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Transporting fertile chicken eggs by plane: is it possible?

Are fertile eggs for hatching allowed on planes? Here are the facts and the risks.

Taking hatching eggs by air - is it possible? Pin for later.

You'll find a lot of information on the internet about transporting fertile chicken eggs. Much of it is misleading and most of it is simply wrong.

The information on this page is based on my personal experience and on information from the sources section below and from security staff at Stansted airport, England.

Although these are the facts, security at airports can vary. It's always wise to check with your local airport before you take or send hatching eggs by air.

Firstly: is it legal?

Most of the reliable information about transporting hatching eggs by plane relates to commercial production (see for example Sources 1 - 5).  

These are the regulations regarding transporting fertile hatching eggs by air. 

  • Within EU countries, it is perfectly legal.
  • Within the United States, it is perfectly legal.

From other countries to the EU, chicks must be isolated after hatch:

"Poultry and ratites that have been hatched from imported hatching eggs must be isolated on the holding to which they were sent following hatching, for a period of at least 3 weeks from the day of hatching"(5).

From other countries to the US, the regulations say this:

"The United States prohibits live avian commodities (including eggs for hatching) from countries or regions due to the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The exception of these prohibitions are pet birds and zoo birds". (Emphasis is mine).

So if your eggs are coming from outside the US and they're to incubate pet birds, there is no problem. Of course, the question of whether a lengthy plane journey is good for the eggs is another matter.

The Exception:

In the event of an outbreak of Avian Flu or Newcastle disease, it becomes illegal to move hatching eggs at all - anywhere.


So you've decided to take your hatching eggs by plane?

Knowing now what the law entails, you've made a decision to take your hatching eggs by plane.

Carrying your own eggs, rather than having them sent by mail or by air, means they stand a much better chance of arriving at their destination intact - and with the air cell still attached.

There are steps you can follow to make sure that your eggs both comply with the statutory regulations, and have the best possible chance of hatch.

Choosing hatching eggs.

Hens in an orchard.Clean, spacious and free from pests - an excellent source of hatching eggs. Helen's Happy Hens, UK.

To make sure you abide by the biosecurity measures the laws insist on for hatching eggs, it's important that the eggs you buy should be from well-managed breeding stock.

If possible, visit the premises yourself. Look for well feathered, alert, pastured hens who have both room to forage and a clean environment. Hens kept in confined or overcrowded conditions are more likely to lay bacteria-laden eggs.

Make sure there are no signs of rodents or other pests. If there are, find another source.

Choose your eggs carefully. They should be clean, free from blemishes and hairline cracks (as far as the naked eye can tell) and of a good size for the breed.

Buying from a reputable breeder is most likely to fulfil these conditions.


The Journey.

I have carried hatching eggs by air on four or five occasions without any problems. 

All the images below are from one of my recent trips to the UK to collect some fertile eggs to take back with me to Italy.

My hatching eggs waiting to be packed on a hotel table.At my London hotel, about to pack the eggs. Egg cartons are not strong enough to withstand a plane journey.

Hatching eggs are very susceptible to rough handling and changes in temperature. If those two variables aren't controlled the likelihood is your eggs' hatchability will be greatly diminished.

So it's important that they're well packed, and that the temperature varies as little as possible on their journey.

Always carry them with you as hand luggage. Packing them in your stowed luggage means you won't be able to control either the handling or the temperature.

Eggs packed into hand luggage.My eggs, packed in my carry-on luggage and waiting to leave the hotel.

Packing.

One of the biggest issues with eggs sent by mail or by air is detached air cells. Jolting in transit can lead to the membrane detaching and "floating" which considerably reduces the chances of a successful hatch. You'll be able to see this during the candling process.

So make sure your eggs are well packed in a sturdy box. I have used this one for years and it's still going strong - see the pics below...

(This is an "affiliate link", which means that if you click and buy something, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you).

Make sure the eggs won't move about during the journey by packing each one in something like tissue paper or toilet tissue. 

All the material you use to pack should be new, clean and dry. It must not have come into contact with other birds, especially wild birds.

A box of eggs packed for air travel.Some of my eggs being packed for a journey by air from the UK to Italy.

If your container stores the eggs in an upright position, make sure the pointed end of the egg is facing downwards, the more blunt end on top.

And finally, make sure the container is properly closed before you place it inside your carry-on bag. On the plane, store it under the seat in front of you rather than risk it being jostled by other baggage in the overhead locker.

Eggs packed under seat on plane.My eggs on the plane, placed under the seat in front.

Temperature.

Fertile chicken eggs are very susceptible to changes in temperature. As far as possible, it's important to control the temperatures throughout their journey. 

Flying over the Italian Alps.My eggs fly over the Alps at 37,000 feet.

At the hotel...

Use air conditioning to keep the temperature around 14º - 18º Centigrade (55º - 65º F). Much higher than that and there's a danger the eggs will start to incubate. Temperatures lower than 7ºC (45º F) are known to result in higher than usual embryo deaths.

At the airport.

Some airports have special "animal lounges" which are lower in temperature than the public areas. If the airport you're flying from has one - use it.

Otherwise, find a space which is as cool as possible. 

Boarding the plane, try to make sure you're near the front of the queue so that you spend as little time as possible standing on the runway waiting for other passengers to climb the steps.

Your aim is to minimise the time you spend in any area where temperatures fluctuate, or where it's raining.

On the plane.

Once again, this is an important reason to take your eggs with you into the cabin. The temperature in the cargo area of a plane is much too low for fertile eggs to survive.

Planes are often kept at a very warm temperature. In the cabin, use the air control to keep your area as cool as possible.

The air vent on a plane.Use the air control above your seat to keep your area as cool as possible.

Scanners.

Surprisingly, eggs do not count as liquids, so they can travel in hand luggage with no problem.

But many people avoid taking hatching eggs by plane because they're concerned that the security scanners will affect the eggs.

Carry-on luggage does have to pass through x-ray scanners at security. It's possible to ask for your luggage to be scanned by hand, although it's not something I've ever done.

I have never experienced a lower hatch rate in eggs carried by plane than eggs transported in any other way.

Certainly, if you would like to transport hatching eggs by air, do not let the thought of scanners put you off.


If you found this article helpful, you may also like these.

Preparing fertile eggs for a successful hatch - link.
How to choose your perfect chicken egg incubator - link.
Incubating chicken eggs. Link.
Chicken names - link.
What chickens eat - link.
Raising Chickens month by month - link.

Sources.

There is a lot of mis-information on the internet about transporting fertile chicken eggs by air. These are the sources I have used to check the facts.

It is always wise to check with your airline, and / or with the security section of the airport from which you'll be flying, to make sure they are standing by the legal regulations.

1. Fresh Eggs. Pub. Transportation Security Administration.

2. Procedures for Importing Poultry Hatching Eggs into the United States. Pub. US Department of Agriculture, 2018.

3. Exportation of Live Animals, Hatching Eggs, and Animal Germplasm from the United States. Pub. USDA, 2019.

4. Moving live animals or animal products. Pub. gov.uk, 2014, updated 2019.

5. EU import conditions for poultry and poultry products. Pub. European Commission, 2011, updated 2019.

6. Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports. Pub. gov.uk, 2019.

7. European Guide to Good Air Transport of Hatching Eggs and Day Old Chicks. Pub. Association of European Poultry Breeders, 2011.

8. How does an airport scanner work? Pub. Science Focus, 2019. 


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