Duck Egg Hatching Guide
Hatching your own duck eggs instead of buying ducklings can be an extremely exciting and rewarding experience. Hatching ducklings using an incubator is a bit more challenging than hatching chicken eggs. Therefore, I would recommend having some success with hatching chicken eggs before you attempt to hatch duck eggs for the first time.
Longer Incubation Time
The first difference to note between hatching duck eggs versus chicken eggs is the longer incubation time. Ducks take on average 28 days to hatch. Some breeders of bantam duck breeds (Call ducks and Black East Indies) report that these smaller ducks may hatch in 26 days on average. My own experience with hatching Black East Indies is that they indeed do hatch on average at 26 days. The Muscovy breed would be another exception to the 28-day incubation for ducks. Muscovy ducklings may take up to 37 days to hatch with the average being 35 days.
The second difference between hatching duck eggs versus chicken eggs is the need for more humidity while incubating. Waterfowl have an affinity for water, so it stands to reason that duck eggs would require a higher humidity during incubation. Eggs under a broody duck would need to withstand her hopping off the nest to take a quick swim, then getting back on the nest while soaking wet. Duck eggs have a thicker shell and heavier bloom to protect them from wet conditions, unlike chicken eggs that would rarely experience wet conditions.
During the first 25 days, keep the humidity between 55-58% relative humidity. For days 26-28 while the ducklings are hatching, the relative humidity needs to increase to 80-82%. It is very important to not open the incubator during the final 3 days while the ducklings hatch. Opening it during this time will allow the humidity to escape and can cause the ducklings to become “shrink-wrapped” in the shell membranes. This will prevent the ducklings from being able to progress with the hatching process and they may likely die.
Duck eggs being incubated in an incubator often have better hatching rates if allowed to experience a cooling period each day during incubation. Some more advanced incubators, such as the Brinsea models, have an automatic cooling period each day that can be programmed. But you may also simulate this cooling period by unplugging your incubator each day for 15 to 30 minutes. Just don’t forget to plug it back in! The reasoning behind this daily cooling period is that it simulates the mother duck getting off of the nest briefly for a swim and a bite to eat.
Slower To Hatch
During the actual hatching process, ducklings usually take much longer to pip and hatch than chicks do. Do not be alarmed if a duckling pips the shell, then takes a long rest period before continuing to unzip the shell and complete the hatching process.
With a little extra attention to the incubator’s internal environment, you can successfully hatch duck eggs using an incubator. Have you hatched duck eggs? If so, leave us a comment below and tell us about your experience.
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