Is A Bird Egg Dead If The Shell Is Cracked?

Cracked bird eggs are a common occurrence for backyard chicken keepers and bird watchers. If you’ve found a cracked egg in your coop or nesting area, you may be wondering if the embryo inside is still viable or if the egg is essentially dead.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer to your question: It depends on the severity of the crack, but some cracked eggs may still hatch if properly cared for.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cracked bird eggs and whether they can still hatch. We’ll discuss how to candle eggs to check for signs of life, how to repair cracked shells, optimal incubation conditions, and more.

We’ll also provide tips from experienced chicken keepers on when it’s worthwhile to attempt hatching cracked eggs and when it’s best to discard them.

Assessing Cracked Eggs

Cracking an eggshell can be a common occurrence, especially during transportation or mishandling. However, the question arises: is a bird egg dead if the shell is cracked? Let’s explore the different factors to consider when assessing cracked eggs.

Looking for signs of life

When examining a cracked egg, it is essential to look for signs of life. Inspect the inside of the egg for any movement or the presence of a developing embryo. If there are no signs of life, it is likely that the bird egg is no longer viable and considered dead.

However, it is important to remember that not all cracked eggs are automatically dead.

According to Backyard Chickens, an online community of poultry enthusiasts, there have been instances where cracked eggs with live embryos have successfully hatched. So, it is crucial to further assess the egg before making a final determination.

Candling the egg

Candling is a technique commonly used to assess the development and viability of bird eggs. By shining a light source through the egg, it becomes easier to identify any signs of life, such as blood vessels or movement. When candling a cracked egg, it can help determine if the embryo is still alive.

A cracked egg with a visible embryo and signs of movement may still have a chance of survival. In such cases, it is recommended to provide proper care and conditions to increase the likelihood of a successful hatch.

However, if there are no signs of life during candling, it is safe to assume that the egg is no longer viable.

Considering the location and severity of cracks

The location and severity of cracks play a crucial role in determining the viability of a cracked egg. If the crack is small and located away from the air sac and vital organs, there is a higher chance that the embryo remains unharmed.

On the other hand, large and severe cracks, especially near vital areas, are more likely to result in the death of the embryo.

It is important to note that even if an egg is cracked but the embryo is still alive, there is a higher risk of infection or damage to the developing bird. Extra precautions should be taken, such as isolating the egg, providing warmth and humidity, and monitoring the egg closely to avoid any complications.

Repairing Cracked Eggshells

Discovering a cracked eggshell can be disheartening, especially if you were hoping for a successful hatch. However, it is important to note that a cracked eggshell does not necessarily mean that the egg is dead. In some cases, it is possible to repair the crack and give the egg a chance to survive.

Here are a few methods you can try:

Using glue or tape

If the crack is small and not too severe, you can try using glue or tape to seal it. Make sure to use a non-toxic adhesive that won’t harm the chick inside. Gently apply a small amount of glue or tape over the crack, making sure to cover it completely.

Allow the adhesive to dry before placing the egg back in the incubator or under the broody hen. This method can be effective for minor cracks, but it may not work for larger or more extensive damage.

Applying a patch

In cases where the crack is larger or more significant, you can try applying a patch to reinforce the shell. Clean the cracked area with a mild disinfectant to prevent any potential bacterial contamination. Cut a small piece of clean cloth or gauze slightly larger than the crack.

Apply a thin layer of non-toxic adhesive around the crack, then carefully place the patch over it. Press down gently to ensure it adheres well. Allow the patch to dry completely before returning the egg to the incubator or nest.

Sealing with nail polish or wood glue

For cracks that are not too extensive, some breeders have reported success with sealing them using nail polish or wood glue. Apply a thin layer of the chosen sealant over the crack, making sure to cover it completely. Allow the sealant to dry thoroughly before handling the egg.

Keep in mind that using sealants may not always be recommended, as they can potentially harm the developing chick. It is crucial to use non-toxic options and monitor the egg closely for any signs of distress.

It is important to note that repairing cracked eggshells is not always a guaranteed solution. The success of these methods depends on the severity of the crack and the overall health of the developing chick.

It is always best to consult with a knowledgeable avian veterinarian or poultry expert before attempting any repairs. They can provide guidance based on the specific situation and offer advice on the best course of action.

For more information on eggshell repair and incubation techniques, you can visit reputable websites such as or These websites offer valuable resources and insights from experienced poultry enthusiasts and experts.

Incubating Cracked Eggs

Maintaining proper temperature and humidity

When a bird egg’s shell is cracked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the egg is dead. In fact, cracked eggs can still be successfully incubated and hatch into healthy chicks. One of the key factors in incubating cracked eggs is maintaining the proper temperature and humidity levels.

It’s important to ensure that the cracked egg is kept in an environment with a consistent temperature and humidity, similar to that of a normal incubation setup. This can be achieved by using an incubator or creating a homemade incubation system.

Turning the eggs gently

Another crucial aspect of incubating cracked eggs is the regular turning of the eggs. Turning the eggs helps to prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell and promotes even development. It is recommended to gently turn the eggs at least three to five times a day, ensuring that they are rotated in different directions.

