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How Do I Hatch a Duck Egg?Hatching a duck egg in an incubator isn’t too difficult or different from hatching a chicken egg. Let’s dive into the details on answering the question: how do you incubate a duck egg? There are a few main steps that we’ll go through:
- Laying Eggs
- Days 1-10
- Days 11-27
- Day 28
Inspect Your Duck EggsThe first thing you need to do with your duck eggs is to inspect them. To do this, you want to candle them using a flashlight in order to make sure there are no cracks within the egg. Now that you’ve inspected the duck eggs to ensure you’re using all healthy ones, let’s get into the real process. Read our related article on How to Candle a Chicken Egg With a Flashlight. The process is the same, so this guide will be helpful!
Lay the EggsPutting the duck eggs in your incubator is the first thing you need to do. Be sure to set them in the incubator with the pointy end down. When incubating them at first you want to have the temperature at 99.5 degrees and the humidity level at 55%. You can also mark the eggs so that you know how they are laying when you need to rotate them throughout the incubation process. Read our related article where we review the Best Duck Egg Incubator on the market today!
Days 1-10You’ll want to get into a routine of rotating the eggs about 5 to 7 times a day at a minimum. This is a very crucial part of having success when incubating duck eggs. Keep the temperature at 99 degrees and the humidity level of 55% will suffice throughout this period of time. Just be sure to really rotate your eggs to ensure that they will hatch properly.
Days 11-27Starting on day 11 you can also start a cooling process. Typically when hatching duck eggs with an incubator you want to mimic a mother duck’s pattern as much as possible. Cooling the egg for about 30 minutes a day by dropping the temperature to about 90-93 degrees can help to mimic the mother duck leaving daily. It’s crucial that you don’t let the eggs get below 86 degrees when in the incubator during a cooling process. Continue rotating the eggs throughout the day as much as possible or at least 5 to 7 times a day. On day 23 you should stop rotating the eggs. By day 25 you should stop the cooling process as well and increase humidity to 65%.
Day 28: Hatch DayMost duck eggs will hatch on day 28 of incubation. On this day you’ll want the temperature at 99 degrees and the humidity at 80%. Once you notice pipping be sure not to open your incubator at all and just allow the ducklings to begin emerging. The hatching process can take up to 48 hours to complete. Some ducklings might stop and go, or take their time. NOTE: It’s best to leave the ducklings to figure it out themselves and take as much time as they might need. Once the hatching process is almost completed start lowering the temperature to 97 degrees and the humidity to 70%. Once the ducklings are completely hatched and dried off they should be moved to a heated brooder where they’ll have food and water. Read our related article on How to Make a Homemade Duck Egg Incubator. DIY incubators can work just as well as store-bought ones. Here’s how to make your own!
How Long Does a Duck Egg Take to Hatch in an Incubator?Most duck eggs will hatch on day 28 of being in an incubator. It’s important to remember that the hatching begins on day 28, but this process can take up to 48 hours to complete. This is about a week longer than it takes chicken eggs to hatch, but duck eggs are a little bit larger than chicken eggs, which makes for the time difference. There are a couple of bird types that tend to stray away from the 28-day mark. Mallards can take between 25 and 29 days, while Muscovys take 35 days to hatch. These two breeds are the only ones that will take a different amount of time, but Pekins, Swedish Duck, and all other duck breeds will take 28 days to hatch under the right conditions. Keeping up with these essential steps can ensure a successful hatch:
- Temperature and humidity at appropriate levels
- Rotating eggs regularly
- Keeping humidity and temperature consistent by limiting the opening and closing of the incubator
- Candling to be sure that every embryo is developing nicely
How Hot Does it Have to Be for a Duck Egg to Hatch?One of the most essential parts of incubating a duck egg, or any type of egg, is the temperature and humidity. Most incubation success issues happen due to the level of humidity. As a general rule of thumb, you should be keeping the temperature at about 99 degrees Fahrenheit. As for humidity, you should keep the humidity at 55%. Refer back to our previous section where we discussed the changing of humidity throughout the 28-day process, or check this quick guide here:
- Put Eggs In: 99.5 Degrees Fahrenheit & 55% Humidity
- Days 1-24: 99 Degrees Fahrenheit & 55% Humidity
- Day 25+: 99 Degrees Fahrenheit & 65% Humidity
- Hatch Day/Day 28: 99 Degrees Fahrenheit & 80% Humidity
How to Incubate Duck Eggs By BreedThere are a lot of different breeds of ducks and many of them have similar incubation directions. Let’s look at some specific popular duck breeds and what the details of incubating them will be like. Here are the breeds we’ll look into:
How to Incubate Pekin Duck EggsPekin ducks are some of the most popular, and they are very easy to incubate because they have the standard measures for incubation.
- For Pekin ducks, the temperature should be about 99 Degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity should be between 45% and 55% for the first 25 days.
- Be sure to rotate the eggs during this time, about 5 to 7 times a day. You can spray water on them as well to help with the moisture and humidity level.
- You then should increase the humidity to 65% while keeping the temperature the same for the last three days.
How to incubate Mandarin Duck EggsMandarin duck eggs are another common breed that has similar directions as well when it comes to incubating them.
