5 Reasons to Reduce Your Egg Candling

Egg candling can be a most addictive experience.  Years ago, when I first started home incubation, egg candling would begin on the third day, and then happened again nearly every day thereafter until lockdown. I couldn't get enough.

Secluded in a dark room with a very strong flashlight, I would imagine my pile of eggs developing and hatching into the most beautiful flock that would ever grace my part of the county.  Witnessing the embryo jump and move through the shell during egg candling was almost as exciting as watching my own baby on the ultrasound machine when I was pregnant.  My imagination would not cease until the babies finally hatched and were moved into their brooder... where yet another addiction would take over---chick watching---but that’s another story.  THIS story is about the problems that arose for me when egg candling was done too often.

Candling an egg

Here are five reasons why egg candling too often has caused problems for me:

1. I discarded viable eggs.

I’ve learned that there is really no reason for me to candle an egg prior to the 10th day. If egg candling happens any sooner than that, I might toss an egg that is growing just fine.  If you’ve ever had that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach after opening a "cull" egg just to find a beautiful little chick growing, then you’ll know where I’m coming from.  I also candle a bunch of dark-shelled eggs.  When egg candling it is wayyyy easy to miss a growing baby behind those mahogany shells.  WHEN IN DOUBT, leave it in the ‘bator!

2. I detached fragile air cells.

Shipped eggs bring their own set of rules.  Thousands of dollars and many eggs later, I've learned a few things... one of which is that I have far better results if  egg candling doesn't happen right after they've been taken out of the box and unwrapped.

Now I simply give them a good visual inspection and allow them to rest.  Resting means allowing the eggs to sit in the incubator for a few days, big end up, without the egg turner on.  When egg candling happened too early, the extra handling, no matter how gentle I tried to be, often disturbed the fragile air cell.  Now I just leave the darn things alone!  You may think think that’s crazy talk, because conventional wisdom suggests egg candling right away to make sure there are no hairline cracks in the shells that can't be seen by the naked eye. All I can say is that leaving them alone rather than egg candling that early has increased my shipped egg hatch rate by quite a bit.

3. I contaminated my eggs.

It is always imperative to only handle your hatching eggs with very clean hands.  Over-handling, e.g. over-candling, will increase the potential of an egg getting contaminated from dirty hands, a sneeze or anything else!  Contaminated egg shells create dead chicks or an egg that could explode in the incubator!  Which brings me to this:  Even if you smell a bad egg, it is not necessary to candle.  VERY carefully put each egg to your nose and take a whiff.  You will smell a bad egg quite distinctly, and you can remove it from your hatch without having to candle.

4. I dropped fertile eggs.

It is always a sad day when I drop an egg, even if it’s just headed for the frying pan. Imagine how much more tragic it is when the egg is destined for hatching.  But it gets worse: you can also drop and egg being candled onto the eggs below it!  Talk about a dingbat moment, you should have seen me the day I decimated three eggs that were growing beautifully just because I dropped one during a sneeze (see Rule #3).  I couldn’t have cried more if my dog died!

5. I lost  heat and humidity in my incubator.

Back when I used a homemade and styrofoam incubator, it was always a very worrisome headache trying to keep the humidity and temperature just right.  There were nights I would spend on the floor next to the eggs to try to regulate the heat properly in an uncooperative incubator that became unruly every time I had to open the lid to turn, much less candle.  Adding an egg turner to your incubator, and candling less often, will reduce the number of times you'll have to fight this battle.   (Bonus tip: Adding a little aquatic tubing so you can easily fill the water reserves will alleviate another reason to open the lid as well.)

Those are the five reasons I've reduced my egg candling.

So when DO I candle? Only twice, once at  10 days and again at 18 days.  I candle at 10 days to cull the clears and the obvious quitters, and I can also perform the "sniff test" to detect if any are bad or rotten.  Then I candle again at 18 days to cull any other quitters or bad eggs I might detect prior to lockdown.  The next time I handle the eggs is when nothing can be hurt: during clean up, after the babies have hatched.

