first attempts at hatching Trader Joe’s fertile eggs was inspired by this story about Joey, and we’ve had many happy memories with our own Josephines, Josephs, Joes, and JoJos. But we’re not going to try hatching any more grocery store eggs this year.

I hate to end this post on such a sad note, so here’s what happened with last year’s two TJ egg hatches.

2016 Trader Joe hatch #1

One of our silkies began showing signs of broodiness last autumn and even though she didn’t really commit to the process, we needed a way to break her out of it.

Since we didn’t have any fertile eggs, we wondered if it would be possible to incubate some eggs and slip the chicks under her.

Thus began our adventure with incubating TJ eggs.

We began with 12 eggs. After four days, 8 of the eggs showed signs of development.

It was around this time that our silkie, Fran, decided that she wanted to be a mommy after all.

I really hoped that at least one chick hatched successfully.

5 eggs remained as we entered lockdown.

And out of those 5, 2 pipped and entered the world.

Meet Joseph and Josephine.

Trader Joe's egg hatching in Janoel 12 incubator

We waited until late at night and slipped J & J under Fran’s wing. It was pretty amazing to see the wonder and happiness come across Fran’s face when she realized she had two baby chicks under her. She made several motherly clucks as they popped their heads out and tucked them back under her wing.

Since Fran came from a hatchery, she never knew her own mother. But instinct took over and she babied those chicks like a natural.

Fran patiently taught them how to eat and how to drink, never leaving their sides even though she hadn’t eaten much in the last two weeks.

When Joseph and Josephine were about two weeks old, she took them outside for the first time.

Two week old baby chicks and silkie mom outside for the first time

Dorothy and Suzie were curious about the two interlopers, but Fran quickly put them in their place with a well placed peck on their heads.

Do not mess with my kids!

She waited patiently while they played and then took their first sip from the water bowl and nibbled at some greens.

black silkie mama and white leghorn chicks eating sprouts and drinking water
one week old hyline leghorn chicks
four week old hyline leghorn chicks with black silkie in garden of sweet potato leaves
four week old hyline leghorn chick eating sweet potato leaves

She babied her adopted kids like they were her own until they turned 6 weeks old. She slowly pushed them away from her and returned to Dorothy and Suzie.

six week old hyline chicks

2016 Trader Joe hatch #2

Like our previous hatch, we started with a dozen eggs in the incubator.

Those dozen eggs became eight.

And of those eight, five hatched.

One of the chicks (Joe) took an extra day to come out and he ended up hatching with an unhealed navel. This chick would end up as the runt of the group and had to be separated into another brooder with a calmer buddy until his stump healed. Joey would always be the smallest of the five chicks, growing at about 2-3 weeks behind the others.

Five Trader Joe's chicks
Cockerel And Pullet Hatched From Trader Joe's Fertile Eggs

As all Trader Joe’s chicks are some kind of leghorn, they were super flighty and excitable. But since they were tamed and handled constantly as chicks, they were super sweet and cuddly once caught.

On the path to figuring out how to survive in a system that wants to chew me up and spit me out. From autism, to finding ways to make a living without a job, to frugality, to retiring early, to homesteading. Finding a road that's less unraveled. That's pretty much what this site is all about.


  • Neil Whitelaw

    How have you gone with eggs either Silkie or Quail in the incubator of late together or separately. Do you not put any water at all until day 18. Thanks again. Cheers

    • Kathryn

      I haven’t tried combining the eggs together since the size difference is so massive and the lockdown days would be different.

      I’m in the desert (about 5% rel. humidity) so I have to monitor the humidity and add water everyday otherwise the eggs would dry out too fast. When I lived in a more humid environment I never had to add water until lockdown.

  • Colette

    My Whole Foods sells local fertile brown eggs and I’ve had success with those! Not sure what the breed is since they’re still young but my best guess is a Rhode Island Red. My first batch of TJ’s fertile eggs was unsuccessful but am trying a second batch to see if it’ll work this time.

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