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Hatchability Problem Analysis

By: kathyinmo
Posted 1/27/12 • Last updated 4/11/12 • 9,858 views • 9 comments
Hatchability Problem Analysis
H. R. Wilson

When a problem occurs in hatchability, usually it can be categorized as a hatchery,
egg handling, or breeder flock problem. If the problem has originated within the
breeder flock, it is probable that it happened at least 4 weeks earlier, assuming 3
weeks of incubation and 1 week of egg storage. This delay in identifying a problem is
costly and may even make it impossible to determine the cause if the effect is of
short duration. It is necessary to identify the problem as early as possible, using
candling at 1 week of incubation and constantly monitoring unhatched eggs, to
minimize the delay in taking corrective measures. Analysis of hatch debris does not
yield definitive diagnoses; however, it is a useful tool for determining the most likely
areas for further examination.

It is of utmost importance for hatchery, egg handling, and breeder farm personnel to
work together as a team to produce top quality chicks and to identify problems when
they occur. Very accurate and complete records of the breeder flock (including egg
production, mortality, morbidity, egg weight, shell quality, hatchability, feed
consumption, and antibody titers) and the egg history from the nest through the
hatchery are essential in providing clues to most hatchability problems. Personnel
should be trained in recognizing problems, identifying causes, and implementing
appropriate corrective measures.

The objective of the following outline is to suggest possible causes, and corrective
measures when appropriate, for some of the signs of trouble observed when
decreased hatchability occurs.

General Comments
The magnitude of the effects of deviations from recommended incubation conditions
(temperature, humidity, turning frequency, ventilation, and egg orientation) is a
function of the severity of the deviation, the length of time of the deviation, and the
age of the embryo at the time of the deviation. The manifestation of abnormalities
and the embryonic age at which mortality peaks occur due to nutritional factors
usually depend upon the severity of the nutrient deficiency, how long the deficiency
has existed, or how long an adequate diet has been fed to the breeders following a
deficiency. Therefore, depletion rate, repletion rate, egg deposition efficiency,
interference from inhibitors, and yolk formation time are factors that contribute to the
effects manifested in embryonic abnormalities and mortality.

Troubleshooting: General Problems

1. Sign: Eggs candle clear; broken out eggs show small white-dot germinal
disc; no blood. Infertile. Causes:
1. Immature males. Males may need to be photostimulated 2 weeks earlier
than females.
2. Males with abnormal sperm; females with abnormal egg (germinal disc).
This occurs most often in very young or very old breeders.
3. Too few males, resulting in infrequent mating; too many males, resulting
in fighting or interference. Ratios of 1:12 to 1:15 for light breeds and 1:10
to 1:12 for heavy breeds are suggested.
4. Extreme weather conditions.
5. Old breeders. Spiking with young males may help if the problem is with
the male.
6. Breeder flock disease. This is often indicated by rough, misshaped, or
thin-shelled eggs.
7. Excess body weight, especially in broiler breeder males (>4,800 g, 10.6
8. Nutritional deficiencies or excesses; severe feed restriction.
9. Feet and leg problems, especially in males of heavy breeds.
10. Certain drugs, pesticides, chemicals, toxins, or mycotoxins.
11. Parasites, such as mites.
12. Inadequate floor space.
13. Decreased mating frequency, or no mating, is commonly seen in many of
the conditions listed above; this may often be the direct cause of infertility.
14. Inadequate lighting (intensity or day length).
15. Improper artificial insemination procedures (if artificial insemination is

2. Sign: Eggs candle clear; broken out eggs show enlarged germinal disc;
no blood. Fertile. Some are termed "blastoderm without embryo." Causes:
1. Eggs stored too long. They should be stored <7 days.
2. Eggs held under poor conditions, temperature too high or too low.
Fluctuating temperatures. Temperature should be 60° to 65°F (15.6° to
3. Fumigation improper -- too severe or done between 12 and 96 h of
incubation. Incorrectly spraying or foaming eggs with disinfectant.
4. Eggs damaged during handling and transport by jarring, temperature
shock (temperature increased or decreased too rapidly), etc.
5. Eggshell sealed -- respiration inhibited.
6. High temperature in early incubation.
7. Very young or very old breeders.
8. Heredity, inbreeding, chromosome abnormalities, or parthenogenesis.
9. Breeder flock diseases.
10. Failure of a basic organ system to develop normally.
11. Egg wash temperature too high.
12. Egg-borne infections (e.g., salmonella).
13. Drugs, toxins, pesticides, etc.
14. Infrequent or incomplete egg collection.

3. Sign: Eggs candle clear; broken out eggs show blood ring or small
embryo that died before 3 days of incubation; no dark eye visible.Causes:
1. Eggs stored too long or under improper temperature.
2. Fumigation improper -- too severe or done between 12 and 96 h of
3. High temperature in early incubation.
4. Low temperature in early incubation.
5. Eggs damaged during transport by jarring, etc.
6. Breeder flock diseases.
7. Old breeders.
8. Embryological development accidents.
9. Inbreeding, chromosome abnormalities.
10. Severe nutritional deficiencies, e.g., biotin, vitamin A, copper, vitamin E,
boron, or pantothenic acid.
11. Frequently associated with a high incidence of infertility.
12. Drugs, toxins, or pesticides.
13. Contamination.
14. Embryos less developed at oviposition, i.e., pre-endoderm or very early
endoderm formation.

4. Sign: Dead embryos; 3 to 6 days of incubation; yolk sac

circulatory system present, embryo on left side, no egg tooth. Causes:
1. See causes 3.1-14
2. Lack of ventilation, or sealed shells, carbon dioxide >1%.
3. Improper turning -- <1/h or >6/h; improper turning angle.
4. Vitamin deficiencies -- vitamin E, riboflavin, biotin, pantothenic acid, or
linoleic acid.
5. Sign: Dead embryos; 7 to 17 days of incubation; each embryo has egg
tooth, toenails, feather follicles (8 days), feathers (11 days).Causes:
1. Improper incubator temperature, humidity, turning, ventilation. Low
humidity increases abnormalities of aortic arches (13 days).
2. Contamination.
3. Nutritional deficiencies -- riboflavin, vitamin B12, biotin, niacin, pyridoxine,
pantothenic acid, phosphorus, boron, or linoleic acid.
4. Lethal genes (>30 have been described).

