Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Tell if Your Chicken Eggs are Fertile



Got hens a-laying? Got a rooster a-crowing? Want to know if your rooster is “doing his job” and making the eggs your hens are laying, fertile?

It’s really quite simple once you know what you are looking for… and if you are middle-age or beyond… if you have some good reading glasses!

Egg #1

(Photo courtesy Aoxa / Justine L.)

Egg #2


Can you see the difference?
Egg #1

 Egg #2
 
(Click for larger images)

As you can see, egg #1 has what appears to be a bulls eye while egg #2 has more of a period.

If the egg has a bulls-eye, your rooster is hitting his mark and your egg is fertile. If the egg has a period... it is not fertile.

* Hens can lay fertile eggs about 2 days after first mating with a rooster and for up to 3 weeks after being exposed to a rooster. If you want to hatch pure bred eggs from a certain pairing, be sure your hen hasn't been bred to any other rooster over the 3 weeks prior to collecting eggs. While eggs may be fertile only 2 days after first breeding with a rooster, it can take longer to start getting fertile eggs from the pair.

*


71 comments:

  1. Somehow we have to get the email notifications working on this blog! :)

    LM

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree with Sue.

    I didn't get this notification. Bummer!

    Love it. :D

    -aoxa

    ReplyDelete
  3. Funny but...when I looked at this again, it made me think of the EPT tests for pregnancy...with the little bullseye... :)

    LM

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have 20 Girls & only 1 boy. From what I have read he won't be able to cover all. I thought if I get a few Broody Hens couldn't I put him in with them. Or is it to late once she wants to set on eggs? Really didn't intend on getting him but they just threw him in for free. And 2 Cocks would fight. Any suggestions. Tks Trudi Jo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once a hen wants to sit on eggs, she won't accept a roosters advances and won't breed with him. Chances are he is able to breed with most of your hens - even if he breeds with a hen every week or so, her eggs can be fertile for up to 3 weeks after breeding with him.

      Delete
    2. actually with that many hens you could have up to about 4 roosters and they would never fight. i have many roosters and about 2 to 4 hens per rooster they each cliam a few and are good.. i also have a whole flock that is nothing but batcholors and they never fight either.
      but generally if you do it to where each roo has 5 to 10 hens each everyone is 'covered' and theres no fighting...my hens fight more than the roos do.

      Delete
    3. 2 roosters wont fight with that many hens. i have 18 hens and 2 roosters and its beneficial for me since they dont always hang out together they watch the flock in groups as everybody roams the land

      Delete
  5. Thank you for this post. I like your "bullseye means the rooster is hitting his mark" as an easy way to remember which means fertile.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Question for a pro Bulldogma. My 13 week old Barred Cock cockerel has turned into a little man this week. His comb and wattles are the reddest I have ever seen red be and he runs around the chicken run chasing the girls (all his age) but they just keep running. I do have one laying hen that obviously has some experience because when he runs up to her she squats down. He has mounted her several times the last few day and he seems to be doing things right...he is balancing well and his tail end in tucking in and down. After he gets off of her she gets up and totally fluffs her whole body, then she turns to check her rear end. Does that sound like he is getting the job done right? And is he old enough to be doing this stuff? I guess I can check her eggs this week to look for the bullseye, I just wondered if checking was necessary because I didn't think he would be progressing this far until he was at least a few weeks older. What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I won't call myself a pro... just a researchaholic - LOL!
      Well bless your little cockerel's heart! 13 weeks is very young. Normally they aren't sexually mature until at least 18 weeks - and this can be breed dependent. Is there a chance he's a tad older than 13 weeks?
      I wouldn't *expect* any fertile eggs until he's a little older. With my own breeders, I just continue to eat the eggs until I start getting fertile ones. Then I start saving them. :)
      Leigh (Bulldogma)

      Delete
    2. I got him and his hatch mates when they were 3 weeks old. She documented their hatch dates and showed the books to me. They also looked just like a 3 week old chick should look. My hen is the only layer and with only younger chicks I have never bothered to check them before eating them, but now I guess I should.

