Doves are capable of laying small clutches of eggs at least three times each year. They often incubate two eggs at once, laying the eggs within several hours of each other but not beginning to incubate the eggs until both are laid to ensure the eggs hatch at the same time. The gestation period for most doves is 14 to 16 days. Doves share the parenting, with both males and females incubating eggs.
Candling Dove Eggs
The dove's egg shell is thin, so "candling" is easy. Carefully hold an egg that has been incubated for five days in one hand and shine a bright flashlight behind it. In a fertile egg, veins are visible beneath the shell. An infertile egg is clear under the light, with no veins present. Prior to the fifth day of incubation, it's difficult to see the veins, so a false negative could occur.
Cracked or Broken Eggs
If the fragile dove egg is cracked or broken, the growing blood vessels within will grow no further after the breakage. These eggs will not hatch, as the baby bird stops growing at the time that the egg shell is broken and soon dies. Dove eggs have no protective barrier in them to keep germs out, so cracked and broken shells let in threatening bacteria that kill the developing chick.
Dove eggs laid without shells are called soft-shelled eggs. The hard shell never formed around the egg, which presents as just the tough inner membrane protecting the egg white and yolk. This egg is abnormal, soft and unable to grow a chick, even if fertilized. A lack of calcium in the female dove's diet is the cause of this problem. Domestic birds should consume crushed oyster shells regularly.
Mishandling of Eggs
Eggs that are handled a lot have less chance of hatching than those left alone. Washing eggs renders them unable to resist infection, which kills the young birds. Moving eggs could put them in danger of getting abandoned; a cold egg won't develop and hatch. Dove egg shells are extremely fragile and easily broken. They are not as hard as chicken eggs, so you must take great care when handling them even a little bit.
If sperm was not present as the egg formed, it will be infertile when laid. Infertile eggs are often incubated right along with fertile eggs, but the unfertilized egg won't hatch. Often, birds who are infertile make great surrogate brooders for another dove's fertile eggs.
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images