How to Hatch 15,000 Eggs

Modern chicken and/or egg production horrifies some, and I’ll admit that it can be an ugly (certainly smelly) process. What most people don’t know is that mass egg hatching isn’t a strictly modern practice. The ancient Egyptians perfected it as long as 3,500 years ago. That makes sense when you consider how adept the Egyptians were at scaling.

Consider a pyramid. Sure, it’s big. But to build one you need more than just a system for cutting, transporting and stacking stone on a massive scale. You need support for the thousands of people who are doing all that cutting, moving and stacking. That means shelter, clothing, tools, latrines and obviously food.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Egyptians were big fans of poultry, especially the waterfowl that were common along the Nile: geese, ducks, heron, cranes and the like. But they didn’t merely hunt and catch them, they farmed them as well. Mass hatcheries like the one pictured below were capable of incubating up to 15,000 eggs at a time.

Big low-heat ovens are what they were — ovens that the egg farmer and his family actually lived in. Operations of this type were being run in Egypt as far back as the time of Moses (about 1400 BC) and as late as the early 20th Century around the Middle East. We know they were used to hatch chicken eggs around 400 BC because of the writings of the Greeks, who were truly stunned by the Egyptians’ chick output.

It’s interesting to note that American egg farmers didn’t catch up to the Egyptians technologically until after World War II, when egg farming became a national craze.

3 thoughts on “How to Hatch 15,000 Eggs”

  1. Fascinating. But I’m a long way from being convinced that what Tyson, et al. are doing in W. Ky. and elsewhere is a good idea … for the chickens, for the eggs, for the workers, for the neighbors or for the consumers.

    1. Hey Michelle! I’m don’t want to get into a discussion around chicken ethics, however I will say that pretty much everyone wants animals — even those they we eventually plan to kill and eat — to be treated as humanely as possible. I’ve never visited a chicken operation of that scale, but I’d be very interested if only to learn more about how something like that runs.

      Cheers and thanks for the email!

      – Joe

  2. Really, I’m not trying to be argumentative. But ask Tyson (or an analog) if you can see what they or their subcontractors do. Doubt they’ll let you. I have seen it. And that is why the only eggs I’ll eat now are from chickens we ourselves or somebody we trust raise on a small scale.

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