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How to Candle Eggs: Hatching Chicks Day by Day

Have you ever wanted to hatch your own dear fluffy chicks with an incubator or a broody hen? Hatching chicks is one of the best parts of raising chickens, and you won’t believe how easy and rewarding it can be! Learning how to candle eggs is an essential part of the incubation process and frankly can be great fun!

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A candled egg showing an embryo inside

What does it mean to Candle Chicken Eggs?

Just as its name suggests, historically eggs were held up to a candle to see if they were:

    Yolkers- an egg that is not fertilized

    Quitters- the embryo stops growing

    Winners- a viable baby chick is inside

Why is this information important? The best practice is to candle and check your eggs a few times in the 21-day process of incubation.  If you find Yolkers or Quitters immediately remove those eggs, so they don’t rot or even worse, burst inside your incubator!

You need only a few tools, a basic idea of how to candle eggs, an understanding of what to look for, and gentle hands to do the job.

3 Things you Need to Candle Eggs

1. Light Source

Before the use of flashlights and fancy candling devices, people used an actual candle to candle their eggs!

They had to be very careful with the candle so that the egg didn’t end up being cooked or the heat didn’t cause the shell to crack.

Fortunately, in the twenty-first century, we have several options from the economically priced LED Flashlights to a high-tech Ovascope plus everything in between.

A chicken egg candler

Any bright light will do to candle your eggs. Some eggs, like dark brown eggs laid by Black Copper Marans, may be very hard to see inside, but for most eggs a simple flashlight will do the trick.

We like to use this high powered flashlight to candle our eggs, because it can pull double duty and help us to search for predators around the coop at night!

A high powered flashlight.

You can even build your own candling lamp by taking a low energy bulb (60 watts) and placing it in a desk lamp. Place the lamp into a cardboard box that has a small round hole in the top just the size for the pointed end of the egg.

Place the egg into the hole and then turn on the light and voila, a perfect egg candling station!

2. A Dark Room

The one constant and FREE tool needed is a very dark room. This allows for the light to illuminate the inside of the egg for the viewer.

3. Notebook and Pencil

These are used to mark each of the eggs with a number and keep notes on your findings. It’s important to keep track the progression of each egg in your notebook. If you notice one egg stops developing over the course of 21 days, it’s time to remove it.

A notebook with a mug and computer.

How to Candle Eggs

Set up your chosen egg candler in a dark room close to your incubator. You don’t want your egg to be out of the warmth of the incubator for more than 5-10 minutes.

Candling Chicken Eggs Step-by-step

1.    Wash your hands thoroughly. Eggs are porous, and bacteria from your hands can penetrate the egg and kill any life inside. Make sure your hands are super clean before you start!

2. Take an egg from the incubator and carefully place the larger end directly above the light. Hold the egg gently near the top with your thumb and forefinger. 

3.    Gently rotate the egg, tilting it slightly to one side until you can find the best view. Note: darker colored eggs such as brown, blue, or green are much harder to see through and may require you to wait until the embryo has developed further and you can see it more clearly.

4.    Check the eggs for any cracks or marks and then look for the air sac and mark with a pencil the line between the sac and the fluid in the egg. This will help you compare the size of the air sac as you go along.

5.    Mark the egg with a number using only a pencil, never a pen or sharpie because the ink can penetrate the shell.

6.    Depending on the date in which you candle look for signs of development.

7.    Carefully place the egg back into the incubator or with the hen.

8.    Make a notation in your notebook for each egg.

The rule of thumb for candling varies, some egg hatching masters candle only a few times on Day 1, 7, 14, and 16 and others candle daily up to day 16 or 17.

The most vital key is having “soft” hands and delicately handling the eggs. Of course, the less you hold the eggs, the less chance there is of cracks or mishaps.

Things to Look for When Candling Chicken Eggs

Yolker

A floating yolk with no red blood vessels. If you see these signs, it is a Yolker and should be pulled from the incubator.

A candled egg showing a floating yolk.

Quitter

A thin ring of blood around the yolk which signifies a Quitter where the embryo has stopped growing. This egg needs to be discarded.

A candled egg showing a ring of blood inside.

Winner

If your egg has a developing chick inside, you’ll first see groups of blood vessels inside the egg. Then around days 7-10 you’ll be able to see the chicks eye, a big black spot moving around, and the shadow of the chicks body as it grows.

These are signs that your egg is a Winner! Leave these eggs in the incubator to continue developing.

A candled egg showing a web of veins.

Candling Chicken Eggs Day by Day

Day 1

Check for cracks and marks that let you know that the egg is not a viable egg to try to hatch. At this point there won’t be any signs of development.

Days 3-5

You may see some tiny hair-like veins spreading throughout the egg.

A candled egg showing veins and an embryo.

Day 7

The vein webbing should have increased in size, and the air cell is evident at the end of the egg. At this point you may have some obvious ‘yolkers’ or ‘quitters’ that you can dispose of.

Day 10

The chick is growing and moving some. The air cell has expanded. There will also be a large black blob, which is an eye.

A candled egg showing the embryo's eye and veins.

Days 10-17

If you candle daily, you can watch the chick getting bigger and bigger day by day, until it takes up so much of the egg you can’t see much anymore!

Day 17

The chick is filling up space and is moving into a hatching position. Don’t rotate the egg much at this stage in order not to disorient the chick on its position.

A candled egg that's mostly dark, the chick is too large to see.

Day 18

Candling is stopped, and the eggs are put in lockdown position, ready to hatch.

Day 21- Hatch Day!

Have you ever experienced the wonder of the subtle movement of a chicken egg about to hatch? The pecking noises that result in first a pip and then a break in the shell.

Watching chicks hatch is enthralling and educational. It’s important to be hands off at this point and let them do their thing. Opening the incubator can let out the humidity and cool down the eggs, so make sure you leave it closed and just watch.

The chicks will hatch one by one, and when they’re all dried off, you can move them to the brooder!

A chick hatching in an incubator.

Get ready you’re about to experience it all! Hatching chicks is fun, exciting, and educational. You’ll get to experience raising chicks from before day one with this process! 

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