That's why I have "slowed my roll" on egg candling.  Many people may disagree and candle more often, but I can only speak about what works for me. Now, I physically cringe when I read, “I’m on day three. I keep candling but I can’t tell if these eggs are fertile.”  Yikes! Granted, that used to be me, but having hatched literally thousands of chicks at this point, I'm hoping that someone out there will read this post and learn from my egg candling mistakes so they can take advantage of my experience to improve their hatch rates!

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9 years ago

I really want to hatch my own sometime so I really liked this article! I wish I had some candling advice to share though.

Tayton Hollgarth
9 years ago

I feel that candling is over rated I don't candle to the fact that when you are taking eggs in and out of incubator you can kill them if the get too cold

9 years ago

Very good post. I've worked with lots of eggs over the years, and agree, too much handling is not usually good for eggs or new babies. Better to let nature take its course. Currently, I hatch eggs in the classroom to help science students learn about eggs, baby development, and baby chicks. Our hatched chicks go to a fellow teacher's farm (or to other eager chicken owners). So far we haven't had any problems finding good homes, and the kids love to see the eggs. If we win - we'd pick more eggs, because we love to hatch babies!

9 years ago

I do not pick the eggs up when I candle them. I leave them in the tray. The only time I pick them up is when I move them to the hatcher. I candle 3 or 4 times.

9 years ago

I'm new to incubation but my husband isn't. He suggested I lay a sponge in the incubator instead of adding & taking away water! Seems to work pretty well

9 years ago

We love incubating and candling eggs. It is wonderful for my children to be able to see the growth of these aches. It was very stressful for me to keep the incubator at the right settings but letting my children see the baby a developed was wonderful. We I would love to win some eggs and do it all over again.

Jennifer Griffith
9 years ago

I only candle a few random eggs to see how everyone is doing. I end up leaving all eggs in the incubator until they hatch. I would hate to make a mistake and discard a good egg.

9 years ago

I love hatching my own babies. They always seem much more special than store bought ones. Not to mention I try to do a live feed of them hatching for my friends. Everyone loves watching it. Those Cream Legbar Hatching Eggs are something new to me. I would love to hatch those babies and add them to my flock.

9 years ago

Just used a broody bantam to hatch my first eggs. I didn't candle. Thanks for your article. It was helpful.

9 years ago

I love my girls to death and wanted to hatch eggs of my own instead of buying chicks this blog was soooo helpful. I would love to win either thing THANKS!!!

Nan Moore
9 years ago

I have only tried to hatch eggs once and none hatched. I candled at 10 days and about 15 days using a small LED flashlight. I could see in the brown eggs, but couldn't see in the green eggs. I sure could usee a candler and would love to try and hatch some eggs again, especially cream Legbar since my goal is too have as eggs in as many colors as I can get. Boy, it sure would be hard to choose between the eggs and the candler!

Holly Smith
9 years ago

Advice: Do not use a light that gets to warm during candling.

I have a candler and a flashlight but neither are that great of a light source I would like something better.

9 years ago

I also do not like to candle often. I generally hatch coturnix quail, so they are very hard to see inside as well. But my main issue with candling is the same as one of yours- keeping the temperature regulated. I'd love to have some cream legbar eggs to hatch, I have been so tempted by that breed already.

Right now I have black copper marans, easter eggers and dominiques in my little LG incubator, there was one wiggling this morning even though 21 days is tomorrow!

Yolanda Clark
9 years ago

I candle only twice during incubation, but never throw out any eggs that don't look like they are developing. Because you just don't know, I only throw out the rotten ones. I'd love to win the eggs, to add to my pair of legbars 🙂

9 years ago

I would absolutely love the cream Legbars! I've wanted to add them to our flock for a while now!

9 years ago

I have a gqf cabinet incubator so when I do open and close it it re stabilizes fast.
The magic of candling every day wore off years ago once I saw and recognized the development stages.
What works for me is I candle once a week. With dark eggs I candle near the end of incubation.
My rare breed birds. Icelandic and Swedish flower hens are over achievers. I will hear cheeping on day 19. I candle and the air cell is already broken. I move them to the hatcher after that.
I would like to win the creme legbar eggs. I is a breed I have had a hard time acquiring. I like the blue eggs and the fact the breed was created by the geneticist Punnett. Seeing the gender of newly hatched chicks would be great.