      BTW, I am a researchaholic and experimenter too. I love looking for answers. I start with answers from those with the most credibility in that area (like you), then I gather additional information from other mostly reliable sources, then I test my theories.

      Thanks for the quick reply. I will let you know what I find in her eggs next week.

      Delete
    3. I look forward to hearing what you find! I have some chicks that are around his age too... and completely clueless about what the older ones are up to. (LOL) There are exceptions to every rule - so keep track for us and let us all know when those eggs start to be fertile. Inquiring minds want to know!

      Delete
    4. Well guess what...I cracked open her 4 most recent eggs this morning (2 of which were double yokers) and they all had the BULLSEYE! I took pictures with my cell phone but they are not as clear as real-life. Next time I will get my good camera out and take pics. So I guess a 13 week old cockerel can be fertile already.

      Now the next question...my hen drops a double yoker about 50% of the time, and small eggs when their is only one yoke inside. If I put her eggs in an incubator, would there be enough room in the small eggs, or with the double yokers for the chicks to grow and hatch normally? Have you hatched out twins before?

      I am just curious about this because I happen to be incubating some eggs right now...my first incubation hatch in 30 years.

      Delete
    5. Wow! I'll make note of that as it's one of the youngest "successful" cockerels I've heard of.

      As for the double-yolkers... The short answer is, yes - they can be hatched. The long answer is that to my knowledge, hatch rates are not good with these eggs. Normally a chick pips up at the fat end of the egg, but with twins only one can be in the fat end. Even if they both develop and they both pip, they have to be able to rotate within the egg to zip... this is hard to do properly when there are two chicks in one shell. This can slow the hatching process and cause the membranes to dry out and "shrink-wrap" the chicks.

      On the flip side, I have seen a video on YouTube of someone assisting twins out of an egg, and both survived.

      That's all I can really offer. I have never tried to hatch a double-yolker myself, so I do not have first-hand experience. I'll be interested to hear the outcome if you decide to try. In fact, if you keep a log, photos and have a successful hatch, I'd love to share the experience on NCK.
      Leigh

      Delete
    6. I have to do some research about twins before I try it, I don't want to cause suffering to the chicks if there isn't much of a chance of their survival. I did put one of the small (single yoke) eggs in the incubator on the 18th (since I already have it running right now) figuring that I would candle it in about a week and see if anything is happening inside.

      I contacted the person I got my chicks from to verify their hatch date and it was correct, they were 3 weeks and 5 days old when I picked them up, making them all 13 weeks old last Tuesday. She keeps very accurate hatch records of all of her chicks.

      I will definitely be documenting this and will share my results with you.

      Holly

      Delete
    7. I look forward to hearing what happens. :-)
      Leigh

      Delete
    8. Hi Leigh,

      Just wanted to update you about the fertile egg that I placed in the incubator. I candled the egg on day 3 and saw veins and an air pocket. Just candled it again on day 6 and there is a growing air pocket and a tiny little embryo moving around in there. Guess that is proof positive that he was fertile, LOL.

      Anyway, I am going to share this with my readers in a post going live tomorrow at 3PM AZ time. Here is the link: http://backyardchickenlady.blogspot.com/2013/07/my-13-week-old-barred-rock-cockerel-is.html

      I guess my little Barry gets at the top of your "Youngest Successful Cockerels" list. He turned 14 weeks old the day before yesterday and already has a baby on the way!

      Delete
    9. LOL! Well color me impressed! That's some cockerel you have! I look forward to reading your post!
      Leigh

      Delete
  7. Useless method, as it requires killing the chicks to check. Retarded. The writer is stupid.
    There's actually at least one real method, which means no killing of the chick. Which is to use a light.
    I was looking for other ways to tell that don't murder the animal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, hater, but it seems you didn't exactly follow the gist of this article.

      DEVELOPING is different than FERTILE. If an egg is developing (a chick is growing inside of it), you can tell by candling the egg in a dark room with a small, very bright flashlight. When the egg is about a week into incubation, you will be able to see veins and sometimes a small, moving blob.

      This post is about telling if your eggs are FERTILE.

      FERTILE means that the egg is capable of developing, but is not yet developing. It must be incubated in order for it to develop. Incubation can take place under a broody hen, or in an incubator.

