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How to candle brown eggs

How to candle eggsCandling is a way of getting a sneak preview of hatching day, figuring out as early as day 8 whether your eggs are fertile and growing.  Some experts will tell you that candling is mandatory since infertile eggs can explode in the incubator and take out your other eggs.  At the other extreme, another batch of experts asserts that their hatch rates improved drastically after they stopped candling since the time out of the incubator and the heat of the lamp can harm the tender embryo.  I opted to go ahead and candle, but used an LED light and kept the eggs out of the incubator only a minute apiece to minimize chances of killing my chicks.

Air pocket in candled eggWhen it comes right down to it, candling is absurdly simple.  Just wait until it's totally dark (I wasn't able to candle once the moon came out), then hold the flashlight under the egg and cup your hand around the two so that no light leaks out.  With white eggs, it's pretty easy to see what's inside, but brown eggs block more of the light, so give your eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness.  It can help to look at the egg out of the corner of your eye, and rotate the egg gently until you can see something.

Candling eggs at day 7The easiest thing to see is the air pocket, a paler area at the blunt end of the egg.  At day eight, you will probably also be able to see two dark blobs in the main part of the egg --- the eye and the chick's body.  These two blobs may look separate because the neck is thin and doesn't block the light very much.  I wasn't able to get any photos in the dark, so I've snagged a bunch of images for this post to illustrate what I'm talking about --- just click on a photo to see the source (and for more information about candling.)

Egg with blood ringBad eggs can look very variable.  Unfertilized eggs will be clear with no dark areas and those that were fertile but died young will have blood spots or blood rings.  Cloudy eggs that are uniformly dark inside except for the air pocket may mean that your egg died between day 10 and 16 (if you're candling later than day 8, of course.)  On the other hand, it can be tough to see inside brown eggs as the chicks get larger, so don't assume that because it looks dark in there on day 20, your chick is dead.

I'm a beginner at candling, so I wasn't entirely sure what I was seeing, but I'm pretty sure that at day eight, five of my seven eggs were alive.  If I'd been smart, I would have numbered my eggs (marking on the shell with a pencil) and kept notes so that I'd know if I guessed right at hatching time.  This time around, I didn't feel confident enough to remove any eggs that I thought might be dead, but I'll keep better notes and learn more for the next batch.

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Incubation Handbook

Learn more about the pros and cons of candling in my 99 cent ebook.

Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook walks beginners through perfecting the incubating and hatching process so they can enjoy the exhilaration of the hatch without the angst of dead chicks. 92 full color photos bring incubation to life, while charts, diagrams, and tables provide the hard data you need to accomplish a hatch rate of 85% or more.



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