6. Sign: Dead embryos; >18 days of incubation. Causes:

1. Improper incubator temperature, humidity, turning, ventilation.
2. Improper hatcher temperature, humidity, ventilation.
3. Contamination, especially from molds (aspergillis, etc.).
4. Fumigation too severe or too prolonged.
5. Eggs chilled in transfer, or transferred too late.
6. Broken shell -- pre-set, during incubation, or at transfer.
7. Nutritional deficiencies -- vitamin D, vitamin A, folic acid, or pantothenic
acid, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, vitamin K, biotin, thiamin, vitamin B 12,
calcium, phosphorus, manganese, or linoleic acid.
8. Embryonic malposition; embryo fails to move into proper hatching position
(see #21).
9. Embryological development accident. Failure to change to lung respiration
and all intra-embryonic circulation, and/or to retract the intestinal loops
and yolk sac. These and other changes are critical at this time.
10. Heredity -- lethal genes, chromosome abnormalities.
11. Twinning.
12. Hatcher opened too much during pipping and hatching.
13. Poor shell quality.
14. Breeder diseases.

Troubleshooting: Specific Problems

1. Sign: Not pipped. Full-term embryo, large yolk sac; yolk sac may not be
fully enclosed by abdominal wall, may have residual albumen.Causes:
1. Inadequate turning, resulting in decreased embryonic membrane
development and nutrient absorption.
2. Humidity too high during incubation or after transfer.
3. Incubator temperature too low.
4. Hatcher temperature too high.
5. Eggs chilled (e.g., at transfer).
6. Nutritional deficiencies.
7. Heredity.
8. Embryological development accident.
9. Breeder diseases.
10. Inadequate ventilation.
11. Prolonged egg storage.

2. Sign: Pipped. Full-term embryo, dead in shell. Causes:

1. Low humidity or temperature for a prolonged period.
2. Low humidity during hatching.
3. High temperature during hatching.
4. Nutritional deficiencies.
5. Breeder diseases.
6. Poor ventilation.
7. Inadequate turning during first 12 days.
8. Injury during transfer.
9. Prolonged egg storage.

3. Sign: Shell partially pipped, embryo alive or dead. Causes:

1. See 8.a-i.
2. Excessive fumigation during hatching.
3. Eggs set small end up.

4. Sign: Chicks hatch early; tendency to be thin and noisy. Causes:

1. Small eggs.
2. Differences among breeds.
3. Incubator temperature too high.
4. Incubator humidity too low.

5. Sign: Chicks hatch late. Causes:

1. Large eggs.
2. Old breeders.
3. Eggs stored too long (40 min. increase in incubation time/day of storage,
.5% to 1.2% decrease in number hatched/day of storage).
4. Incubator temperature too low.
5. Weak embryos.
6. Inbreeding.
7. Incubator humidity too high.

6. Sign: Slow, protracted (drawn-out) hatch. Causes:

1. Mix in the incubator of eggs stored for long and short periods (1.2% loss
of hatch/day of storage when all eggs set at the same time; only .5%
loss/day when eggs stored for long periods are set earlier to allow a
longer incubation period).
2. Mix of eggs from young and old breeders.
3. Mix of large and small eggs.
4. Improper egg handling.
5. Hot or cold spots in incubator or hatcher.
6. Incubator or hatcher temperature too high or too low.
7. Room ventilation system improper; high positive pressure or low negative
pressure. Such pressures may alter incubator or hatcher ventilation.

7. Sign: Trays not uniform in hatch or chick quality. Causes:

1. Mix of large and small eggs.
2. Mix of eggs from young and old breeders.
3. Mix of eggs from different strains or breeds.
4. Some eggs stored much longer.
5. Lack of uniform ventilation in setter or hatcher.
6. Disease or other stress in one or more breeder flocks.
7. Variation in egg storage procedures among flocks.

8. Sign: Sticky chicks; chicks smeared with albumen. Causes:

1. Low incubation temperature.
2. High incubation humidity.
3. Improper turning. This results in reduced embryonic membrane growth
and reduced nutrient absorption.
4. Old eggs.
5. Very large eggs.

9. Sign: Chicks stuck in shell, dry; chicks with shell fragments stuck to
down feathers. Causes:
1. Humidity too low during egg storage, incubation, and/or hatching.
2. Improper egg turning.
3. Cracked eggs or poor shell quality.

10. Sign: Premature hatching; bloody navels. Causes:

1. Incubator and/or hatcher temperature too high.

11. Sign: Small chicks. Causes:

1. Small eggs.
2. Low humidity during egg storage and/or incubation.
3. High incubation temperature.
4. High altitude. Hatcheries at high altitudes (>1,500 m or 4,920 ft) may need
to adjust for low humidity, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. Atmospheric
pressure <600 mmHg (~1,830 m or 6,004 ft) reduces growth and
metabolic rate, increases loss of water from the egg.
5. Thin, porous shells.

12. Sign: Unhealed navel; dry, rough down feathers. Causes:

1. High incubator temperature or wide fluctuations in temperature.
2. Low temperature in hatcher.
3. Humidity too high in hatcher or not lowered when hatching complete.
4. Inadequate breeder nutrition.

13. Sign: Unhealed navel, wet, odorous; mushy, large, soft-bodied, and
lethargic chick. Causes:
1. Omphalitis (navel infection). Contamination from dirty trays, unsanitary
machines or hatchery, dirty eggs, inadequate egg sanitation or fumigation.
2. Low incubator temperature.
3. High incubator or hatcher humidity.
4. Inadequate ventilation.

