Some ducks will lay and sit on their eggs quite well, but there are a great number that do not.
For example, you will almost never see Pekin Ducks sitting on their eggs.
This is where incubators come in!
Hatching duck eggs is an incredibly rewarding process. Those who have hatched chicken eggs in the past should be well accustomed to the hatching process and should not have to make too many alterations to hatch duck eggs.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about hatching your own ducklings using an incubator…
Contents and Quick Navigation
What Do You Need Before You Start?
Before you start hatching duck eggs you will need a few pieces of equipment.
An infrared thermometer is useful for measuring egg temperatures during cooling periods.
You will also need a warm and well protected brooder box ready for when your ducks hatch.
Next up, you will need fertile duck eggs.
If possible, it would be best to use your own fertile eggs. If this is not possible then consider ordering eggs from a reputable breeder or hatchery. You could also drive up to a local farm and hand-pick them yourself in some cases.
Keep in mind that eggs that have been shipped experience fluctuations in temperature as well as a great deal of jostling and as a result have a lower hatch rate.
Hatching rate declines with every day the egg is not incubated starting from the day it was laid up until the seventh day — at this point your duck eggs will no longer be viable.
Make sure not to wash your eggs.
Instead, you should store your eggs pointed downwards and at a slight angle in a cool location (around 60ºF) until you are ready to place them in the incubator.
To summarise, you will need the following equipment:
- Fertile Duck Eggs
- Infrared Thermometers (Optional)
Breed Hatch List Timescales
Different breeds of ducks can have different hatching times which can be confusing for first timers looking to hatch their own ducks.
Use our duck egg incubation chart below to see how long duck eggs take to hatch.
|Khaki Campbell||23-28 Days|
|Crested Duck||28 Days|
|Buff Orpington||28 Days|
|Swedish Duck||28 Days|
How To Set Up An Incubator
Before you start to incubate your duck eggs, you will need to set up your incubator.
You will need to incubate your duck eggs at different temperatures than chicken eggs.
Your duck eggs will need to be kept between 99.3-99.6ºF.
Also they will need to be incubated for longer than chicken eggs. Duck eggs need to be incubated for around 28 days. You should keep the humidity of the incubator between 44 and 55% for the first 25 days and then increase it to 65% for your ducks’ final 3 days in incubation.
Although some incubators have automatic turners, some do not. If you plan to manually turn your eggs then keep in mind that they should be turned 180º from side to side 5 times a day at the very least. This is crucial for a successful hatch and prevents your duck embryos from getting stuck to the inside of the shell.
By continuing the process of turning, incubating, and maintaining humidity you are giving your duck eggs the optimal environment to grow and develop.
You should set up your incubator with these specific settings in an area without direct sunlight or any strong drafts. The best place would be in a room with constant humidity and temperature levels. Keeping these conditions stable will give you the best chance of a successful hatch.
Allow your incubator 1-2 days to stabilize before setting your eggs.
How To Incubate Duck Eggs
Day 0: Set the Eggs
Once you are ready to set your eggs, you should mark one side of your duck eggs using a pencil to serve as a guide if you need to turn your eggs manually.
Whilst you are marking them you can also candle them.
Candling your eggs before placing them in the incubator will make sure that none of your duck eggs have any hairline cracks. Those that do should be discarded and not incubated. Candling can be done by flashing a regular flashlight through the shell and cupping your hand around the beam.
Next, place your duck eggs with the wide end pointing up in the incubator.
Make sure your incubator is in a quiet environment away from direct sunlight.
Duck eggs should be incubated between 99.3-99.6ºF for the full 28 days.
|Set Day (0)||99.5ºF||55%|
|25 (for ducks hatching on Day 28)||99ºF||65%|
|Hatch Day (28)||99ºF||80%|
|End of hatch||97ºF||70%|
Turning your duck eggs is the most crucial task during the first week of their incubation.
The more you do it the higher your hatching rate should be.
Turn your eggs an odd number of times every day so that each night (the longest period of time they go unturned) they will be alternating different sides. At a minimum, duck eggs should be turned 5-7 times a day, either by hand or automatically.
At around day 5 you should candle them.
Candling should show some veining and slight development if your eggs are fertile and contain viable duckling embryos.
At day 10, candling should reveal an expansion of the air sac.
Starting on day 10 you should also cool the eggs for 30 minutes and even spray them with water. Carefully check to make sure your duck eggs do not dip below 86ºF during these cooling periods. Finish the cooling process off by spraying your eggs with room temperature water. This action replicates when the mother duck leaves her nest for a brief period of time each day.
At day 23 you should stop turning the eggs.
This process of spraying and cooling should be stopped by day 25.
At this point the ducklings will maneuver themselves into a hatch position and should remain untouched from here on out. By day 28, if all went well, you should see some pips!