      THIS article is about how to know if your hen is laying eggs that have been FERTILIZED... as in: after a period of time in which the hen and rooster are together and mating has taken place, a person can check an egg or two to see if they are FERTILE. If so, one can work under the assumption that the eggs laid in the following days will also be fertile, and can be incubated.

      Unless you have a camera that fits on the head of a very small needle, you will NOT be able to tell if an egg is fertile from the outside.

      I apologize if the vocabulary in my post was too far beyond your grasp. And if you DO come to my blog again, and IF you use the "R" word in any comment on this blog again, you will be banned from making comments ever again! First, R******d is NOT the same thing as "Stupid." Second, like n****r, it is a word that hurts a group of people that do not have control over the color or in this case condition in which they were born.

      Third, we all get that you have the freedom of speech... what you seem to lack is a proper vocabulary, tact and an ability to use it for anything constructive.

      Now... go stand in the corner!

      Delete
    2. Love it Leigh, you have such a way with words!

      Delete
    3. What a brilliant reply: informative and castigating at the same time :) love it!

      Delete
    4. I just wanted to say I love your blog. Just now getting into chickens. You answer alot of my questions. I do know you can't tell if there fertile with out looking at there yokes. Nobody's is murdering Chicks by examining the yolks. Because they are not yet baby chicks.

      Delete
    5. outraygin - glad you are enjoying the blog! And welcome to the world of chickens - I'm sure you'll love it!

      Delete
  8. Brilliant article! But not sure if Nigger and retarded can be used in the same context being brown is not a disability or disadvantage,however I love your pics!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Many might be knowing about checking a egg by droping it in water to check wheather its safe to it that one but can the same procedure applied before keeping it under broody hens?? Cmon guyz help me out..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean hand touch or putting a egg in water will affect its temp.and such egg is preferable to be kept under broody hen?

      Delete
    2. The float test is only an indicator of how old the egg is. It won't tell you if the egg has started to develop or not. Ann egg generally won't start to develop until it has been under a broody hen for about 24 hours... so if another hen lays an egg in the nest and a broody starts to incubate it, it should be OK to eat if you take it out of the nest within the first 24 hours.

      Delete
  10. My question is not answered. I would like to know how to tell if the egg is fertilized right after it has been laid without cracking not open.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but that is not possible.

      Delete
  11. This may be a silly question, but when you crack the egg, does it always land dot or bullseye up or do you have to turn it over sometimes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question, Sonja! No - the dot does not always land on top and plenty of times you will have to turn the yolk over to see it.
      :-)

      Delete
  12. great blog site. I am a chicken keeper from Kenya, in Africa. I have learned alot. Keep up

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome! It's great to hear from readers from all over the world! :-)

      Delete
  13. I checked an egg today and was wondering if the outer circle of the bullseye is always very bright white like your picture or can it be fainter ? Looked with l.e.d penlight and it appeared to be fertile but line was very faint

    ReplyDelete
  14. The photo was enhanced so everyone could see a representation of what a fertile egg will look like, but in reality it can be much fainter. If you see any light colored ring, it is fertile. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you ! Oh my black austrolorp is a double yolker so I'm excited for next spring when we start to incubate ..love your site so helpful

      Delete
    2. I wouldn't suggest incubating double yokers. One of the chicks will never be in the correct position so both can die. The double yokers are just great for a breakfast bonus.

      Most new layers give doubles until they get the whole laying thing down, then they just lay big single eggs. ;-)

      Delete
    3. Great advice, Anna! Thank you for your input.
      :-)

      Delete
    4. I learned about the double yoker incubation issues from personal experience...sadly.

      Delete
    5. True have seen they need assistance..i appreciate the info and also sorry about the outcome ..we bought our hens as week old chicks and i am extremely attached to them as are my husband and girls .raising them up from fuzzy babies to beautiful laying hens has been the most fun and rewarding family adventure ever

      Delete
  15. How do i know if my roo is doing his job? just let a few weeks of eggs go to waste and just let my broody hen incubate them without knowing if the roo did his job? I know I could pull them out and check in 24 hrs as mentioned but do I just put it back under her?
    Nikk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you want to try to allow a hen to incubate eggs, allow her to sit on them for at least 7 days, and then after dark go out with a small, very bright flashlight. By the 7th day of incubation you *should* be able to make out some veining inside the egg, and perhaps a tiny bit of movement from the growing embryo. (The darker the shell, the harder it can be to see.)