14. Sign: Weak chicks. Causes:

1. High hatcher temperature.
2. Poor hatcher ventilation.
3. Excessive fumigation.
4. Contamination.

15. Sign: Chicks malpositioned. Normal position after 19 days of incubation:

embryo's long axis same as long axis of egg; head in large end of egg;
head to the right and under right wing; beak toward air cell; feet toward
head. Causes:
1. Eggs set small end up or in horizontal position.
2. Inadequate or improper turning.
3. High or low incubator temperature.
4. High humidity.
5. Old breeders.
6. Round-shaped eggs or very large eggs.
7. Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin A and vitamin B 12.
8. Eggs handled or stored improperly.
9. Retarded development.
10. Embryos <18 days old may be in a position different from that for hatching
but one normal for their age (for example, the head-between-thighs
position). The feet-over-head position is hard to distinguish and may be
normal. The beak-over-wing position is probably a normal variant. Some
malpositions are lethal; others are not.

16. Sign: Malformations. Causes:

1. Improper egg storage.
2. Jarring of eggs or transporting large end down.
3. Heredity.
4. Nutritional deficiencies, e.g., biotin, riboflavin, zinc, or manganese.
5. Inadequate turning.
6. Improper egg orientation, e.g., small end up.
7. High or low incubator temperature.
8. Breeder diseases.
9. Inadequate ventilation or shells with low porosity or permeability.

17. Sign: Crooked toes, spraddled legs. Causes:

1. High or low incubator temperature.
2. Inadequate nutrition.
3. Smooth bottom hatching trays.

18. Sign: Short down, wiry down. Causes:

1. Nutritional deficiencies, especially riboflavin.
2. Mycotoxins and other toxic or inhibitory substances, resulting in nutritional
3. High incubation temperature during days 1 to 14.

19. Sign: Eyes closed, down stuck to eyes. Causes:

1. Temperature too high in hatcher.
2. Humidity too low in hatcher.
3. Down collectors inadequate.
4. Chicks remain in hatcher too long after hatching
5. Excessive air movement in hatcher.

20. Sign: Exploders. Causes:

1. Dirty eggs from nest. Dirty nests.
2. Floor eggs.
3. Eggs improperly washed; eggs wiped or cleaned with contaminated cloth
or buffer.
4. Dust from breeder house, cooler, transport, etc.
5. Water condensation on eggs (sweating).
6. Water sprayed, fogged, or splashed on eggs; eggs dipped in
contaminated solutions.
7. Contamination from earlier exploders, leakers, or broken eggs.
8. Contamination from handling eggs with dirty hands or equipment.
9. Contaminated setter flats, air filters, water (humidity) system.

21. Sign: Dwarf embryos: runts in growing chicks. Causes:

1. Egg contamination.
2. Hatchery contamination, especially during hatching.
3. Breeder diseases.
4. Heredity.
5. Nutritional deficiencies.
6. Thyroid abnormalities.

22. Sign: Crossed beak, twisted beak. Causes:

1. Heredity.

23. Sign: Missing eye(s), other eye abnormalities. Causes:

1. High incubator temperature during days 1 to 6.
2. Low oxygen during days 1 to 6.30.

24. Sign: Exposed brain. Causes:

1. High incubator temperature during days 1 to 3.
2. Low oxygen during days 1 to 3.

25. Sign: Red hocks in hatched chicks or unhatched pips. Causes:

1. Prolonged pushing on shell during pipping and hatching.
2. Vitamin deficiencies.
3. Thick shells, as in pullet flocks.
4. High incubator humidity and/or low incubator temperature.

26. Sign: Small air cell, broad pip area, membrane incompletely cut, red
hocks, edematous chick, unabsorbed albumen, yolk incompletely
retracted, egg weight loss <10%. Causes:
1. High incubator humidity.
2. Very thick shells, as in pullet flocks.
3. Low incubator temperature.

27. Sign: Micromelia (shortened long bones, parrot beak, bent bones);
chondrodystrophy (similar to micromelia). Causes:
1. Heredity, lethal genes.
2. Nutritional deficiencies (biotin or manganese).

28. Sign: Short beak, missing beak, face abnormalities. Causes:

1. Incubator temperature too high during days 1 to 5.
2. Heredity, lethal genes.
3. Developmental accidents.
4. Nutritional deficiencies (niacin).
29. Sign: Ectopic (exposed) viscera. Causes:
1. Incubator temperature too high.
2. Heredity, lethal genes.

30. Sign: Hemorrhage. Causes:

1. Red skin -- incubator or hatcher temperature too high.
2. Bleeding in chorioallantois -- rough handling at transfer.
3. Nutritional deficiencies (vitamin K or vitamin E).
4. Embryos that died at days 11 to 15 and appear small and dark red --
usually caused by molds or other contamination.

31. Sign: Swollen head and back of neck (exudative diathesis - increased
capillary permeability). Causes:
1. Nutritional deficiencies -- vitamin E or selenium.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Toxicities; Almost Always a

Breeder Flock Problem
1. Vitamin A: Circulatory system development abnormal; skeletal abnormalities,
especially in the skull and spinal column; degenerative changes in the brain,
spinal cord, and nerves; embryonic mortality is early (during days 2 to 3).
Chicks hatching may have watery discharge from eyes or have eyelids stuck
together. A great excess of vitamin A also will cause skeletal abnormalities.

2. Vitamin D3: Late embryonic mortality (>17 days); stunting; poor skeletal
growth; rickets.

3. Vitamin E: Circulatory system problems, exudative diathesis, hemorrhages,

stunting, encephalomalacia, eye abnormalities (e.g., cloudy lens or
hemorrhages), edema of neck and feet; embryonic mortality peaks during days
2 to 5. Muscular weakness after hatching.

4. Vitamin K: Hemorrhages in embryo and membranes, especially at or near time

of hatching.

5. Thiamin: Polyneuritis; early mortality peak and late peak =>19 days; many
dead chicks in hatching trays.

6. Riboflavin: Stunting, short legs, disorganization of the circulatory system,

edema, clubbed down, curled toes, micromelia, anemia, brown or dark green
liver; mortality peaks during days 3 to 5, 10 to 15, and 21 to 22. Mortality peaks
change from late to early as breeder depletion of riboflavin proceeds.