Elizabeth A Reeves
9 years ago

These days I candle once-- around 18 days-- just to make sure everything is OK and toss out the duds. I've noticed that the fewer times I interfere with my incubator and the eggs the more likely I am to have a smooth hatching. It's taken a while, but I've learned to walk away.

I do show my kids the chicks wiggling in that one candling, though. 🙂

If I were to win I would go with... the eggs! Let's face it-- I'm a hatching addict! 🙂

9 years ago

I agree not to candle them too much. It just seems like it creates heartache! It's like being pregnant, let them grow!

Amy R
9 years ago

Wish this post had been available to us in Feb. I'm afraid we tossed perfectly viable eggs candling at the 5 day mark. I'll wait longer to candle at 10 days from now on, despite what other websites say.

Thanks for this! Am going to have to gather another batch to try again here soon!

9 years ago

I totally agree with you.....candling is addictive, and unnecessary! I only candle once! On day 18, we remove the egg turner, candle all of the eggs, add water for humidity then close the lid for lockdown. I can see the point of checking the eggs on day 10, but I dont bother. Darker eggs make the job difficult to candle and easier to mistake. If there is a bad egg, like you said, the nose works. I just sniff the incy vents, it all smells good - leave it alone!

9 years ago

I have to agree. I am someone who is obsessive about watching and documenting the process. I'm glad I read this article.

Phyllis Young
9 years ago

Just starting to raise chickens. Would love to be able to hatch my own!

Angela Okrasinski
9 years ago

I only candle randomly and not even every batch. If I do not candle early I wait until most have hatched then candle what didn't hatch. I have had that boo boo moment when I dropped a good egg =( Not a good thing!

9 years ago

This is my first year candling. I have read all comments and will learn from them all. I can't wait for the outcome.

Tonnyo Wright
9 years ago

I only have a small incubator and a led flashlight. I agree dark shell eggs are almost impossible to see through. I would enjoy either the candler or the eggs.

9 years ago

We just started hatching eggs this year. There is definitely a learning curve! Read is my advice! We keep reading and trying and learning something new everyday! I would love to win the candler, I am using a flashlight now and would love to see more when I do candle 🙂

Kristina Friend
9 years ago

My partridge silkie is sitting on 4 white leghorn eggs that should hatch April 5th. I candled at day 8 to remove non viable eggs.

Teresa Sihler
9 years ago

I do very little candling, especially with my own eggs. With shipped ones, only a few random ones .. as you noted, the less handling, the better !

9 years ago

We have been candling at 7 days 14 days and lockdown, but we are still working out the kinks involved in the incubation process. I think that your idea of candling less is a very good one, and I am going to try to candle less from now on. It wont solve the problem of our crummy incubator (We are hoping for a new one very soon) I Love love love the legbar chickens and would love to hatch those, but I cant afford the price of those treasured little eggs, especially with my crummy bator. 🙂

Vivian Hogue
9 years ago

I hatched duck eggs many many years ago and couldn't remember how I did it. I ordered chicken hatching eggs this year and they have been in the incubator for 3 days now. I had purchased the egg turner so I have not opened it yet. I've been trying to read everything about incubating eggs so this article was a big help. Thank you and Happy Easter to everyone!!

Cari Santoyo
9 years ago

I tend to over candle myself. It is just about impossible to candle Ameraucana and Marans eggs. My first choice would be the Cream Legbar eggs. Thanks!

Kyle Bowser
9 years ago

I decided I want to give incubating eggs a try. The only thing holding me back is the price of the eggs I want to incubate- cream legbars! I love that they are auto-sexing chicks! I figure that is perfect for a first timer!

9 years ago

I was a candling addict, but I've learned to cut back. I've dropped an egg before & had this tiny little baby not able to survive lying in my hand struggling until it died. That was the saddest thing I've ever experienced.

9 years ago

I'd love to win the hatching eggs. A fox has killed several of our hens and now we need to replace them. 🙁

9 years ago

Candling can be tricky, even for the most experienced...especially with dark eggs. You have mentioned most of the problems and issues that can happen with candling.

