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In order for your hens to lay fertilized eggs, you must have a mature rooster who is mating with them. Fertilized eggs contain the genetic material of both the hen and the rooster and are capable of developing into chicks under the right conditions. Fertile eggs must be incubated in the right heat and humidity in order for a chick to begin developing. If you do not incubate the egg, it will never look like anything besides your everyday breakfast food.
If you do not own a rooster, or you keep your rooster separated from the hens, your hens will still lay the same number of eggs but they will not be fertilized. They will only contain the hen’s genetic material and therefore are incapable of developing into a chick.
What are the differences between the two? Not much. You won’t notice any difference at all when gathering, storing, or eating eggs. Fertilized eggs and unfertilized eggs look and taste exactly the same, and have the same nutritional value. The only difference is that if you incubate a fertilized egg for at least 24 hours, a chick will begin to develop. And if you incubate it for 21 days, you’ll have a tiny new beak to feed!