7. Niacin: Hypoplasia (decreased growth and development) of skeletal muscles,

edema, short upper beak, nervous and vascular system abnormalities. Mortality
peaks during days 8 to 14.

8. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Inhibition of early embryonic growth; mortality peaks

during days 8 to 14.

9. Pantothenic acid: Subcutaneous hemorrhages, edema, hydrocephalus, poor

feathering, twisted legs, fatty livers, opacities of the eye, pale, dilated hearts;
embryonic mortality peaks during days 2 to 4 and 11 to 15.

10. Biotin: Chondrodystrophy and micromelia (deformed skeleton, shortened long

bones, parrot beak), syndactylism (webbing between toes); hemorrhages in the
embryo and chorioallantois; peak embryonic mortality during days 3 to 4 and
=>17. The early mortality peak is greatest with severe deficiency, while the late
peak is greatest with mild deficiency.

11. Folic acid: Bent tibia, syndactylism (toe webbing), flattened head, small eyes,
exposed viscera, parrot beak, other beak defects, stunting; peak embryonic
mortality days >17.

12. Vitamin B12: Edema (especially around eyes), hemorrhages, curled toes, short
beak, poor leg muscle development, dwarfing, fatty liver, enlarged thyroid,
dilated, irregularly shaped heart, head-between-thighs malposition; peak
embryonic mortality during days 8 to 14 (small peak) and 16 to 18.

13. Manganese: Chondrodystrophy, deformed skeleton, shortened long bones,

parrot beak, micromelia, edema, abnormal down feathers; peak embryonic
mortality days >18. Chicks uncoordinated.

14. Zinc: Skeletal defects, especially in posterior vertebral column (most common
defect is rumplessness), small eyes, exposed viscera, beak and head
abnormalities, edema. Chicks are weak; will not stand, eat, or drink. Embryonic
mortality can be very high.

15. Calcium: Effects more indirect through poor shell quality, increased egg weight
loss, and increased contamination. Stunted growth, decreased bone
development, and increased mortality tend to occur in later stages. A great
excess of calcium also will cause embryonic abnormalities.
16. Magnesium: Nervous tremor, gasping, and convulsions at hatching.

17. Phosphorus: Abnormal bone formation, stunting; mortality peaks during days
14 to 16.

18. Copper: Blood and circulatory system defects. Mortality peaks during days <3.

19. Iodine: Affects thyroid activity. Deficiency or excess causes increased

incubation time, decreased growth, and increased mortality. Thyroid may be

20. Selenium: Exudative diathesis; selenium will spare vitamin E. Very high levels
of selenium are toxic: edema of head and neck, twisted legs, necrosis in brain
and spinal cord, short upper beak, missing eyes, protruding eyes, an increase
in malpositions.

21. Molybdenum: >17 ppm in the egg results in 100% mortality by day 12.

22. Lithium: Excess causes high embryonic mortality associated with inhibited
development, eye defects, enlarged aorta, abnormal neural tube.

23. Boron: Excess boron in egg (44 ppm) causes embryonic mortality in early
development and at day 13. Abnormalities similar to those of riboflavin
deficiency. Face, beak, and appendicular skeleton abnormalities.

24. Protein, amino acids: Deficiency, excess, or imbalance of some amino acids
can cause embryonic abnormalities and mortality. Abnormalities include small
or abnormal upper and/or lower beak, disorganized protrusions in the brain,
exposed viscera, twisted and shortened limbs, twisted spine, short body,
degeneration of the eye.

25. Fat, fatty acids: Linoleic acid deficiency: slow development, 75% of embryos
in the head-over-right-wing malposition; mortality peaks during days 1 to 4, 8 to
14, and >21. Lipid transfer from the yolk to the embryo is reduced in the first
few eggs produced by young pullets; this appears to result in increased
embryonic mortality.

26. Miscellaneous substances:

1. Tetracyclines: Inhibition of skeletal mineralization, erosion of long-
bone cartilage, skeleton malformation.
2. Sulfanilamides:Retarded growth, shortened long bones, extreme
micromelia, parrot beak, rumplessness.
3. Penicillin:Edema and hemorrhage in wings, legs, and head.
4. Aflatoxin B1:Stunting (beginning at day 12), small liver, high
5. Ammonia (in incubators): No closure of neural tube, mortality.

27. Microorganisms:
1. Infectious bronchitis: Stunting, retarded lung development, small
heart, enlarged spleen. Small chick resulting from thin, porous shell
and excessive water loss.
2. Newcastle disease: Reduced growth, small amnion, abnormalities in
neural and sensory tissues in early embryo.
3. Botulism: Muscle atrophy, fat accumulation, joint problems, short
upper beak.
4. Staphylococcus: Extensive hemorrhages and tissue damage.
5. Streptococcus: Destruction of the synovial lining of the joints.
6. E. coli: Rots.
7. Aspergillus: Black or dark green rots. Embryo red or dark, dwarfed.
8. S. pullorum, S. gallinarum, and S. typhimurium: Egg transmitted.
Embryonic septicemia, high embryonic mortality, high chick