It may sound simplistic, but I try and incubate and hatch as many as I can without candling...because I have not had a quality candler tool. Less is more--the less you touch and play with eggs to candle them, the better your hatch rate. Though I believe a quality candler would allow me to waiver from this decision.

I have a large rooster to hen ratio (7 roosters) so an infertile egg is pretty infrequent for me. Plus if I'm counting on 20 chicks to hatch, I will put in an extra 6 or so...I really have had good luck.

Most of the problem with hatching is too much water--especially in certain types of incubators. Many farmers recommend a 'dry' hatch--just a tablespoon here and there of water until day 18, then adding enough water to increase the humidity to hatching requirements.

HOWEVER, I would LOVE either a candler or some more chicks. Opossum attacked a few nights ago--before the coop door was closed at dusk. And a candler would help me make some quality decisions about fertile eggs.

Thank you so much for this contest. Sue

9 years ago

First year hatching and using a flashlight. Does not work too well on dark colored shells. Would love either the eggs or candler. Good luck to everyone!

9 years ago

Great post! I try to only candle 3 times: day 7, day 14, and before lockdown. I use an LED candler, which has been fantastic, and I make sure my hands are clean, but not wet. Changing how I candle eggs has definitely helped to improve my hatch rates.

Kim of the Ozarks
9 years ago

I've never candled because I've never hatched my own chicks, but I'd love to be able to hatch them! And I would adore some cream legbars. I've been drooling over them ever since I learned about their existence. It's not just that the eggs are pretty; the chickens are gorgeous too!

Brenda Nonamaker
9 years ago

This is so exciting! Thank you for having this giveaway and all your helpful tips on
candling and what to do and not to do when helping your eggs toward hatching.

9 years ago

Much easier on the eggs to candle in the turner . I'm very clumsy and have been known to jar the eggs and drop a few picking them so now I just hold the light up to the end while their in the turner . Also buy the best candler you can afford makes it so much easier to see through those eggs with a good light .

9 years ago

I enjoy candling its a very guilty pleasure but since I just use my silkie girls for incubators, when the dogs go out for their bedtime potty break I sneak a candling. The Gil's don't mind and I get to keep tacking of the eggs

9 years ago

I am just finishing my first incubating experience. My eggs go on lockdown in a couple of hours. I love this article.

9 years ago

I have just started hatching eggs and am still in the candle every other day mode. Reading this has been very educational. I will slow down on this.

9 years ago

I would love to win some hatching eggs! Our chickens are getting pretty old and I would love to be able to add cream legbar to my flock!

Theresa Borne
9 years ago

I would want the egg candler, as we are going to be putting eggs in the incubator in a couple of weeks to try and hatch some of our own eggs. We have hatched out eggs in the past (without candling) and ended up with some rotten eggs with 1 even exploding in the incubator. WOW was that stinky!!!!

Rachel Fiori
9 years ago

I really liked the post. I have never candled, only used a broody, and so far have had excellent results. I would love some legbars to add to my flock.

9 years ago

I would love to win the Legbar eggs, the blue egg layers would make a great addition to the flock! Good luck everyone!

9 years ago

It's funny, I haven't candled this batch of eggs at all! I have twelve black copper marans in a still air bator. I turn by hand because I haven't an egg turner. So the opportunity has been there, but the eggs are so dark it's difficult. I haven't hatched any light shelled chicks at all, so it'd be nice to win those cream legbars (also some variety in my flock!).

Sarah Olson
9 years ago

Thanks for the great tips! I'm in my second year of hatching...waited as long as I could stand it. =) I have been candling at a week, 2 weeks, and right before lockdown, for the most part. It surely is addicting and takes all my willpower to not do it more often! I use a small LED flashlight, works fine. I have cream legbars on my dream list and would be thrilled to hatch a few!

9 years ago

I try to control myself but it is so hard! I'm proud though. I have had turkey eggs in my incubator for about 10 days and I only candled once, at 7 days. I would love to win the candler! Well... lets be honest, I'm drooling over the Legbar hatching eggs but I already have a full incubator and two full brooders, plus my fiance might leave me if I don't learn to control myself LOL. The flashlight that I have been using is good, but just isn't wonderful. The candler would be so wonderful!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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