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How Long Does it Take for Duck Eggs to Hatch?

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Do you have ducks? It can be fun to hear a bunch of quack-quacks in your backyard!

Aside from enjoying ducks for their quirky behaviors and the various products you get from them, your ducks will sooner or later lay eggs.

What should you do with duck eggs? Will the eggs hatch?

If so, how long does it take for duck eggs to hatch?

The average duration for duck eggs to hatch is 28 days. Some breeds, however, can take longer.

Several ducks rest

How does the breed of a duck affect the duration of the egg incubation period? Can you incubate duck eggs by yourself? Continue reading.

How Long Does it Take to Incubate Duck Eggs?

It takes duck eggs an average of 28 days to hatch. The duration, however, depends on various factors. Let us discuss some of the factors that affect the duck egg incubation period.

What Affects Duck Egg Incubation Period?

Consider the following:

1. Breed

While the eggs of Pekin ducks and other breeds take an average of 28 days to hatch, Muscovy duck eggs can develop for 35 days before hatching. Why is this?

If you study the evolutionary history of the various duck breeds, you’d notice that Muscovy ducks have a relatively distinct ancestor. The evolution of Muscovy ducks is the reason behind the delayed egg incubation period.

2. Temperature and Humidity

Duck eggs rely heavily on temperature to develop and hatch.

The average temperature needed for duck eggs to develop is 99.5°F (37.5°C).

They also need a relative humidity of 55% (84.5°F for wet bulbs).

If you are incubating the eggs with an incubator, the ventilation also matters. Set the ventilation according to the instructions from the manufacturer of the incubator.

Duck eggs kept in temperatures, humidity, and ventilation lower than what is needed will develop slowly and have an extended incubation period.

3. How Quickly the Mother Sits on Her Eggs

Duck incubator her eggs

Something that makes a lot of homesteaders worried is seeing eggs unattended to by their mother. Well, you should know that mother ducks can lay their eggs and go search for food. Females also know how many eggs are on the way, so she typically wants to lay every egg before she starts to incubate them.

According to a study by Cornell University, there is an average egg loss of 3% when the mother duck waits more than 7 days to start the incubation period. There is also an average egg loss of 10% for eggs waiting more than 14 days to be incubated.

As you can see, several factors affect the incubation period of eggs. What if you do not want to wait for the mother duck and want to incubate the eggs using an incubator? Continue reading.

Incubating Duck Eggs Using an Incubator

The use of incubators is a safe and efficient way to make sure that more of your eggs hatch and are incubated early.

Follow the steps below to incubate your duck eggs:

  1. Place the Incubator in an Ideal Location: It should not be close to a heat source or a place with fluctuating temperatures. It should also be on a stable and level surface.
  2. Warm the Incubator Before Inserting the Eggs: It should be 98°F for 1 hour at least.
  3. Pour Water Into the Incubator: Be careful when pouring water into the incubator well or specified place for water.
  4. Place the Eggs in the Incubator: The narrow or pointed side should face down.
  5. Turn the Eggs: More descriptions about this will be given later.
  6. Stop Rotating the Eggs 3-5 Days before Their Expected Hatching Dates: This will help your ducklings locate the best spot to pip when they are ready.
  7. Disinfect the Incubator after Each Use: Duck eggs can carry some germs and bacteria. You should clean the incubator before storing or reusing it.

Incubating eggs is easy, right?

Tips for Using Incubators to Incubate Your Duck Eggs

Here are helpful tips for you:

1. Use Incubators with Automatic Turners

incubating the duck's eggs

Automatic turners are arms or trays within incubators. With automatic turners, you do not have to open the incubator to turn the eggs. Also, automatic turners can turn your duck eggs every hour.

Why should you turn duck eggs?

You should turn and rotate duck eggs to expose every angle of the egg to the needed temperature so that each region of the egg develops at the same speed.

How do you turn duck eggs? Since you should not open your incubator every hour to turn the eggs, you should turn the eggs at least 4 times daily.

As an extra tip, you can mark the eggs with “X” and “O” on opposite sides to know what side should be turned next.

Make sure that the pointed side does not stop facing down (vertically or diagonally).

2. Do Not Help Your Hatching Ducklings to Open Their Eggs

a newly hatched duckling

When you hear your ducklings pip their shells, you may be tempted to help them. You should not help them because you can hurt them in the process.

It is natural for ducklings to get exhausted and rest in the egg after pipping it.

You should wait for at least 48 hours before you help your ducklings to open the eggs. A waiting period of 48 hours ensures that the ducklings are fully developed and have absorbed all of the nutrients.