Landmarks of Embryonic Development

Before Oviposition:
Ovulation -- First meiotic division of oogenesis.
30 min. post-ovulation -- Second meiotic division and fertilization.
4 h post-ovulation -- First embryonic division.
4.3 h post-ovulation -- Second embryonic division.
5.5 h post-ovulation -- Third division.
6.3 h post-ovulation -- Fourth division.
6.4 to about 25.5 h post-ovulation (oviposition) -- Continued division and growth;
cells segregate into groups for special functions. Several hundred cells at
Between oviposition and incubation -- No growth; embryo is inactive (if embryo is
held below 76°F or 25.5°C, which is physiological zero); normal storage temperature
is 55° to 65°F or 13° to 18°C.
During Incubation:
Day 1:
6 to 10 h - First kidney-like cells (pronephros) begin to form.
8 h -Appearance of primitive streak.
10 h -Yolk sac (embryonic membrane) begins. Functions include: a) blood formation;
b) yolk digestion; c) yolk absorption; d) food provision after hatching. Mesoderm
appears; embryo oriented at 90° angle to egg's long axis; mesonephros begins.
18 h -Primitive gut begins; primordial germ cells appear in germinal crescent.
20 h -Vertebral column begins.
21 h -Appearance of neural groove, nervous system.
22 h -Appearance of first pair of somites (block-like segments) and head.
23 to 24 h -Blood islands, vitelline (yolk sac) circulation, blood, heart,blood vessels
begin (2 to 4 somites).
Day 2:
25 h -Appearance of eye; vertebral column visible; embryo begins to turn on left side
(6 somites).
28 h -Ear begins (7 somites).
30 h -Amnion (embryonic membrane around embryo) begins. Primary function is to
protect embryo against shock and sticking; also responsible for some albumen
absorption. Chorion (embryonic membrane that fuses with allantois) begins;
heartbeat begins (10 somites).
38 h -Cranial flexure and torsion evident; heartbeat moves blood (16 to 17 somites).
42 h -Thyroid begins.
48 h -Anterior pituitary and pineal glands begin to develop.
Day 3:
50 h -Embryo turns on left side; allantois (embryonic membrane that fuses with
chorion) begins. Functions of chorioallantois are: a) respiration; b) albumen
absorption; c) absorption of calcium from shell; d) storage of kidney excretions.
60 h -Nasal pits, pharynx, lungs, anterior limb buds begin.
62 h -Posterior limb buds begin.
72 h -Middle and outer ear, trachea begin; amnion completes growth around embryo.
Day 4: Tongue and esophagus begin; embryo separates from yolk sac; allantois
grows through amnion; contractions occur in amnion wall; adrenal development
begins; pronephros (nonfunctional kidney) disappears; metanephros (definitive or
final kidney) begins; proventriculus, gizzard, ceca, large intestine begin. Pigment
visible in eye (dark eye).
Day 5: Reproductive system and differentiation of sex appear; thymus, bursa of
Fabricius, duodenal loop begin; chorion and allantois begin to fuse; mesonephros
begins to function; first cartilage present.
Day 6: Beak appears; voluntary movement begins; chorioallantois (chorion fused
with allantois) lies against shell near large end of egg.
Day 7: Digits appear; comb growth begins; egg tooth begins; melanin produced;
absorption of mineral from shell begins. Chorioallantois is attached to inner shell
membrane and growth around the inner surface is progressing.
Day 8: Father tracts appear; parathyroid begins; bone calcification begins.
Day 9: Growth of chorioallantois about 80% complete (still open at small end); mouth
opening appears.
Day 10: Beak begins to harden; digits completely separated.
Day 11: Abdominal walls established; loops of intestine begin to protrude into the
yolk sac; down feathers visible; comb and wattles visible; claws and scales appear
on toes; mesonephros reaches maximum level of function, then begins to
degenerate; metanephros begins to function.
Day 12: Chorioallantois completes enclosure of egg contents; embryo water content
begins to decrease.
Day 13: Cartilaginous skeleton is relatively complete; embryo heat production and
oxygen consumption begin to increase rapidly.
Day 14: Embryo begins to turn head toward large end of egg; long bone ossification
becomes rapid. Turning of egg no longer essential.
Day 15: Intestinal loops easily seen in yolk sac; contraction of amnion ceases.
Day 16: Beak, claws, and scales relatively cornified; albumen is practically gone and
yolk increasingly important as food source; down feathers cover body; intestinal
loops begin to retract into body.
Day 17: Amniotic fluid decreases; embryo positioning head toward large end, toward
right wing with beak toward air cell; definitive feathers begin.
Day 18: Blood volume decreases, total blood hemoglobin decreases. Embryo should
be in proper position to hatch: embryo's long axis the same as long axis of egg; head
in large end of egg; head to right and under right wing; beak pointed toward air cell;
feet toward head.
Day 19: Intestinal loop retraction complete; yolk sac begins to enter body cavity;
amniotic fluid (swallowed by embryo) disappears; beak may pierce air cell and lungs
begin to function (pulmonary respiration).
Day 20: Yolk sac completely drawn into body; air cell pierced, followed by
functioning of pulmonary respiration; embryo makes sounds; chorioallantoic
circulation, respiration, and absorption decrease; embryo may pip shell.
Day 21: Hatching process: chorioallantoic circulation ceases; embryo breaks shell
over air cell with egg tooth; embryo slowly rotates in egg counterclockwise, chipping
and breaking shell as it does; embryo kicks and attempts to straighten neck, pushes
shell open; kicks free of shell, rests, straightens, dries.
>Day 21: Some embryos are unable to hatch but survive beyond the normal
hatching time.
Developmental stages of other avian species can be estimated by comparing with
those of the chicken on the basis of percentage of incubation time.

Hatching Egg Breakout

A breakout analysis of hatching eggs must be done to evaluate the breeder flock's
progress with respect to fertility and hatchability. It is an absolutely essential
diagnostic tool for identifying the cause(s) of problems in hatchability. Three types of
breakout are advantageous in evaluation and problem analysis. These are: (1)
breakout of fresh, nonincubated hatching eggs; (2) candling of eggs incubated for 5
to 12 days, breakout of nonviable eggs, and recording of eggs set small end up; and
(3) breakout of eggs that did not hatch (hatch residue).

Breakout of fresh eggs is used to provide an immediate evaluation of flock fertility

and to confirm fertility estimated from hatch residue breakout and candling between
5 and 12 days of incubation. The breakout following candling will include eggs
determined to be infertile, eggs containing early dead, and cracked eggs.

The hatch residue breakout includes all eggs that did not hatch. Candle breakout
and residue breakout should be done weekly or at least every 3 weeks. Regular,
consistent analysis of these breakouts will result in flock histories that can be used to
diagnose hatchability problems, minimize losses, and compare strains, flocks, farms,
hatcheries, and many other variables.

