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! Candling chicken eggs is an essential part of the incubation process and frankly can be great fun!
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 or
• 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, basic know-how of candling, an understanding of what to look for, and “soft” hands to do the job.
What you Need to Candle Eggs
Before the use of flashlights and fancy candling devices, people used a candle. 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.
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!
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. Voila!
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.
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.
The 4-1-1 of Candling Chicken 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. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Mark the egg with a number using only a pencil, never a pen or sharpie because the ink can penetrate the shell.
5. Depending on the date in which you candle look for signs of development.
6. Carefully place the egg back into the incubator or with the hen.
7. 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
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 thin ring of blood around the yolk which signifies a Quitter where the embryo has stopped growing. This egg needs to be discarded.
A group of blood vessels within the first few days, the eye will be able to be seen around day seven, and the outline or shadow of the chick’s body or movement in the egg. These are signs that your egg is a Winner! Leave these eggs in the incubator to continue developing.
Candling Chicken Eggs Day by Day
Check for cracks and marks that let you know that the egg is not a viable egg to try to hatch.
You may see some tiny hair-like veins spreading throughout the egg.
The vein webbing should have increased in size, and the air cell is evident at the end of the egg.
The chick is growing and moving some. The air cell has expanded. There will also be a large black blob, which is an eye.
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.
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 Peck-Peck Pecking noises that result in first a line and then a chip in the shell. Have you held your breath as the beak pops through the shell and after many minutes of hard work by the little peeper it finally breaks through and lays in the incubator wet and exhausted from its ordeal?
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!