Why Are Quail Eggs Infertile and How To Know When They Are?

One of the most exciting things about keeping quail is to incubate the eggs you get from your own covey. Once you’ve incubated your own eggs, you know that you can keep a vicious circle going. But how do you get to this point, and how can you tell whether the eggs are fertile? We’re going to answer these questions in this article, and we’re also going to bust some myths along the way.

If you want to get excellent hatch rates every single time, you should check out this article, where I explain everything you need to put in place to optimize for success.

How can I tell if a quail egg is fertile?

Unfortunately, you can’t tell if a quail egg is fertile just by looking at it and without cracking it, and there is no tool that helps you with this either. 

However, if you crack an egg open, you can see if it’s fertile by looking for a small dot inside the yolk. Of course, once the egg has been cracked open, you can’t put it in the incubator anymore. If you want to incubate quail eggs, check some of them, and if you can spot the dot in many of them, it’s an indicator that you can incubate the eggs.

Learn how to raise your own quail and have an unlimited supply of eggs and meat.

Take a look at the picture below. Three of these eggs were taken from my breeding cage, and they are all fertile, while the other three are from hens that have no rooster in the cage.

If you keep hens for both eggs and to incubate their eggs, you should keep those that lay fertile eggs separately from those that only provide you with eggs for consumption.

This has several benefits:

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  • You need to keep fewer quail roosters
  • The eggs will be fertile with a higher degree of certainty
  • When the eggs hatch, you can raise the roosters to maturity, and you can process them for food.

For example, to feed our family of 7, I keep 53 hens and 3 roosters. If I kept all of them in the same cage, it would be impossible for the roosters to fertilize the eggs of so many hens, and I would get a very low hatch rate every time I incubate eggs. 

I selected eight of my nicest hens and placed them in a separate cage (aka breeding cage), and I placed three roosters in the same cage with them. Most of the time we still harvest the eggs for direct consumption, but I know that the eggs collected from my breeding cage can be placed directly into the incubator, and I get a good hatch rate.

How do you keep quail eggs fertile?

The best way to keep your quail eggs fertile is by ensuring a proper hen-to-rooster ratio. Ideally, you should keep one rooster for every four or five hens. You can also keep an extra rooster to be on the safe side. 

If you have too many hens and too few roosters, for example, 20 hens and 3 roosters, the fertility rate of the eggs diminishes. If you have too many roosters and too few hens, for example, one rooster to every one or two hens, there will be much aggression, and the hens are going to be beaten up.

From my own experience, I find that my three roosters are just too many for eight hens, and the ideal number of hens is 10-12.

How soon can you tell if a quail egg is fertile?

You can tell if a quail egg is fertile by candling it after about six days of incubating. If the egg lights up as a bulb, it’s not fertile, but if you can see veins develop inside the egg and a dark spot inside, it means that it’s fertile. 

It takes some skill and experience to tell whether an egg is fertile at this point, but if you candle incubated eggs on day 14, it’s quite easy to tell them apart.

What happens if quail eggs don’t hatch?

If your quail eggs don’t hatch, you don’t need to panic but think logically about what could be at the root of the problem.

Do you keep your hens with roosters? This may sound silly, but if you have a separate breeding cage, you may have placed the eggs in the incubator using the eggs from the hens that have no roosters with them. Unless you collect the eggs separately and keep them separately, there’s no way you can tell which ones are fertile.

Do you keep your ratio? We mentioned this above. If you have too few roosters for the hens, your hatch rate is going to be low.

Are your roosters sexually mature? You need sexually mature roosters to fertilize eggs. Quails reach this point at around 8 weeks of age, but some roosters can take longer to mature. Some indicators of mature roosters are crowing and breeding activity. Even if you don’t see them breed, you may notice that your hens are missing some feathers on their heads, which is where the rooster grabs them during mating. 

Do you have a problem with the incubator? Even if all of your eggs are fertile, your low hatch rate may be due to problems with your incubator. There are a few key factors you need to pay attention to, such as temperature, humidity level, egg turning, and egg lockdown. I wrote an entire article about improving your hatch rate here.

How many days are quail eggs fertile?

To get the best hatch rates, place the fertilized eggs in the incubator within seven to ten days of laying. Beyond ten days, the hatch rate diminishes drastically. 

The advantage of being able to keep the eggs for several days before starting the incubation process is that you can collect eggs from your breeding cage for more than just one day. 

For example, if you have ten hens in the breeding cage, you can collect up to 10 eggs each day for 10 days in a row and place up to 100 eggs to put in the incubator. If you get a good hatch rate, you may end up with 80+ baby quail, which is more than enough to keep a family fed for several meals. 

How do you tell if a quail egg is still alive?

It’s impossible to tell if a quail egg is alive and can be placed in the incubator before you start the incubating process. 

Although not strictly necessary, it’s good practice to candle the quail eggs on day 14, before you move them into lockdown. 

You can easily spot those eggs that didn’t have an embryo develop inside at this point. If the egg lights up like a bulb, the egg is infertile. If the light doesn’t pass through the egg, there’s a quail embryo inside. Here’s an entire article I wrote about candling quail eggs that goes into detail.

Eating fertilized quail eggs

Even if you keep a separate breeding cage to have eggs for incubation, it is perfectly fine to eat fertilized quail eggs that come from those hens. They taste just the same as the rest of the eggs, and they have the same nutrients too. 

The only difference you can spot is a tiny dot in the yolk.

At times, you may find a blood spot in the yolk too, which is a broken blood vessel. This is also normal, and the egg is perfectly fine for consumption.

A common myth

Whether eggs sink or float doesn’t tell you anything about their fertility. I have read on the internet that it tells you about how fresh the eggs are, but in reality, I have placed several eggs in the water to test this, and all of my quail eggs, regardless of their age, sink to the bottom.


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

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