Sample selection and size are important for obtaining valid results from the
breakouts. Samples should be selected to include eggs from representative locations
in setters and hatchers for each flock at each sampling time. Suggested minimums
for sample size include: (1) 10 unhatched eggs from 5 hatcher trays; (2) all
unhatched eggs from 4 hatcher trays per setter or hatcher; (3) all unhatched eggs
from 1,000 set eggs; as well as many others.

Records should include, but not be limited to, the following variables: flock, strain,
farm, date set, machine(s) used, location of eggs in machine, number of eggs set,
number of fertile eggs, number of early dead (0 to 7 days), number of middle dead (8
to 14 days), number of late dead (embryos 15 days or older), age of each embryo,
malpositions (in embryos 19 days or older), number pipping, malformations, number
of eggs contaminated (rots), number of cracked eggs (transfer cracks and others),
unusual egg traits (size, shape, shell quality, cleanliness), number of dead and culled
chicks, and number of live chicks. Clear, accurate records are essential for useful
egg breakout analysis.

Eggs should be removed from the hatcher tray, placed on egg flats, and identified as
to flock, location, etc. The exterior of the egg is examined first for egg traits, pipping,
and location of the air cell. The shell is cracked at the large end, over the air cell, and
a hole opened in the shell and membranes to observe the interior of the egg. If the
egg appears to be infertile or contains a very early dead embryo, the germinal disc
must be located to make a definitive identification of fertility. If the embryo is
relatively small, the egg can be broken into a dish for further examination. Eggs with
late-stage embryos should be observed for pipping into the air cell, then opened with
tweezers or scissors from large end to small end without disturbing the position of
the embryo.

The embryo's position (see earlier discussion on positions), the embryo's age (see
section on development stages), malformations, contamination, and other factors
should be observed and recorded. Comparisons with live embryos of various ages
can be used to train those developing experience in the breakout technique.

Abbott, U. K. 1975. Identifying causes of problems in hatchability. Poultry
Digest (November): 446-47.
Anonymous. 1971. Incubation trouble shooting. Denver: Robbins Incubator
Anonymous. 1991. Hatchery trouble shooting guide. Glastonbury, Conn.: Arbor
Acres, Inc.
Coleman, M. A. 1986. Solving hatchability problems. Poultry
International (December): 12-15.
Hodgetts, B. 1988. Why do your embryos die? Internat. Hatchery Practice 2 (3): 4, 5,
7, 9.
Hodgetts, B. Solving hatchability problems. Information for flock farms and
hatcheries. ADAS Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Wolverhampton, UK.
Landauer, W. 1967. The hatchability of chicken eggs as influenced by environment
and heredity. Monograph I (Revised). Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, Conn.
McDaniel, G. R. 1990. Hatchability: Many factors affect results. Poultry Digest 49 (9):
20, 22, 24, 28, 30.
North, M. O., and D. D. Bell. 1990. Commercial chicken production manual, 103-34.
New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Patten, B. M. 1964. Foundations of embryology. 2d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Romanoff, A. L. 1960. The avian embryo. New York: The MacMillan Company.
Romanoff, A. L., and A. J. Romanoff. 1972. Pathogenesis of the avian embryo. New
York: Wiley-Interscience.
Summers, J. D., and S. Leeson. 1985. Poultry nutrition handbook, 119-24. University
of Guelph, Canada: Department of Animal and Poultry Science.
Tullett, S. G., and R. C. Noble. 1989. Understanding the chick embryo (III). Low
hatchability problems in young parent stock. Misset International Poultry (January):
Wilson, H. R. 1991. "Physiological requirements of the developing embryo:
Temperature and turning." In Avian incubation, ed. S.G. Tullett, 145-56. Developed
from Poultry Science Symposium Number Twenty-Two. London: Butterworth-
Wilson, J. L. 1991. Hatching egg breakout methods are explained. Poultry Digest 50
(9): 20, 22, 24, 25.
Wineland, M. J., and J. T. Brake. 1984. Trouble-shooting fertility and hatchability
problems. PS&T Guide No. 34. North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service.

1. This document is CIR1112, one of a series of the Animal Science Department,
Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida. Original publication date October 2004. Reviewed June 2003.
Visit the EDIS Web Site athttp://edis.ifas.ufl.edu
2. Henry R. Wilson, Professor Poultry Physiology, Department of Dairy and Poultry
Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity

Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services
only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect
to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status,
national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining
other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida,

IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of
County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean.
from here

Egg Candling and Breakout Analysis


Egg Candling and Breakout Analysis

R. A. ERNST, F. A. BRADLEY, U. K. ABBOTT and R. M. CRAIG, Animal Science
Department, University of California, Davis. Photographs by R. M. CRAIG.
Candling hatching eggs during incubation and breakout examination of the clear eggs or
dead embryos are useful tools for hatchery managers to use in maintaining quality
assurance and analyzing poor hatches. Other tools include monitoring the temperature of
the egg storage room, incubator temperature, incubator humidity, shell quality, chick
quality, hatching percentage, bacterial counts in air or on hatchery surfaces, and egg
moisture loss during incubation.
This publication illustrates various conditions that may be seen in eggs during candling and
describes how to identify infertile eggs and early dead embryos during breakout. It is best
used in conjunction with Common Incubation Problems: Causes and Remedies (ANR
Publication 8127) and the video Hatching Egg Breakout (ANR Video V86-W) (see “For
More Information” at the end of this publication). This publication also contains a glossary
of technical terms.

If a hatch is poor, identify the cause of the trouble as quickly as possible. A poor hatch may
be caused by a failure in fertilization or by excessive mortality of the embryos due to a
variety of factors. (For a more complete list of problems, causes, and possible solutions,
see Common Incubation Problems).