      Delete
  16. Thanks for the blogs they was very informative

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have 4 hens 2 are red rocks I think and then I have two white one I'm not sure what they are if you could.tell me that would be nice but the white ones are molting is there anything I should do for them since it's getting pity cold at night and will they start laying eggs again even though it cold

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check the molting article - I answered your question below your comment over there.
      :-)

      Delete
    2. Hi
      I have a pair pf golden buff
      The hen has recently started laying eggs
      But the egg shell looks too delicate to me
      Yesterday the egg was even de shape too
      What could be the possible reasons.?

      Delete
    3. Mohsin - It is not uncommon for hens to have issues with odd eggs when they first start laying. Just make sure she has plenty of calcium - like crushed oyster shell - available at all times. A lack of calcium can cause problems for hens.

      As long as she has calcium available, she should be find and her laying issues should resolve themselves as she matures.

      Delete
  18. anyway to tell if the egg is fertile before breaking it open? My Aunt used to tell me to look for the blood spot on the shell but I'm not finding that to be a good way to get the eggs to hatch out babies for me.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Once the hen hatches the eggs, does she need to be separate from the rest of the flock? Will she start laying eggs again?

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have been collecting eggs for 2 weeks. I now have a broody. Can I put them all under her, or are some too old?

    ReplyDelete
  21. hi, really do loke your site!
    I have a problum with chicks I bought a week ago, They begain by gasping for breath, then they become
    swollen and their skin apears water logged. the gasping gets worse no matter what I give them.
    3 have died, three more are sick. they continue to eat untill they are so bloated they just lay there and gasp. I haven't found anywhere 'Ive looked, any disease with these symptoms. I had had a terrible time keeping their temperature even. could it possibly be from being too hot? too much temperature changes? I was keeping them in the greenhouse, fans running but still 100 a lot of the time.
    I did have a light for them when it cooled down at night. I have since moved them into the kitchen
    and have been watching the temp closely, still gasping. I hope you can help me diagnose this problum.
    these are the first chicks I've tried in 25 years so I'm for sure out of practice!
    Thannk you< Lori

    ReplyDelete
  22. If there crop (just below the neck of the chicken) has no seed in it you could try putting some apple vinegar in there water this will lubricate there throats making it easier to vomit up anything bad
    Hope this helps

    ReplyDelete
  23. My husband and I are just getting started with chickens, so I am very glad to have found this page. Your information was very helpful....Thank you. I'm bookmarking this for future reference :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nice bloggers here

    ReplyDelete
  25. Question in breeding type:
    I want to start a poultry farm in Africa. Typical available breeds are (broilers) cornish rock, barred plymouth rock and isa brown. Local breeds are somewhat available.
    I have an incubator that can incubate and hatch over 1000 eggs.
    What and which kind of (this) breeds would you prefer for a dual purpose mixes.
    Would broilers and local breeds crosses be marketable and appreciable in size?
    Would isa brown (layer) when adapted to free range and mated with a matured rooster produce fertile eggs worth incubating.
    I have limited knowledge on dual purpose chickens and I am trying to be independent by avoiding running every month to buy scarce and uncertain fertile broiler eggs for hatching.
    I would love to read candid response from you worthy people
    dapsynek@yahoo.com






    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Cornish Rocks are just meat birds and not known for being good egg layers. I would go with the Isa Browns and/or Barred Rocks. Grow the males out for meat and keep the pullets for eggs. :)

      Delete
  26. Hi, I have 5 lovely ladies and have just introduced a rooster yesterday to breed them. My question is will then hens still lay an egg a day each and if so will they all have the potential of becoming chicks? Any info would be great :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the next few days your eggs could be fertile if the rooster is doing his job. Remember that fertile is different from Developing. An egg must be incubated under a hen or in an incubator for at least 24 hours before it will start developing. All told, an egg needs to be incubated for 21 days in order to hatch.
      Hope that helps.
      :-)

