How to tell if quail eggs are fertile

Updated April 17, 2017

Raising quails is a fast-growing and fun hobby for many new poultry enthusiasts. To hatch your quail, if you own a male, start with eggs your own hens lay, or purchase them from a qualified hatchery. According to Melvin L. Hamre, Extension Poultry Specialist from the University of Minnesota, eggs sold in stores tend to be infertile. Eggs can be checked for viability after five days of incubation through a process called candling. Taking a quick peek with this method ensures embryos are developing and saves time waiting for a bad batch to hatch.

Drill a 1-inch hole at one end of the wood box. Fit the end of the light bulb in the hole. The bulb part will be inside the box and the end will stick outside to hook to an electric source.

Wrap the felt cloth around any light leaks around the egg in the box to clearly view the contents.

Use a flashlight in a dark room as an alternative. Hold the fat end of the egg up to the light. You should be able to see inside the egg. Lighter-coloured eggs are easier to view. The embryo will show as a light red tint inside the egg. As the chick grows and takes up more room in the eggshell, the shadow will be darker.

Remove any eggs from the incubator that view clear or show no signs of continued development after 10 days.

Candle quail eggs on days five, 10 and 15.


Order your eggs in advance and plan on having them delivered one to two days before you incubate to avoid having to turn the eggs through a storage period. Never wash eggs that are to be incubated. Use a dry, clean abrasive to gently rub off any stuck dirt or faeces.


Quail eggs have thinner shells than chicken eggs and will break more easily, so handle with extra care. Do not allow the eggs to cool while candling.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood box
  • Drill
  • 40-watt light bulb
  • Felt cloth
  • Or
  • Flashlight
  • Dark room
  • Quail eggs
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About the Author

Rhonda Abrons is a writer/producer in Austin, Texas. For more than 25 years her journalism work has been published in many newspapers including the "Austin-American Statesman" and the "Boston Globe."