Incubation - Day 18.

Please note : This is a long page, but the information it contains about what needs doing at this point in  incubation is critical to a successful hatch.  Don't skip any!

What's going on in the egg today?

For the next three days of incubation until hatch, the chick just carries on growing.  The albumen (egg white) has now completely disappeared and today is the start of the yolk beginning to be absorbed into the chick's body.

If we opened the egg today what we'd see is mostly chick, with a large expanse of yolk. On top of the yolk is a by now very complex network of veins.

This area is going to be critical for the chick's well-being, and it's the reason why "assisted hatching" - helping the chick to hatch - is not advisable except in very exceptional circumstances.

We'll return to this subject nearer hatch time.

What's happening to the chick?

Our chick is continuing to turn slowly towards the blunt end of the egg where the air cell is.  It's here the 'egg tooth' will first break through the inner membrane and then the shell.

For a picture of what an egg tooth looks like, have a peek at my "Chick of the Day" photo later on this page.  Here's a link if you want to see it now.

The incubated egg at day 18.

A chicken egg at day 18 of incubation

From now until the end of incubation there's not much change in the chick itself except that, as the yolk is retracted into the body, the chick grows in size.

The yolk will nourish the chick during its last days of incubation but will also be important in keeping it well nourished for the first day after hatching.

It's one of the reasons why it's possible for breeders and hatcheries to send day-old chicks by post - the chicks don't need food at that point.

What can we see if we candle today?

We can't see anything much now.  The chick is filling most of the egg, with the yolk taking up the remainder of the room.  Sometimes it's just possible still to see some large blood vessels at the bottom of the egg.

The air cell is quite large and will continue to grow over the next three days to hatching.

This is one of my Buff Orpington eggs - see the end result by clicking here!

Chicken egg candled at day 18 of incubation.

What should we be doing today?

Day 18 of incubation is lockdown day!

This is an exciting - and a critical - time.

Today we need to prepare our incubator for hatching.  After today we're into a waiting game when we will no longer candle and the incubator will remain closed. 

You may have heard the phrase "incubator lockdown" - that's exactly what this is.

There are five things you need to do today to make sure your incubator is properly set for incubation.

To see what they are, you will need to click on this link to go to my page which deals with lockdown in detail.

It will open in a new page so that, when you've finished, you can come back here for the rest of today's information.

It's really, really important that you do read the "lockdown" page.  The five steps it describes needing to be done today are critical for a successful hatch.

Can anything go wrong at this stage?


The time between now and hatch is a critical one.

It's particularly important that you candle all your eggs today - it's one of the five steps in my "lockdown countdown". 

Here's why.  This is a picture of one of my eggs candled at Day 18.  It's not easy to see anything because this embryo had developed perfectly normally until that point, so the chick was filling most of the shell and there's not much else to be seen.

A chicken egg candled at day 18

Except ... look closely.

It has a crack.

Here's another picture with the image brightness turned up so it looks very grainy, but it highlights the crack.  In case you still can't see it I've also annotated it.

To try to make it even more obvious, in this next picture I've altered the saturation of the image.  The crack is the thin line which now looks red.  It starts at the tip of the bottom arrow and continues to the tip of the top one.

Once I'd candled it I examined it more closely and it had a tiny bit of gunky liquid starting to ooze out of it.  Had this egg been left in the incubator for the remainder of incubation it would have exploded and spread bacteria over all the other eggs in the incubator.

The entire hatch would have been compromised - and I had 23 eggs in that incubator.

Which is why it's so important to follow the procedures for lockdown.  To the letter.

Here's the link again.

What went wrong here?

Most late embryo deaths and unsuccessful hatches are due to different forms of bacteria or loss of humidity at critical times.  I was lucky - this was the only egg to be affected in this batch. 

It's likely that I'd become complacent and not been careful enough about cleanliness when handling it.  As incubation progresses, the shell becomes more and more porous and therefore more susceptible to taking in external bacteria.  So washing hands both before and after candling is extremely important.

If lockdown is properly carried out then the chances of anything going wrong are minimised.  However, the last couple of days of incubation - and of course hatching itself - is a time when things can go badly wrong.

How to stop that happening? 

If you've followed through with the five steps for lockdown and all my recommendations for cleanliness right from the start of this process, you've reduced the likelihood of bacteria entering the increasingly porous eggshell and your chances of a successful hatch are high.

Five baby chicks

Question of the day.

What should I do if I find a cracked egg in my incubator at this stage?

If it has any signs of a sticky liquid coming from the crack, don't hesitate - get rid of it now.  It's heartbreaking to get this far and have to lose one I know but trust me - it's necessary.

If there's no liquid you have the choice of trying to seal the crack and hoping the chick is still alive.  It's a risk, because if it's died you run the risk of the egg exploding. but it's been done successfully by several people I know.

The best things to seal a crack with are a very strong duct tape, or superglue.

Chick of the day!

We're nearly there - keep your eyes on the prize!

At each stage of this incubation series I feature one of my own chicks so that we bear in mind always what we're aiming for throughout these three weeks - hatching healthy, happy chicks.

A Buff Orpington chick at two days old.

This is Buffy, one of my little Buff Orpington chicks at just two days old.  See her still in the egg earlier on this page - click here!

You can still see the egg tooth - the lighter tip to the beak.

Such a great feeling to know that our care and knowledge will help successfully hatch little chicks like this.

Are you excited for hatch day?  I am!

Are you hatching along with me?

Is there a question you'd like to ask? Or perhaps your chicks have already hatched?

Please feel free either to contact me using the form on this page, or leave a comment below.

Tell me all - I'd love to hear from you!

Other pages you may find helpful.

The first of these picture links is a general overview of days 14 to 19 of incubation.  It's far less detailed than this page but a good place to go if you want a quick reminder.

Click on any of these images to go to that page.

Link to an overview of incubation, days 14 to 19.
Need an egg candler? I review the most popular. Click on the link.
Looking for a good chicken breed for children? This link will help.

Would you like a reminder e-mail at each stage of the incubation process?

Join us - It's just 28 days to Perfect Peeps!

Have you joined my incubating and hatching group yet?

If you're having a go at hatching your own eggs and it's new to you, you might want to consider joining my free 28-day series called "Hatching Happy Chickens".

You'll have e-mails personally delivered every day describing that day's developments in the incubation process, and pointing out as this page does exactly what you need to be doing.

It's free, and it's fun!  Don't miss out - click on the pic to have a look at more information about exactly what you'll get.

Looking forward, looking back!

The easiest way to follow my hatching series is to sign up for the e-mails.  However, if you'd rather not do that, these are links you need to work logically through the series.




Link to my 28 day guide to incubating and hatching chicken eggs.
Go back a day to day 17 of the incubation process.
Skip ahead to day 19 of incubation by clicking here.

Copyright notice.

'The Incubated Egg' image is a commissioned artist's impression and, like all images on this site, is subject to copyright under the Copyright Law of the United States of America 1976.  Under no circumstances is permission granted to copy or otherwise use this image.

All other images of candling on this and other pages are my own and are not to be used without permission.

If you wish to use these or any other images on this site for educational purposes you are required to contact me by using the form to be found on this page.  For my full copyright policy see this page.

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Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.