Yesterday I candled all the eggs Ellen was sitting on, and with the exception of one that someone from my brood smuggled in under the radar, all the eggs were fertile and growing. (Hens sneak their own eggs into a brooder's clutch regularly, when she goes off for some food and water for a few moments. Pretty sneaky and clever....biological motherhood with none of the work!)
Candling eggs is a time-honored way of checking fertility so you don't have eggs sitting under the hen and going bad if they are not fertile. In the old days, I suppose homesteaders actually did use candles to do this, but to me that seems a bit risky. The modern homesteader now uses a flashlight for the same purpose. It's very important to do it in a windowless room or walk-in closet, because the first week things can be hard to see. The first week the eggs are incubating, the only thing you will be looking for is a small dark spot with a series of blood vessels streaming away from it.
|Photos courtesy of backyardchickens.com|
I first did this when incubating chicken eggs in my classroom when I was a second grade teacher. It was great fun showing the children the miracle of how life develops, but hatching eggs using an incubator is also hard work, as I had to be Mama Hen and manually turn the eggs several times a day. Having Miss Ellen sitting on these is much easier. (Well, for me, anyway. I can't speak for Miss Ellen.)