3. Take the Eggs to a Warm Brooder Box or Hatcher Before They Hatch

After their first pip, you should remove the eggs from the setting tray and take them to a hatching tray (if your incubator has one) or a warm brooder box.

The feet of your ducklings can get caught in the incubator’s rotating egg trays, so you need to remove them before they hatch.

The hatching tray of incubators has just the right amount of temperature and humidity needed by your ducklings. It is not necessary to turn them here.

If you want to use a brooder box, make sure that the temperature is 99°F (37.2°C) and the humidity is 65% (88°F wet bulb).

Factors That Affect the Viability and Hatchability of Duck Eggs

Asides from the factors that affect the duration of duck egg incubation, there are other factors that you should consider.

1. Purebred or Hybrid?

Small Duckling Hatches From The Egg

The breed of the parents affects the hatchability of eggs. If the parents are the same breed, your eggs have higher chances of remaining viable and hatching.

If for example, another species of bird mates with your duck, your duck might lay eggs, but the eggs will not be fertile and therefore will not hatch.

2. State and Health of the Egg

Before inserting the eggs into an incubator, check the state of the eggs. Eggs that are deformed, have two yolks, are too large or small have lower chances of developing, so you should carefully examine the eggs.

3. Storage of Eggs

You may not incubate your duck eggs immediately after their mother lays them, but the temperature and humidity in the place you keep them matter a lot. You should store your duck eggs at 55°F (13°C) and 75% humidity. Storing them at a lower temperature can damage the eggs. If you store the eggs at a higher temperature, the development of the embryo can start but it will die off because the temperature is not high enough to sustain them.

Make sure you carefully store and examine your eggs.

Related Questions and Answers

I know that you have a lot of questions. Here are the answers:

1. How Do You Monitor the Development of the Embryo?

egg with chicken embryo inside

The best way to monitor the progress of your eggs is by candling them. To candle your eggs, lay them on a source of bright light. You may get any of the following observations:

  • Clear Embryo: If you carefully examine the egg and cannot see any growth after 2 weeks, it means that the egg is infertile and you should remove it.
  • Cloudy Embryo: If the inside of the egg is cloudy, it means that the duckling is dead and it has started to decay. You should remove it.
  • Network of Cell and Tissues: When you see a string-like network inside of the egg, you should carefully place the egg back into the incubator as the embryo is developing.

You should candle the eggs every week. Another way to know if your duck eggs are growing is by measuring their weight. The weight of the eggs should be reduced because air will gradually replace the water in the egg.

A weight loss of about 25% after 25 days is normal.

2. Why Is Your Duck Not Sitting On Her Eggs?

A mother duck guarding her eggs in the nest

Some ducks are bad mothers, others are good. One reason your duck does not sit on her eggs quickly is that she might be expecting other eggs. Ducks do not lay all their eggs at once, but they do start the incubation period of every egg at the same time.

If you give your duck time, she will sit on the eggs (if they are fertile). If, however, you cannot wait, you should use an incubator.

3. How Do Mother Ducks Treat Unhatched Eggs?

Ducks can tell if an egg is still viable or not. A mother duck will not abandon an unhatched viable egg. If the egg is not viable, however, a mother duck will leave the nest with the hatched ducklings.

4. Should You Leave the Eggs with Their Mother?

Some homesteaders leave the eggs with their mother. Others incubate the eggs by themselves. You should decide what you want and what works best for you.

Some things that you should consider are:

  • The Scale of Your Business: If you have a lot of ducks, it would be wise to incubate the eggs to keep track of your progress and also make sure that there are no mistakes in the process.
  • The Health of Your Ducks: Some ducks will not eat as much as they should when incubating eggs. If you remove the eggs, they will return to their normal life and even lay more eggs.
  • Your Purpose of Incubating the Eggs: If you are conducting research, you have to decide which is best for you between natural and artificial incubation.

You also need to consider how many eggs a duck can incubate at a time. Muscovy ducks, for example, can incubate 12-15 eggs at a time. What if there are more?

5. Can Chickens Incubate Duck Eggs?

Hens are incubating eggs in the nest

Chickens can incubate duck eggs (and vice versa). It is fun to see a mother hen watching over ducklings.

You can also feed chicks and ducklings with the same type of feed.

If you do not have an incubator and need a mother for your duck eggs, you can insert it into a chicken’s nest (with her eggs).

Final Thoughts

It will take an average of 28 days for your duck eggs to hatch. Muscovy duck eggs, however, need at least 35 days before they hatch.

Make sure that your eggs are in the right state before you incubate them. Also, ensure that the embryo is developing by candling the egg often.


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