If you have chickens, chances are you’re wondering “What does a fertilized egg look like?” I have the answers plus some tried and true tips!
The first time we hatched chicks on our homestead, it was a great day – we could increase our flock (and our food supply), develop our own line of healthy hens, and watch as the chicks grew into healthy adults. Fun!
I’m sure you will want to start incubating your own chicken eggs also – there are some things you need to know (to help you be successful).
(Looking for an incubator recommendation? Here’s my favorite!)
In this article, I’m going to explain how you know if an egg is fertilized and show you how to store your chicken eggs so they’re in the best shape possible for incubation. Yes, how you store the eggs does impact whether they are likely to hatch or not.
If you want to learn how to hatch chicken eggs, I have a detailed article on that here.
Table of Contents (Quickly Jump To Information)
What Does a Fertilized Egg Look Like?
Can you tell if an egg is fertilized by looking at it?
Nope. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if an egg is fertilized by just looking at it. After you start incubating the eggs you can look inside the egg through the shell by candling it (hold a bright light up to it and see growth inside). But you can’t tell if the egg is fertilized this way before you start incubating.
Can you tell if an egg is fertilized if you crack it open?
Yes. But if you crack it open you will no longer be able to grow it and hatch it (obviously). However, you can at least confirm that your rooster is adequately doing his job. This will give you more confidence that other eggs are also likely fertilized.
An unfertilized egg will have a tiny white spot on the egg yolk – this solid spot is called a blastodisc. A fertilized egg has a tiny white circular ring (a white ring, not a solid spot) on the yolk. It’s called a blastoderm. The blastoderm becomes the chick. See the diagram below to know what this blastoderm looks like.
Is a spot of blood on an egg yolk a sign of fertilization?
No, it’s not. It simply means a blood vessel ruptured as the egg was passing through the oviduct inside the hen. It’s not a cause for panic and the egg is perfectly safe to eat.
Can you eat a fertilized egg?
Yes. You can eat fertilized eggs. They will not change the look or taste of the egg.
Are fertilized chicken eggs healthier to eat?
This is a myth. There is no proof that a fertilized chicken egg has any additional nutrients or vitamins.
How are chicken eggs fertilized?
If you want to learn how chicken eggs are fertilized, read this article we wrote about it. It’s very interesting and worth the read.
What if my eggs are not getting fertilized?
First thing to know is, do you have a rooster? You must have a rooster in order to have fertilized eggs. Second, if you have a rooster and your eggs are not getting fertilized you need to figure out why.
Maybe your rooster does not know how to do his job. If this is the case, you need to get a different rooster. But it’s also possible that either your rooster or your hen, is not getting the proper nutrition. Just like people, if they aren’t getting the right vitamins and minerals it may be interfering with proper reproduction.
Be sure to feed your flock a high-protein feed that has good, healthy ingredients like this. It’s also a good idea, especially if you have a health concern, to supplement your birds with vitamins. Here’s my favorite.
3 Mistakes You Need To Avoid
Tip #1: Avoid washing the chicken eggs
When eggs are laid, they have something called the “bloom” on them. This extra layer keeps bacteria and other nasties out of the egg, protecting the precious oocyte from harm.
It’s important to not wash your hatching eggs – you’ll remove the bloom, and potentially expose the chick embryo to bacteria, crushing your hopes of hearing peeping and getting to watch them zip into life.
Tip #2: Stay away from eggs that have abnormal shapes
Excessively big eggs might contain double yolks (these rarely hatch because there’s not enough room in the shell for both embryos in most cases).
Chicken eggs with a lumpy shell might not have a big enough air sac or an air sac that’s too large.
Bottom line: You only want to incubate eggs that are a regular egg shape.
Tip #3: Stay away from cracked eggs.
Yes, you can glue a crack back together, and it might hatch. But make things easy on yourself – only incubate uncracked eggs.
Storing Fertile Eggs
Start by collecting eggs no more than 10 days before the incubation process (the fresher, the better), and keep them out of an area that’s too hot or too cool (room temperature is best) and away from the sun. The last thing you want is too much heat to kick-start the incubation process.
If you live in a hot area (for example, if it’s over 100 degrees every day in the summer), you’ll want to collect your eggs frequently.
I’ve had readers send me photos of eggs they had left in their coop for too many days – and indeed, the embryos in the eggs had started to develop. It’s gross, and you don’t want to deal with that.
Keep eggs in cartons – pointy side down
Keep your chicken-hatching eggs in cartons like you get from the store (or like this if you want a reusable one) to keep them safe and clean. Be sure to store them with the pointed end down. This will protect the air sac and make sure the yolk stays where it should, which is critical for your chicken embryos to grow into chicks.
Turn your eggs consistently
This is to prevent the embryo from sticking to the internal membrane. Hens turn their eggs several times a day; you can do it 2-3, and just be sure to do it gently.
That’s pretty much the skinny on storing chicken eggs for hatching!
What If You Have a Broody Hen?
You can let your broody hen incubate the fertile eggs or you can try to discourage her. You can read more about this here. If you decide to let your mother-bound female brood and hatch her chicks herself you will want to keep a few things in mind.
You will still want to remove any cracked, misshaped, or extra-large eggs from the nesting box. Candling the eggs throughout the process, and removing any unviable eggs, is helpful so she’s not sitting on rotting eggs. You’ll also need to be sure the space is appropriate for hatching and raising chicks. Read tips on this here.
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.