- Keep the incubator between 99.5 to 99.9 Degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity should be at about 55% throughout the first 27 or so days.
- They should be turned a minimum of 4 times a day up until day 25.
- For the last 3 days, you can raise the humidity to about 65% for hatching.
How to Incubate Mallard Duck EggsMallard ducks are the type of ducks you’ll normally see at parks or out in nature. Mallard ducks have relatively simple incubating periods.
- The incubator should be at 99.5 Degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity at 55%.
- Be sure to turn the eggs between 3 and 7 times a day. Once you are on day 25 you can stop turning them and increase humidity to 65%.
- Spray the eggs with water periodically to help with humidity and moisture levels.
How Do I Know My Duck Egg Will Hatch Soon?Whether you’re incubating duck eggs and want to prepare yourself, or if you’re someone who found a duck egg and you’re looking to figure out how far “along” it is, then let’s go over some of the signs to look for:
- Your duck eggs have been incubating for 28 days (or the necessary amount of time for your particular breed)
- You notice movement within the eggs such as wiggling
- You hear peeping from the ducklings inside
- Pipping begins and you see ducklings start to break through
What Problems Can You Face When Hatching a Duck Egg?Hatching and incubating duck eggs isn’t always a simple task and you may run into problems. Here are some problems that you can face when hatching a duck egg:
- Unstable temperatures
- Hatch day struggles with duckling
- Undeveloped embryo
CrackingEggs being cracked is a common problem, but fixing the crack as soon as possible can spare the embryo like nothing ever happened. Using a little melted beeswax and gently rubbing it over the cracks will reseal them in a natural way without causing harm to the embryo inside. Candling with a flashlight can help you check your eggs for cracks. Be sure to repair any cracks before incubating as it can result in an unsuccessful hatch.
Temperature/Humidity StabilityBe sure to keep your incubator at a set temperature and humidity. The settings should never change, but follow our guide on what temperature and humidity your incubator should be set at. Also, refer to your user manual for the incubator to see brand-specific details.
Duckling Struggling to HatchSometimes on hatch day, we notice ducklings that are having trouble getting out of their eggs. It’s important to NOT help the duckling out of their shell and instead just give them time and space. Helping the duckling can result in a dependent and weak duckling that may be dependent on you for the rest of its life. It also may stunt growth in the future. Ducklings are meant and made to get out of their shells themselves, it may take the full 48 hours, but they will get out. Just be sure to keep the temperature and humidity controlled through this process, too.
Undeveloped EmbryoWe say that you should candle your duck eggs about once a week so that you can see the process inside and ensure that it is developing correctly. If you notice that a duck egg isn’t developing correctly then you should remove it from the batch. Ultimately, if the duckling doesn’t hatch on day 28 then there is not much chance it will hatch at all. Unfortunately having bad hatches is common and can happen.
How Do You Hatch a Duck Egg Without an Incubator?If you don’t have access to an incubator or if you’re looking for other ways to hatch a duck egg, then read on as we discuss a great way to incubate a duck egg without an incubator. There are a few different reasons why you might need to hatch a duck without an incubator:
- You don’t have access to an incubator
- Incubators can be pricey
- You received the egg unexpectedly and are looking for a solution quick
Find a HenIf you have a hen or if you can get access to a hen who is laying on her own eggs, then you can simply add your eggs into the nest. This hen will “adopt” the egg and begin incubating it as its own. This is great for a quick solution that is not much work on you as the hen will do all the work. Here’s a fun video of a hen raising a duckling:
Towel MethodYou can make your own incubator at home using things around your house. Although, the need to keep the temperature and humidity stabilized while using an at-home method is much more difficult.
- Start with getting a box and place a warm wet towel in it. Just placing it flat onto the bottom of the box will do.
- Place the egg in the middle of the towel and box, then wrap the towel around the egg covering it completely. This helps to keep the heat and humidity trapped in the egg.
- Get a 40-watt bulb light and place it right next to your box allowing it to shine directly onto the towel-wrapped egg.
How Long Can Duck Eggs Sit Before Incubation?Duck eggs can sit for about 7 days before incubating them, however, it’s important to note that for the best results they should be incubated within 1 to 3 days.
Should I Wash My Duck Eggs Before Hatching?No – and it’s probably best not to. There is a special coating on the outside of eggs, and you could wash it away and put the developing duckling in danger.
Can Duck Eggs Hatch Under a Heat Lamp?Duck eggs can indeed hatch under a heat lamp as we discussed in the towel method for at-home incubation. However, the humidity level is super hard to control in that setup.
How Do You Tell if a Duck Egg is Fertile?Candling your eggs is the most effective way of seeing if your egg is fertile. If there are visible veins then the embryo may likely be alive.
Should You Mist Duck Eggs?You should mist your duck eggs regularly to ensure that humidity stays up and accurate.
Tips for Incubating Duck EggsHere are a few different tips that you can utilize for hatching and incubating duck eggs:
- Mist your eggs to help keep humidity at an appropriate level
- Mark your eggs on one side to help you with the rotation of your eggs
- Candle your eggs regularly to check how development is going through the process
- Turn on the incubator 1 to 2 days before placing eggs in so that it’s ready and warmed up for them