How Can I Tell If My Chicken Eggs Are Fertilized Without Cracking Them?

How Can I Tell If My Chicken Eggs Are Fertilized Without Cracking Them

I recently got a question from a reader who wanted to hatch some of his chickens eggs.  He has 8 chickens and 1 rooster.  He currently has collected about 20 eggs and is wanting to know if they are fertile, so that he can put them in an incubator.

While I am not allowed to have roosters due to my neighborhood covenants, I have always kind of wondered if I would get a fertilized egg before I get rid of them.  {We order chicks and usually get a rooster or two out of the bunch–we get rid of the rooster pretty soon after we know that it is in fact a rooster, though.}

silver laced wyandotte rooster

So, first a little talk about the birds and the bees {only, in this case, it really only involves two birds}.  In order for an egg to become fertilized, the rooster and the hen have to have mated prior to the formation of the egg.  If this happens, the hen will lay a fertilized egg.  This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t have a rooster, you will not have any fertilized eggs…ever.  A hen can lay fertilized eggs from anywhere to 2 days after mating up to 3 weeks after mating with the rooster.

The oldest and easiest way to tell if an egg is fertilized is called candling the egg.  It is literally holding the egg up to a lit candle {not to warm it, but in order to see inside of the egg}.  You can also use a very bright small flashlight.  If the egg appears opaque, it is probably a fertilized egg.  {By opaque, I mean, you can’t really see through the egg or it is much cloudier than all of the other eggs.}

eggs in nest

As a side note, just because an egg is fertile, does not mean it will become a chick.  It must be properly incubated by the hen or under an incubator in order to develop into a chick.  After 3-4 days of incubation, you can candle the egg again.  You will see that it has started to form–it will look kind of like red veins spreading throughout the egg.

white cochin chicken

A fertile egg layed by a hen that is not incubated is perfectly safe to eat, and unless you are paying super close attention, you will never know the difference.  Once you collect the eggs and put them in the fridge, the development completely stops.

I hope that helps, and if you do get some baby chicks, send some pictures!




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  1. Rochelle says

    I assume all of my hen’s eggs are fertile after being with an, um, active rooster for three weeks. Never fails.

  2. anaika says

    Have you tried You can pay just a bit extra to have your chicks sexed if you want to avoid the rooster rehoming stuff. Due to a traumatic childhood experience, I avoid all roosters at all costs lol. We ordered our 6 ladies from them and were super happy with the transaction :)

    • Mavis Butterfield says

      I LOVE my pet chicken. I’ve ordered from them 3 or 4 times and never gotten a roo! :) Great company.

    • venven says

      yes, but ordering all pullets contributes to the massive slaughter of male chicks. I just order straight runs and make rooster soup.

  3. says

    Annnnd for the record, you can have a broody chicken without having a rooster. Never had a rooster, couldn’t figure out why my hen was just stay in her hen house all mopey… Knowing what I did about the birds and the bees, I didn’t think about the fact that chickens may want to be mamas too. So I talked with my good chicken and told her she needed to stop sitting on the eggs and getting all cranky… she aint having chicks without a husband. 😉

    So, in case I was not the only one that didn’t know this… thought I’d share that.

  4. Niki C says

    Two of my boys just incubated a dozen Speckled Sussex eggs to show at the fair this year. 11 hatched out. We usually hatch some every year, just can’t seem to resist

  5. Jess says

    I know this is off topic, but what is that BEAUTIFUL black and white rooster. If I am ever able to have chickens, I think I want some of those.

  6. Ashley M. Northrup says

    I have 2 hens 2 chicks & 2 roosters ones active the other not so
    much but anyway. my friend said if you put a radio in the hen
    house and turn it on a christian music channel they will sit
    the wierd thing is it works XD

  7. DAWN SECORD says

    I have three silkie hens in a coupe. They are pets and about 3 years old. They lay and I take the eggs each day. Our neighbor has the sweetest while leghorn rooster (he is old) and he jumps our fence to visit our hens and for me to give him treats. He has a small brown bantam hen that is his companion. She is over here all the time too. We live in an equestrian area and are zoned for chickens. So, I found the brown bantam lady friend sitting on a nest in our horse arena and she has a clutch of eggs. From what I’ve read, it is unlikely the eggs were fertilized by a standard sized rooster. She won’t move off the eggs and I’m afraid a predator could do her harm in the night. Should I move her and her eggs to the coupe? She hangs out with my silkies when I let them free range during the day. It appears one egg had been knocked out of the nest yesterday. The egg was cold. My husband and I broke it open and it was not fertilized. Perhaps it had not been long enough for it to start developing. Don’t know what I should do for her. I could pick up all the eggs and destroy them so she won’t be brooding in a vulnerable location. Please advise.

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