This is one of the more common and frustrating calls we receive: “I found an egg and I’m going to hatch it!”
This usually happens when someone finds an egg on the ground and determines— often incorrectly— that it fell or blew out of a nest. Taking an egg out of nature and trying to raise it as a DIY project is never acceptable.
Many native wild birds naturally on the ground, including plovers, turkeys, geese, quail, grouse, terns, juncos, meadowlarks, sandpipers, and hermit thrushes. When a well-meaning person finds their eggs on the ground and kidnaps them, the parents will lose the unborn baby they have worked so hard to prepare for, and they may not be able to try again until next year.
Occasionally, you might actually find an egg on the ground that doesn’t belong there, but it’s almost never safe to make an assumption. Eggs are very hard to distinguish by appearance and it’s far too easy to make a mistake. A tree-nesting bird’s egg that has actually made its way to the ground is also probably no longer viable. The parents may have rejected it intentionally because the egg wasn’t fertilized, but if it fell out by accident, the embryo inside would almost certainly die in the process.
In the very unlikely event that an egg on the ground actually is viable and actually shouldn’t be on the ground, DIY hatching still isn’t an option. It is illegal to possess the eggs of any native bird, and the process of correctly incubating a wild bird’s egg is very delicate and easy to mess up. Even with the best incubators and equipment, a developing egg can easily be killed.
Should you decide to commit a crime and keep the egg, and should the egg you’re trying to incubate actually hatch, what then? A newly hatched songbird needs to be fed every fifteen minutes from the moment the sun rises until the moment it sets. Will you be available to provide this care? Do you have access to the thousands of live insects you will need to feed the bird, and do you have training to feed it safely? Do you have all the appropriate caging, from an artificial nest in an incubator to a long-term, fully furnished outdoor aviary? Do you have access to a veterinarian who would provide emergency care for a bird that is illegally in your possession? Unfortunately, caring for a baby bird is far, far more challenging than many people assume, so it is easy to get in far over your head.
We don’t say all of this to make anyone feel ashamed of their desire to help an egg found on the ground. It’s wonderful to care and to have a childlike wonder at the beauty of the world around us. However, it’s important to be aware of how unrealistic and harmful it is to take birds’ eggs from the wild.
If you found an egg on the ground, the only kind and correct thing to do is leave it alone.