How To Check Eggs For Fertility

by Meghan H

Published March 2, 2020

You’ve had chickens for a while now and want to try hatching some yourself. But how do you know if your eggs are fertile?

First Step: A Fertile Rooster With Your Hens

While you may not need a rooster to have your hens lay eggs, it is a must if you want fertile eggs. The process is basically the same as it is with most other species, the male mates with the female, and then nature takes its course. Once your rooster mates with the hen, and assuming he has fertile sperm, that hen should be fertile for up to 3 weeks.

Chicken Flock with a rooster for fertile eggs Meyer Hatchery

Despite all the legends and internet hacks, there is no way to truly tell if an egg is fertile unless you crack it open. Crack your egg open in a dish and take a look at the yolk. If there is a small white “bulls-eye” shape on the yolk, then your egg is fertile. This bulls-eye shape is called a blastoderm and holds the DNA for the chick. This collection of cells is not an actual baby chick but instead, it had the potential to become a chick if incubated at the right temperature and humidity level. 

Next Step: Check Table Chicken Eggs For Fertility

You’ll want to test a bunch of eggs, so at breakfast (or dinner, who are we to judge when you have your eggs) note the number of fertile eggs you crack open. If you see more fertile than infertile eggs, you have a chance for a decent hatch. Keep in mind that just because an egg is fertile does not guarantee a chick will hatch. There are a lot of factors involved with hatching a chick.  Even if momma hen sits on them there is no guarantee that all will hatch. We suggest you set more eggs than chicks you want to end up with.

Chicken Egg in a dish checking fertility of your eggs Meyer Hatchery

Find this cute poultry themed plate by clicking the photo.

It is completely safe to eat fertilized chicken eggs. No, you are not eating baby chicks. If you already have a male, chances are you’ve already been eating them. Unless that tiny group of cells is incubated, a chick can not develop. So if you have a broody hen, you’ll want to collect eggs frequently to prevent incubation and a yucky surprise when you crack open an egg. 

Collect And Set Some Chosen Eggs

Once you’ve set your eggs, you can wait the 21 days and see which will hatch. If you are curious about what is going on inside the shell, candling is your best option.  To candle an egg, it’s recommended to use an egg candler. The first candling can be done  7-10 days after the eggs have been set.  In a dark room, hold the egg gently in one hand and with the other shine the candler behind the egg.  Viable fertile eggs will show a red spot with spidery “legs” coming from it. The red spot is your baby chick developing and the legs are vessels that feed the embryo.  Bad eggs do not change so if you’re unsure, mark the egg and check again a few days later. If the egg looks the same you know that it is not good. Candling should also be done a week later to check on the development of your chicks.  Two-thirds of the egg should be dark and you may see some movement of the chick in the egg. After candling if you do not see the signs that the egg is developing, it means that the egg is not viable and you’ll need to take the egg out of the incubator and dispose of it.  Keeping them in the incubator just ends up in a stinky mess if they end up exploding in your incubator.

The last week of incubating is when your incubator goes on lockdown so the final development is left to nature.  At 21 days you should start hearing the peeping of hatching chicks! Incubating is exciting and educational. Knowing if your eggs are fertile and following the incubator’s instructions will give you plenty of new chicks whenever you want them.

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