by Meredith Chilson
Photos by author
It’s a long story. Several weeks ago, when we moved the teenagers into the main coop, our Buff Orpington hen, Mrs. Feathers, was so intrigued with the new birds that, apparently, she decided she wanted babies of her own. She retreated to a nesting box, fluffed up her feathers, and settled down for the wait. Unfortunately, there were no eggs under her—and even if there had been, we have no rooster.
Now, we’ve been through this once before with Mrs. Feathers. A couple of years ago she did something similar, and we finally gave in and contacted a neighbor who also raises chickens (and has a rooster). Mrs. Feathers hatched one fluffy baby, and doted on her enthusiastically. This time, we were determined to hold off and hoped she would give up on the idea.
I decided it would be fairly easy to make a homemade egg candler. I gathered materials and alerted my handyman husband, who usually steps in when my “easy to make” plans don’t work. The egg candler I remember from childhood was a metal cylinder, with a light bulb inside and a hole in the top. The egg was placed over the hole, the light would shine through and we could tell what was inside the shell—blood spots, developing embryo or just yolk and an air space.
|Too much light came through the plastic lid.|
Coffee cans are usually plastic these days, but I found a metal one (the 2 lb. size) in the garage. I removed the bottom, clipped a small piece out of the bottom (just big enough for an electric cord to fit through), and cut an egg-sized hole in the top.
|Try Number two–shoebox lid!|
My husband had a ceramic light base, we added a light bulb and tried it out with an egg fresh from the coop….our “control” egg. We found that the plastic lid let too much light through, so I used the top of a cardboard shoebox, with a hole cut in the center, and that worked!
We shut off all the lights in the kitchen and admired the light coming through the control egg.
However…there is no electricity in our coop. I didn’t want to carry each egg from the coop to the house for candling, so we tried using my heavy-duty flashlight as the light source….and again, success!
When you candle an egg, you’re looking for one of three basic configurations. What you want to see is a small spot with spiderlike legs—the embryo’s blood vessels—branching out from the center. This is a living embryo. A uniformly opaque egg with a shadow cast by the yolk was never fertile and an egg with a darker shadow in the middle surrounded by a discernable blood ring has died…The size of the airspace grows over time.