Careful examination of a sample of eggs to diagnose hatching problems must include not
only candling but breakout analysis. Even during problem-free periods, chicken, pheasant,
partridge, and quail eggs should be candled after 5 to 7 days of incubation. Turkey, duck,
and goose eggs—because of their longer incubation periods — should be candled after 8 to
10 days of incubation. The sample should be candled again at transfer to the hatcher, and
dead germs should be broken out and examined. For information on setting up an organized
program for commercial hatchery quality control, see Quality Control Procedures for the
Hatchery (Mauldin 1993).

If small groups of eggs are set, the most appropriate sample is the entire group. If sets
exceed 300 eggs, a sample of 100 to 200 eggs should be examined. In large hatcheries,
sampling procedures should be carefully planned with the assistance of a statistician or
poultry specialist to optimize the quality of the results and minimize costs. During problem
periods, more frequent candling and analysis may be advisable. To determine true fertility,
breakout analysis is required.


The color photos included in this publication help you to distinguish normal,
healthy embryos from infertile eggs and “early-deads.” Refer to Common Incubation
Problems for causes and possible remedies.

The loss of incubated eggs from modern, high-hatching chicken strains, stored under
optimal conditions, should be no more than 10 percent at the first candling. Losses in
turkey, waterfowl, and game bird eggs may be slightly higher. The mortality measured by
candling and breakout during the first candling normally represents one-third of the total
mortality to be expected. The mortality after the second candling should represent two-
thirds of the total to be expected, with very little mortality during midincubation. Mortality
during midincubation may indicate a dietary deficiency if infected embryos or
developmental abnormalities are not seen. However, the most common nutrient
deficiencies result from marginal vitamin levels in the diet and usually cause weak chicks
that have difficulty hatching, without other symptoms.

When eggs are candled after the first mortality peak at 7 to 10 days, three distinct classes
can be recognized: living normal embryos, blood rings, and clears. If eggs are candled at
transfer, clears should not found unless they were missed on the first candling. Dead
embryos should be found in small numbers. Some of these may be associated with poor or
damaged shells that were not removed during the first candling or that developed after the
first candling. Breakout may reveal infected eggs, which can be detected by their abnormal
color and odor.

Examination of eggs that fail to hatch reveals several types of abnormalities. Look for
malpositioned embryos (other than head under right wing and in the large end of the egg).
Excessively wet or dry embryos indicate incorrect incubator humidity, extended or
improper (dry) egg storage, or poor shell quality. A few genetically abnormal embryos may
be found at this stage, but if numbers are excessive, conduct a more detailed investigation.

Candled Living normal embryos show

 clearly defined blood vessels with no hemorrhagic areas evident
 some body movement when stimulated by the candling light
 generally healthy appearance

4-day-old normal turkey embryo.

Use this photo as a reference in determining the developmental age of normal turkey
Note the small, centrally located embryo and the developing blood vessels in the
yolksac membrane.
4-day-old normal chicken embryo.

Note the more advanced circulatory system than in the turkey embryo of equal age. The
dark area near the center of the egg is the embryo; the radiating lines are the blood
vessels of the extraembryonic mebranes (yolk sac).
24-day-old normal turkey egg.

The light upper part (left side of photo) is the enlarged air cell that is required for
proper hatching. The dark, lower part contains the embryo. One of the keys to good
poult hatchability is the roper amount of “dry down” at the end of the incubation period.
27-day-old normal turkey egg.

The blood vessels at the lower left of this pipped egg have not yet completely dried up
and are still needed for respiration. Humid conditions must be maintained at this stage
to prevent premature drying of these vessels and death of the poult.

These eggs show a ring of blood outlined on the inner surface of the shell when candled.
They usually contain fairly advanced embryos that have died only recently, but they may
also contain a blastoderm without an embryo or a cystic embryo.
Blastoderm without embryo (BWE) chicken egg.

The blood ring (arrow) indicates a dead and probably abnormal embryo from a fertile
egg. The lack of any visible embryo
structure indicates that it is a BWE.
Cystic embryo in chicken egg.

The candled appearance of an egg with a cystic embryo is similar in appearance to a

BWE showing a blood ring.
Examined on breakout, a cystic embryo often has heart tissue as the most recognizable
normal structure.
Blood ring in chicken egg.

The presence of the blood ring in this egg is symptomatic of the early death of an
embryo. Diagnosis may be made by breakout analysis.
Infertile and blastoderm without embryo (BWE) chicken eggs.

In these chicken eggs that have been candled out, the infertile egg (right) shows no
development. The 21⁄2-day-old BWE egg (left) shows the typical extraembryonic
membranes surrounded by a blood ring.
Dead turkey embryo.

In this turkey egg, candled after 10 days of incubation, the large, dark, round spot and
lack of visible blood vessels are the major indications that the embryo is dead.
Abnormal turkey embryo.

This abnormal embryo, about 8 days old, is from an egg candled after 10 days of
incubation. The abnormally shaped head and mouthparts indicate developmental
disturbances that led to death. Decomposition of tissues, as seen here, is typical of dead

The term “clears” refers to eggs that show no development when candled, including
 fertile eggs
 true infertiles
 fertile, no development (FND)
 positive development
Under normal circumstances, more than half of all clears are true infertiles. The other half
comprise the dead-embryo categories shown in the photos below; these are not true fertility
problems. Especially where they are abundant, the cause of fertility problems must be
identified so that proper remedial measures can be taken.
Fertile unincubated turkey egg.

Characteristic of this fertile egg is the regular, smooth

blastodisc(arrow), showing a distinct circular edge.
Unincubated chicken egg.

Candling an unincubated egg does not show whether it will develop properly. The
indistinct shadow of the yolk (center) is characteristic of an unincubated egg.
Chicken egg incubated 24 hours.

Note that the yolk shadow is more distinct than in the unincubated egg, and that it
appears near the top, a raised round area where the embryo will develop.
Cracked chicken egg.

Eggs with cracks, which are not always visible without candling, should be excluded
because they are likely to break further and may be contaminated with bacteria or
molds that will infect other eggs.
Infertile incubated turkey egg.

