Incubation and Embryology - University of Illinois

Making Embryo Sets




7 and up


Students will preserve embryos to study embryonic development from day 3 through 21.


  • Fertile eggs of varying age
  • Glass Jars with lids (strained baby food jars work very well)
  • Labels for the jars
  • Blunt tweezers
  • Small scissors
  • Alcohol solution
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Aluminum foil pie pans or petri dishes


  1. As you break out fertile eggs to see change and growth, you can save the embryos to look at later. A group of preserved embryos is called an embryo set. You will need a few special materials.
  2. Set up the incubator. Care for the eggs as recommended or contact a hatchery to see if you can get eggs with embryos from them.
  3. Gently break the egg at the air cell or large end. Use your tweezers for this.
  4. Use the tweezers to peel away the shell and membranes from the embryo. Be careful not to damage the embryo. Take your time.
  5. Separate the embryo from the rest of the egg. Remove the embryo's membranes.
  6. Cut the embryo's membranes off at the umbilicus or belly-button.
  7. Wash the embryo gently in running water. Be careful not to drop the embryo. You may want to dry the embryo on a paper towel.
  8. When the embryo is clean, put it in a glass jar.
  9. Fill the jar with alcohol solution and close the cap tightly.
  10. Label the jar. You might put the label on the lid so it doesn't block your view of the embryo. Here is some information you might want to include on the jar: age of embryo and date.
  11. Repeat this process every day until hatch.

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