Can you really hatch supermarket eggs?

If you just read that title and you're cringing so hard, worried that the next time you go to make yourself a tasty omelet you might wind up experiencing something more akin to the unique delicacy that is balut — well, fear not. Before we go any further, rest assured that it is extremely unlikely that such a thing would ever happen by accident, and the likelihood of its happening even on purpose with chicken eggs purchased at a supermarket in the United States are slim to none.

However, it would seem that one woman in England found she'd have to make way for ducklings after managing to incubate her own mini-flock with three duck eggs purchased from the UK supermarket Waitrose. She told the BBC that she'd gotten the idea from watching a Facebook video of quail eggs being hatched, but says she didn't really believe it would actually happen until, after one month in the incubator, three of the "cutest little balls of fluff" emerged. She has named them Beep, Peep, and Meep and says that they will live a happy life along with the pet chickens she already owned (and did not hatch from supermarket eggs).

Why you're unlikely to achieve the same results

While the eggs that hatched had obviously been fertilized, most eggs sold for human consumption are not. Chowhound says that most hens supplying supermarket eggs live cloistered, entirely rooster-free lives, so fertilization just ain't gonna happen. Now with duck eggs, it's a bit more difficult to make sure the lady ducks remain chaste since ducks can fly and a wild one might just drop in to mate with farmed ducks. Also, unlike with chickens, a Waitrose spokesperson told BBC that it's "notoriously difficult" to determine the gender of white-feathered ducks and sometimes a flock might actually have a resident drake unbeknownst to the duck farmer.

Even if you've purchased eggs from chickens (or ducks) who are ranging so free as to have had illicit liaisons, a fertilized egg is only going to develop further if it is kept under optimal conditions, and if the supermarket you're shopping at is following USDA guidelines, that's just not possible. All of the eggs sold for food in this country must be candled, which is a process by which a light is shined through the shell so any irregularities (such as a developing chick) can be detected and that egg removed from the carton. Eggs must also be refrigerated, and that lower temperature in and of itself is going to ensure that even a fertilized egg is incapable of further growth. Bad news if you want new pets, but a relief if you prefer your breakfast free from surprises.