      Delete
  27. Thanks for replying. Will my hens still lay an egg each a day or when the eggs are fertile will this slow down? Also Ive read that after the rooster does his job the hen can lay fertile eggs for 3 weeks after, is this true?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once your girls get used to their new boyfriend, they will lay as usual. (Some hens will stop laying for a few weeks if there are major changes to the flock, but will start again once they adjust.)
      Fertility won't make a difference to the hen's laying schedule.
      And yes - even after a rooster is gone, the eggs the hens lay can be fertile for more than 3 weeks following his departure. :)

      Click here to read how chickens make eggs.

      Delete
  28. So glad you enjoyed! Thank you for reading. Please share the post on FB and other social media so that we can attract more followers.

    ReplyDelete
  29. this is the most informative post I have found after weeks of searching, your post and comments have covered a wide array of questions I had.
    But I do have one still. My chicken has been sitting on her eggs for over a week and a few days ago I walked in on a chicken squished on top of her, laying her eggs. So now there is like 25+ eggs under this chicken, do you think she can hatch all those eggs?
    Oh, and another question, I read that someone has gone in after dark to candle the eggs, do you move the chicken to do that? Would it bug her and possibly cause her to abort her mission?
    Thank you so much for any responses, I have thoroughly enjoyed you post and everyone comments and input! thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you found the information here useful.
      :-)
      Your other hens will likely continue to lay eggs in the same nest that your broody is occupying. What I recommend is that you take a pencil and make marks on the eggs your hen has already been sitting on. If she can't cover them all, then discard the extras. Each day you need to remove any new "contributions" to the clutch... any new eggs your other hens have laid in there.

      It takes 21 days for an egg to hatch and some have already been incubating for a while. Your broody hen will only stay on the nest for about 48 hours after the first hatches, so you don't want other developing eggs to be abandoned before they can hatch.

      The new eggs you collect each day are still just fine to eat. They have to incubate for at least 24 hours to start developing. As long as you get them before that amount of time, they are perfectly edible.

      Hope this helps. :)

      Delete
    2. Oh - and yes... candle at night. Just reach under your hen, grab an egg, candle it and if it's developing (or if you're not certain) put in in a pile on one side. If it's not developing, put it in a separate pile to be disposed of. Once you are done candling, put all the developing eggs back under the momma.

      Delete
  30. Hi. I have a very odd question and hopefully you can help :) I acquired a pair of pheasants. I was told from the previous owner they could not have chicks. They are about 5-6 years old.
    I hadn't seen the male pheasant out and about as much so I went to check on him. Well he was sitting on 4 eggs. I thought after a couple of days he would stop however it has been a week now! Have you ever heard of a broody male pheasant? I am not sure if the eggs are fertile and I am scared for his health. He doesn't seem to be eating or drinking. Just sitting on the eggs! Do you have any suggestions on what I should do? If the eggs are not fertile, when will he get off of them. The previous owner said he has never done this before. Could you please give me some advice :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is too funny! And yes - this does happen... rarely... but it does. A broody (of either gender) will often only leave the nest when they think they are not being watched, usually getting up 1 - 2 times a day to eat and drink.

      If you can access the nest, do so at night and try candling the eggs to see if any are developing. Here is a video from YouTube if you're not familiar with the process.
      LINK
      (I just use a small LED flashlight and seal my hand around the base where the egg meets the flashlight.)

      If there are no developing eggs, you can either buy some fertile eggs from someone and replace the infertile ones with them and let him try to hatch them, or try to chase the bird off the nest and break his broodiness - LINK - How to Break a Broody Hen

      There is NO harm in allowing him to brood and raise a clutch. In fact, this is something you should document with lots of photos and videos - if he is successful there are MANY people who would love to hear the story! (We'd like to be the first to feature it here on the NCK blog. :-)

      Also check out our article on broody hens HERE.

      And feel free to ask any questions you might have.

      Delete

Let us know what you think. We LOVE getting feedback!

Your comment may not show up right away. Due to spam I have had to turn Comment Moderation on to prevent the garbage from piling up. Sorry for the inconvenience!