The blastodisc (arrow) is a small light spot surrounded by

a disorganized, irregularly shaped fuzzy area.
Infertile and blastoderm without embryo (BWE) chicken eggs.

In these eggs that have been candled out, the infertile egg (right) shows no devel-
opment, while the 21⁄2-day-old BWE egg (left) shows the typical extraembryonic
membranes surrounded by a blood ring.

Fertile eggs without development are infrequently seen. Possible causes include increased
frequency of recessive lethal genes in inbred stocks and improper egg storage (see Common
Incubation Problems).
Fertile, preoviposital death, turkey egg.

A rarely seen FND. The egg was incubated for 3 days before being broken out. The
blastodisc (arrow) deteriorated but still has the characteristic shape and size of a typical
fertile blastodisc.

This is the most frequently seen condition in fertile clears. The embryo dies early, but the
growth of cells over the surface of the yolk may continue for several days. Under normal
conditions only 1 to 2 percent of the clears are PDs. The incidence increases when eggs are
improperly stored or from abuse during shipping.
Positive development (PD) in turkey egg.

This egg contained a fertile germ (arrow) that began to develop and then stopped.
Candled, it appears to be clear. Note the absence of blood, as compared to the BWE
illustrated above.
Positive development (PD) in turkey egg.

This blastoderm has developed further than the one in the previous photo.The absence
of blood formation characterizes it as a PD.
blastoderm without embryo (BWE). When candled, a BWE egg shows a blood ring; on
breakout there are no visible embryo structures.
blastodisc. The small disc-shaped region on the yolk that contains the egg nucleus.
blood ring. Circular blood remnant visible when an egg is candled; signifies that
the embryo has died at a young age.
breakout. Breaking an egg and examining its contents to determine whether
the blastodiscwas fertilized or embryonic structures were present.
candled fertility. The percentage of eggs remaining after clears are removed by candling
compare with true fertility.
candled out. Clear eggs removed from the incubator following candling.
candling. Transluminating an egg with light to determine the presence or absence of a
viable embryo or to look for shell defects before setting.
clears. Incubated eggs that appear clear when candled, indicating that they do not contain a
live embryo.
cystic embryo. Embryo that dies early in gestation; the broken-out appearance is similar to
a BWE except that embryo tissue is visible.
dry-down. The amount of moisture lost from eggs during incubation.
dry-bulb temperature. Temperature measured with a standard thermometer or electronic
sensor; compare with wet-bulb temperature.
embryo. An organism in the early stages of its development before hatching.
fertile, no development (FND). Rarely diagnosed condition in which the blastodisc was
fertilized but died before the egg was laid or before growth could be initiated in the
fertile, preovipositional death. Rarely diagnosed condition characterized by a blastodisc
that appears to be fertile but dies before the egg is laid by the hen.
germ, germinal disc. Fertilized blastodisc; the embryo has about 50,000 cells when the egg
is laid.
hatch, percent hatch, hatching percent, hatch of total. Percentage of all eggs set that
hatch whether they were fertile or not (a typical hatch might be 80% to 90%).
hatch of fertile eggs, hatchability. Percentage of fertile eggs that hatch (should be above
hatcher. Machine used to maintain proper conditions for embryos during the final few
(usually 3) days before hatching.
inbred. Birds or flocks that have some degree of inbreeding.
inbreeding. The result of mating closely related birds, such as father to daughter or
brother to sister. As inbreeding increases, the ability of the stock to reproduce usually
incubation. Maintaining the temperature and humidity needed to initiate embryo growth
and hatching of avian eggs by a female or using a machine.
incubator, or setter. Machine that maintains proper conditions for incubating or setting
avian eggs.
malposition. Hatching embryo in any position except the head under the right
wing positioned in the large end of the shell; for example, the head under the left wing or
the head between the legs.
parthenogenesis. Development of an egg without fertilization, which occurs at low levels in
chickens and turkeys. Parthenogenic embryos usually die; if the embryo hatches it will be a
male with a diploid (2n) number of chromosomes.
pip. Egg in which the chick has broken the shell in an attempt to hatch; also, the act of
breaking the shell. Chicks may die after pipping or may be unable to get out of the shell.
positive development (PD). Eggs that are candled out as clears because there is no blood
formation; the germ was fertile, but it died soon after cell growth resumed when the egg was
warmed above 80ºF (26.7ºC).
poult. Young turkey.
relative humidity. Measure of the water vapor or moisture in air; can be determined from
the wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperature using a psychometric chart.
set. To place eggs in an incubator or under a female for incubation.
setter. An incubator.
spread. The difference between percent of fertile eggs and percent hatch (a 10% to 12%
spread is typical for chicken eggs).
true fertility. Percentage of hatching eggs that are fertile. This can be determined by
incubation, candling, and breakout of the clears to determine which eggs were fertile or
by breaking out potentially fertile eggs to examine the germinal disc (e.g., a sample might be
examined to estimate fertility of a flock).
true infertility. Lack of true fertility.
wet-bulb temperature. Temperature measured by a standard thermometer equipped with a
wet sock over the bulb. For accurate measurements, air must be moving over the wet sock to
provide evaporation. Electronic sensors are now available to measure the relative humidity
of air in incubators and egg storage rooms.
Mauldin, J. M. 1993. Quality control procedures for the hatchery. Athens:
University of Georgia College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Service.

You’ll find more information on hatching egg care and incubation in the following ANR

Hatching Egg Breakout, Video V86-W, 1986.

Hatching Egg Sanitation: The Key Step in Successful Storage and Production.
Publication 8120, 2004. Available for free downloading from the
ANR Communication Services Web site, http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8120.pdf.

Common Incubation Problems: Causes and Remedies. Publication 8127, 2004.

Available for free downloading from the ANR Communication Services Web

Visit the ANR Communication Services online catalog at

http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu. You can also place orders by mail, phone, or FAX, or request
a printed catalog of our products from:

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inquiries: danrcs@ucdavis.edu

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Web site at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu.

Publication 8134