Day 28: Hatch Day
At this point you need to increase the incubator’s humidity to 80% and increase the ventilation.
Avoid opening the incubator once the ducklings begin to hatch as this can allow humidity to escape and makes the hatching process more difficult for them.
Most hatching issues for ducklings arise from humidity issues so this step is crucial.
The whole hatching process can take up to 48 hours, if not longer. Ducklings will take many breaks so have patience.
Ducklings that cannot make it out of their shells themselves should not be helped. Oftentimes if these ducklings are helped, they grow slower and risk being trampled by their siblings. Additionally, ducklings helped out of their shell do not always have waterproof feathers and risk catching a chill.
As the hatching process begins to finish, the temperature and humidity should be gradually lowered so that the temperature is at 97ºF, and the humidity is at 70%.
Ducklings should be removed from the incubator once the majority are dry and then placed in a heated brooder with food and water.
5 Tips For A Successful Hatch
- You can collect and store duck eggs for up to 10 days, but hatchability decreases 0.5-1.5% each day following the 7th day. The longer your eggs are stored the lower the hatching rate goes. Make sure to put your eggs in the incubator before they are seven days old.
- Do not help ducklings that have not hatched after 48 hours unless you are sure that they are in distress. Remember that ducklings take many breaks when hatching and can take up to two days to finish hatching. Helping a duckling hatch could mean having to give extra care to that duck for the duration of their life.
- The most common mistake first time duck owners make when incubating duck eggs is lowering the humidity while their ducklings are trying to hatch. This can make hatching extremely difficult and even fatal for the ducklings. Do not open the incubator once you notice pipping in your duck eggs.
- Make sure your incubator is duck friendly. Some incubators simply do not have the capacity for duck eggs. While traditional incubators can comfortably house chicken eggs, duck eggs are much larger and need more space. If you plan to hatch multiple ducklings, consider purchasing a new incubator that can hold duck eggs.
- Do not be discouraged. First time duckling hatchers typically average a 50/50 hatch success rate. Even the most experienced duck hatchers do not have 100% success rates or even success rates in the 90s. At the end of the day, successful hatching rates will be lower for ducklings than they are for chicks.
Moving Ducklings To A Brooder
After hatching your new ducklings should stay in the incubator for 24 hours as they dry off.
During this time they do not need any food or water as they will use the yolk they absorbed from the egg before hatching.
You can use this time to make a warm and well protected brooder to transfer them into once the majority have dried.
A clear, plastic storage bin will work just fine as a brooder box for your ducklings.
You can use a 60–75-watt light bulb as a source of heat for your new ducklings.
Bedding can be anything from an old bath towel to a piece of cloth or an old T-shirt. You need to make sure that your ducklings are not slipping and sliding around during their first few weeks of their life so their legs develop properly.
Those who have a flock of backyard chickens and have hatched chicks can reuse unmedicated chick crumbs or waterfowl starter crumbs for their new ducklings. They can eat this feed until they reach 3 weeks of age, when they should be weaned off and given grower pellets.
Ducklings can and should be allowed to eat as much as they want and feed should always be made available as well as water.
They need a lot of water along with their food though caution should be taken as baby ducks can drown in even small amounts of water. As with adults, your ducklings’ water will get dirty pretty quickly and should be changed frequently.
Keep in mind that baby ducks love to splash around in water and will need their bedding changed frequently too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my duckling has peeped but is not making any progress?
Ducklings that have peeped but not hatched should be given up to 48 hours to make progress. If your duckling has not hatched by the 48 hour mark, that duckling may have some underlying health issues. It is not recommended to help a duckling that has peeped but has not made any progress in hatching after 48 hours.
Can duck eggs hatch without an incubator?
Duck mothers can be pretty finicky when it comes to going broody but they have successfully been hatching eggs without incubators for centuries.
What is the success rate of hatching duck eggs?
You should expect a success rate of 50% when hatching duck eggs for the first time.
Although this number is significantly lower than chicken eggs, try not to get too discouraged. Duck eggs are difficult to hatch as they require very specific conditions. Even experienced duck egg hatchers rarely achieved a 90% successful hatch rate.
What if my duck eggs are not hatching after 38 days?
Ducklings should hatch after 1-2 days of peeping.
Ducks that have not hatched by this point are at risk of developing health conditions that will require extra care throughout their life if they are helped through the hatching process. Normally, duck eggs that have not hatched after 38 days should be discarded.
Incubating and hatching duck eggs is certainly more difficult than hatching chicken eggs.
Unlike chicken eggs, it is important to keep in mind that not all duck breeds take the same amount of time to hatch. Some take longer than others and these times should be considered before discarding any duck eggs that have not hatched.
Ducklings are a great addition to any backyard chicken flock and hatching these ducklings yourself is half the fun.
As always, doing lots of research before you start the hatching process will only help you and can even increase the hatching rate.
Let us know any questions in the comments section below…