Saturday, February 23, 2013

Incubating & Hatching Eggs Part 2- Candling Eggs

Hatching & Incubating Eggs Part 2
Candling Your Eggs
In my first incubating post I talked about setting up your incubator properly and starting your eggs.  Around Day 7 for white or light eggs and Day 10 for brown and darker eggs you'll want to candle the eggs to check for fertility. 
There are many quality candlers on the market in a wide price range.

Many breeders and backyard hatchers, including us, also build their own egg candlers.  There are several great plans online for building simple candlers.  Here are a few I've found.

Mother Earth News (one of my favorite sites by the way) has a great post on building a candler from a coffee can here.

Instructables has a simple candler you can build from a small light, paper towel tube, and some electrical tape here.  

Urban Chicken Coops has a video on how to make a wooden box candler (a bit more on the handyman side but really nice) here.

Candling your eggs early from the 7-10 day mark can help you determine growth and fertility in your eggs.  It's also important so that you can make more room in your incubator or hatcher if you're incubating staggered hatches (post on how to stagger hatches next week), ensuring you keep bacteria down and protect the developing eggs, and to check on how well you're incubator is set up and running for proper conditions. 
The picture above is of an infertile egg.  You can tell because it will shine like a lightbulb, clear throughout.  I was so worried and nervous about throwing ANY eggs out in the beginning that I wouldn't throw them out at the 7 day mark but would wait and candle them again in another week.  This proved to be fine for us- no exploding eggs in the incubator that early.  I've heard others say they will but our PERSONAL experience is they haven't.  Once you get the hang of it and have fertile eggs, it becomes much easier to throw out these that are infertile because there's a significant different in them after you've practiced.  The egg above was infertile and we did throw it out.  Sometimes on the darker eggs - our blues and dark browns it can be harder to tell, especially if this is your first hatch so you can wait for your next candling.

This picture shows what's called a "blood ring" unfortunately.  A blood ring forms after an embryo has begun to grow, so the egg WAS fertile, but for some reason it dies.  Oftentimes, a bacteria has somehow entered the egg, or it could be caused from rough handling or a defect in the embryo.  It's a sign that the embryo is no longer alive and best to remove these from the incubator to prevent any contamination to the other eggs. 

Here is an example of a "good" egg.  It's a typical fertile, living embryo with normal development.  If you look closely you can see the veins appearing on the large part of the egg.  You can also see the dark space at the small end of the egg.  Hopefully, this is what you will mostly see at this point. 

Be gentle with your eggs.  You do not want to shake them or keep them out of the incubator too long.  You also do not want to keep your incubator open very long or continue to open and shut it.  The most successful eggs are those that are left alone!  Candle them carefully and quickly and place them back into your incubator.  Keep in mind what we discussed in the first post about losing humidity and reducing your temperature from opening the incubator.  If any water needs to be added for low humidity, now is the time to do it while you have the incubator already opened.  I like to gather everything together before I even touch the incubator.  I get warm water (if needed), my candler, and a washcloth (in case I spill because I'm a klutz!) all set on my table by my incubator before I lift the lid.

Place your fertile eggs and those you're unsure of and want to keep incubating back into your incubator and once again, leave it alone.  Keep an eye on your temperature and humidity as before.  For circulated air incubators keep a constant temperature of 99.5 and 102 for still air incubators.  For the first 1-17 days, remember, you'll want to keep your humidity between 40-55%. 

Many breeders will candle their eggs again around Day 14.  This is a good idea, especially for those eggs you were uncertain of.  It will also reveal any eggs that "quit" some time between Day 7 and then.  It's a good measure for beginners to assess thier incubator conditions also.  If you lose several eggs between Day 7-14 then you'll know you need to make adjustments on your incubator.  As with Day 7, gather your materials ahead of time and be certain to replace the eggs pointed or small end down so as not to have your chicks pipping at the wrong end of the egg. 

We use an incubator for days 1-17 and then transfer our eggs to a hatcher.  I gently and quickly candle my eggs again at this point because of my limited hatcher space.  Generally, this is not necessary if you are hatching and incubating in the same incubator.   The egg you see above is a fertile egg on Day 17 right before I moved it into our hatcher. 

On Day 18, remove your eggs from the egg turner if you're using one.  If you're manually turning, stop turning them.  Add water as needed to increase your humidity to 65-70% for hatching.  You've now entered the Lockdown phase.  Check out our next post, Incubating & Hatching Eggs Part 3 for more information and tips on humidity and hatching.  Happy incubating!



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