Here's an interesting hobby you're historical characters might participate in. Or they might be on the opposite side that felt egg collecting was wrong, taking away future generations of the birds. The article below is about the process of collecting and storing the eggs. But I did find several articles that did not favor the art.
Collecting Eggs.—In connection with a collection of nests, each nest holding its own lawful and original contents, a good collection of birds' eggs possesses much interest and beauty.
In collecting and preserving eggs, the most difficult feature of all is to remove the embryos successfully. In the days when I diligently collected eggs in many lands, it seemed to me that out of every dozen eggs I gathered, about thirteen contained from one to two embryos each 1 But there are ways in which this difficulty can be successfully overcome.
The full set of eggs laid by a bird for one brood is called a "clutch," and in collecting it is of scientific importance that whole sets should be collected and always kept separate, and the number of eggs in each set taken should be recorded.
Eggs are always blown through a small, round hole in the middle of one side, preferably in each instance on the poorest side of the egg, if it has one. Of course, the smaller the egg, the smaller the drill must be, and the greater the care in handling. It is often a good plan to pierce the shell with a needle in order to furnish the drill a point of attack. If an egg is cracked, or happens to be of such value that it must be saved at all hazards, reinforce it by pasting narrow strips of goldbeater's skin or court-plaster across the line of fracture.
Having drilled the hole, insert the end of a small wire, having a small portion of the end bent at a right angle, and if the embryo has not begun to develop, or happens to bo quite small and soft, twirl the wire rapidly between your thumb and finger, to thoroughly break up the contents of the egg. Having accomplished this, insert the tip of your blow-pipe (the best in the world consists of a tube of glass bent at a right angle and terminating in a fine point, with the large end set in the end of a rubber bulb, which saves the mouth and lungs all trouble) and with gentle and gradual pressure blow in air. Hold the egg with the hole downward, of course, so that the contents will run out freely. Go slowly and carefully, even coaxingly, for too great pressure will burst any ordinary egg in two parts very neatly. If the embryo is small and disposed to be accommodating, help it out by inserting the point of your smallest scissors, snipping it to pieces, and then drawing out the parts, one by one, with your smallest forceps.
Having emptied the egg of its contents, introduce some clear •water by way of the blow-pipe, wash out the inside thoroughly, and in case the egg is in a clean, healthy condition, it can now be laid away on cotton or corn-meal, with the hole downward, to drain and get dry. Observe this point, however. The thin, membranous lining of an egg, which the point of the drill pierces but cannot cut away, often closes together inside.the hole so closely as to retain, for some time, whatever water might chance to remain. For this reason it was my custom to cut away this membrane around the edges of the hole. Captain Bendire remarks that "eggs that have been thoroughly cleaned will retain their original color much better, and insects or mice are not so apt to trouble them."
Eemoving Lahge Embryos.—It often happens that eggs are taken quite near the hatching point, containing embryos so lusty in size, and so "very fillin'" that their successful ejectment seems impossible. Nil desperandum. The way out of the difficulty is through a very small hole. On this point I appealed to the highest authority, Captain Bendire, and he kindty gave me, in general substance, the following directions:
In the first place, make up your mind to go slow, and take plenty of time. If the egg is valuable and the embryo is large, reinforce the egg all over with strips of gold-beater's skin or court-plaster. Having drilled a fairly large hole, then insert the head of a needle in a small stick for a handle, and with the point pierce the embryo in twenty or thirty places. The egg sac, which is always present, should be taken out, if possible with the forceps, to give room for water.
Having cleared out the egg as far as possible, fill it up with water to assist in the decomposition of the embryo. Cover the bottom of a box with a layer of cornnleal or saw-dust; lay the egg on this, with the hole upward (still full of water), cover the box, and place it under a stove or in any other place warm enough to hasten the process of decomposition. Work at the egg a little about every alternate day, but without hurrying matters, and keep this process in operation until the embryo softens, falls to pieces, and is ready to be drawn out piecemeal. In removing a large embryo, try to get hold of the tip of the mandible with the small forceps, so that it can be drawn out, point foremost, without splitting the shell.
Eggs that emit an offensive odor after they have been blown need to bo rinsed out with carbolic acid and water, or some equally good disinfectant.
It is, of course, to be understood that eggs must be clean on the outside before they are fit for the cabinet. Usually soap and warm water is sufficient to remove dirt and stains, but occasionally a particularly hard case calls for the addition of a little washing soda in the water. The last washing, however, should always bo iu clour water.
Inasmuch as a label cannot bo attached to an egg, the data necessary to give the egg a respectable position in the oological world must be written on the under side of the egg itself, either in lead pencil or India ink, which is capable of being erased at will.
The following are the data that should be recorded on every egg collected and kept:
1. Name of species, or number in A. O. U. check list, if North American.
2. Collector's number, which belongs to every egg of a given set, and refers to his catalogue and field notes.
3. Number of eggs in the set, or "clutch."
4. Date in full.
In packing eggs for shipment, a great many small boxes of wood or tin are absolutely essential, and in these the eggs must be carefully packed in cotton, each one separated from the rest of the world by a layer of cotton. It is an excellent plan to wrap every large egg separately in cotton, as oranges ore wrapped in papers. Captain Bendire recommends the making of divisions, one for each egg, with strips of pasteboard, like the crates in which egg producers pack eggs for shipment to market. This gives each egg a compartment by itself, with a bit of soft cotton cloth at top and bottom. If produce dealers can afford to take such care of eggs worth only thirty cents per dozen, surely oologists can do the same when they are within the pale of civilization, and can get the materials.
At the National Museum the duplicate eggs are stored in small, rectangular, shallow pasteboard trays, or half boxes, each of which has its bottom covered very neatly and exactly with a section of cotton wadding, which gives a soft, springy cushion for the eggs to lie on without the undesirable fluffy looseness of ordinary cotton batting.
Source: Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting ©1897