This can be done by hand or by using an automatic egg turner, which can be found in many incubators. Remember to handle the cracked eggs with care to avoid causing further damage to the shell.

Disinfecting cracks to prevent bacteria

Cracked eggs are more vulnerable to bacterial contamination due to the compromised shell. To prevent bacteria from entering the egg and potentially harming the developing embryo, it is important to disinfect the cracks.

This can be done by applying a small amount of antiseptic solution, such as iodine or hydrogen peroxide, directly on the crack. Gently dab the solution onto the crack using a cotton swab or a clean cloth. Be cautious not to apply too much pressure, as it may further damage the shell.

This process should be repeated every few days or as recommended by a veterinarian.

It’s worth noting that not all cracked eggs will successfully hatch, as the severity of the crack and the health of the embryo play a significant role. However, with proper care and attention to temperature, humidity, turning, and disinfection, there is still a chance for cracked eggs to hatch and give life to adorable little chicks.

Hatching Success Rates for Cracked Eggs

When it comes to bird eggs, the question of whether a cracked shell means the egg is dead or not is a common one. The truth is, it depends on the severity of the crack and the ability of the egg to repair itself. Let’s explore the different scenarios and their potential outcomes.

Minor cracks may still hatch

Minor cracks in bird egg shells may not necessarily lead to the death of the embryo inside. In fact, many eggs with minor cracks have been known to successfully hatch. The reason for this is that the eggshell is designed to protect the developing embryo, and even with a small crack, it can still provide the necessary level of protection.

The embryo inside is able to continue developing and eventually hatch, resulting in a healthy bird.

Severe cracks are unlikely to survive

On the other hand, severe cracks in bird egg shells are much less likely to result in a successful hatch. These cracks can compromise the structural integrity of the shell, making it difficult for the embryo to develop properly.

Additionally, severe cracks can also allow bacteria or fungi to enter the egg, further reducing the chances of survival. In most cases, eggs with severe cracks are unable to hatch and do not result in a live bird.

Repairing shells improves the odds

While some cracks can be detrimental to the survival of the embryo, there are cases where the egg can repair itself. When a crack occurs, the bird’s body has the ability to produce a substance called “calcium patches” that can help seal the crack and prevent further damage.

This natural repair process can significantly improve the chances of a cracked egg successfully hatching.

It’s important to note that the ability of an egg to repair itself depends on various factors, such as the species of bird and the specific condition of the egg. In some cases, intervention from humans may be necessary to increase the chances of survival.

Wildlife rehabilitators or bird experts can provide guidance on how to properly repair a cracked egg and give it the best chance of hatching successfully.

For more information on bird eggs and hatching success rates, you can visit reputable websites such as Audubon or All About Birds.

When to Discard Cracked Eggs

Cracking an egg is a common occurrence in many households, but what happens when the shell is cracked? Are the eggs still safe to eat or are they considered dead? Let’s explore when it is necessary to discard cracked eggs to ensure food safety.

Major damage makes eggs nonviable

When an egg’s shell is cracked, it is important to assess the extent of the damage. If the crack is minor, such as a hairline crack, the egg may still be viable. However, if the crack is significant and extends through the shell, it is best to discard the egg.

A major crack can compromise the integrity of the egg, allowing bacteria to enter and potentially contaminate the contents.

Signs of leakage or rot

One of the key indicators that a cracked egg is no longer safe to consume is the presence of leakage or a foul smell. If you notice any liquid seeping from the cracked shell or detect a strong odor, it is a clear sign that the egg is no longer fresh and should be thrown away.

These signs often indicate bacterial contamination or spoilage.

Fungal growth visible

Another visible indication that a cracked egg should be discarded is the presence of fungal growth. If you notice any mold or fungus on the eggshell or inside the cracked area, it is a strong indication of spoilage.

Fungal growth can pose health risks if consumed, so it is best to err on the side of caution and dispose of the egg.

Embryo clearly deceased

In the case of fertilized eggs, a cracked shell can provide insight into the development of the embryo. If, upon cracking the egg, you notice a clearly deceased embryo or signs of decomposition, it is necessary to discard the egg.

This indicates that the embryo failed to develop properly or perished, making the egg unsuitable for consumption.

It is crucial to prioritize food safety and discard cracked eggs when necessary. By being mindful of the extent of the damage, signs of leakage or rot, fungal growth, and the condition of the embryo, you can ensure that the eggs you consume are fresh and safe.

Remember, if in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution and discard the cracked egg.


While finding a cracked egg can certainly be disappointing, don’t assume right away that the embryo is no longer viable. Take the time to properly assess the damage and make efforts to repair the shell.

With attentive incubation and a little luck, even eggs with cracks and missing fragments can successfully hatch. However, severely damaged eggs with signs of decay should be discarded. Candling and an experienced eye can help determine which eggs are worth trying to incubate and which are doomed.

With proper care and optimal hatching conditions, the embryo inside some cracked eggs may just surprise you and hatch into a healthy chick.

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