We all know ducks are amazing pets and hatching their eggs can be quite exciting and a wonderful experience –if done right. There’s nothing like seeing those little beaks break open the eggs and witnessing a beautiful little duck take their first steps into the world. But in order to see that, what are the steps that you should take? Please note the information contained in this article is our recommendation of the conditions to hatch ducks and geese and it’s not meant to take the place of the instructions of your incubator.
Receipt and Initial Care
Once you buy eggs they’ll usually be shipped less than 1 day old. You can store them for about 5 to 7 days and it is best to store fertile eggs at about 60°F. Please remember: you’re not to refrigerate fertile eggs for hatching. Once the egg is warmed to the correct temperature for incubation the embryo will begin to develop!
Once you have received your duck eggs it is time to put them in the incubator. Throughout the process remember to keep your incubator clean and disinfected to eliminate the possibility of bacteria growth and monitor it closely.
- For incubation days 1-25, we recommend a temperature of 99.5°F for forced air incubators. For incubation days 26-28, reduce the temperature by 1°F.
- If your incubator doesn’t have a fan, the temperature should be about 1-1.5°F higher. Contact your incubator manufacturer for an exact recommendation.
- To measure humidity, use a wet-bulb thermometer. To easily construct a wet-bulb thermometer, take a short, hollow piece of shoestring and place it over the bulb of a thermometer. Take the other end of the shoestring and place it in a container of water in the incubator.
- For incubation days 1-25, we recommend a humidity (or wet-bulb temperature) of 86.0°F.
- Once you reach days 26-28, we recommend you keep the humidity at 94.0°F.
- With drier air, water will evaporate from the wet cloth, cooling the air throughout the hollow shoestring and around the thermometer bulb. If the temperature is lower than recommended, the incubator air is too dry.
- With moister air, less water will evaporate throughout the shoestring and around the thermometer bulb, yielding a relatively higher temperature.
- To increase humidity, add more water to the incubator or close the incubator’s ventilation holes.
- To decrease humidity, open the incubators ventilation holes.
Once your eggs have been incubated for 7 days you can candle them to monitor growth and discard infertile or rotten eggs. Candling eggs is easy, simply hold them up to a flashlight in a dark room. What you’re looking for are blood veins going from the interior of the egg to the air sac. If you do not see veins, then the embryo may have died. On the other hand, if you have an egg that is dark or blotchy inside, it may have bacterial growth and should not be returned to the incubator, as it can affect other eggs.
If you want to see what they should look for check this chart by the Wild Life Rehabber on the development of a mallard egg.
Turning your eggs periodically is critical, especially during the first week of incubation. If your incubator is not equipped with an automatic egg turner, you should turn your eggs 3-7 times per day during incubation days 1-25. Once you reach incubation days 26-28, do not turn the eggs at all. Remember to always turn the eggs an odd number of times per day. This is to prevent the eggs from consistently being in the same orientation when you sleep, which will be the longest period in between turns. To keep track of the rotations simply mark one side of the egg with a line and have a small chart next to them, that way you’ll be able to easily track where you’re at.
Smaller incubators will usually incubate eggs on their side (as opposed to upright). If your incubator does have the egg sit with one end higher than the other, it is important that the large end be upward (which will keep the air sac positioned correctly).
Egg Cooling and Spraying
While this practice is a matter of personal preference, we’ve found many breeders believeing that there is a benefit to cooling and spraying eggs daily during incubation. If you want to practice cooling and spraying, only do it during incubation days 7-25. When cooling, allow the eggs to drop down to 86°F. You can tell the temperature using an infrared temperature gun. You can also determine the temperature by holding the egg to your eyelid. An eyelid will be at about 86°F, thus if an egg feels warm to the touch, you can cool the eggs longer. You will know that the egg has cooled appropriately when it does not feel warm or cool to the touch.
The eggs should be able to return to their incubation temperature (99.5°F), in about the same amount of time as it took them to cool. After you’ve allowed the eggs to cool, sprinkle them with room temperature water and shut the incubator.
- When the birds are hatching, do not help them get out of their shells. However, if a bird has made a hole in its shell, and hasn’t made any progress hatching for 12 hours, then you can carefully assist.
- Do not allow the incubator to get too warm or too cold. A prolonged period of eggs being too hot is worse than too cold.
- Incubation times will vary by conditions, but generally Mallards take 26.5-27 days, Runners take 28.5 days, and others breeds will take 28 days.
We hope this guide has helped you learn how to incubate duck eggs. Please remember, even in professional settings hatching rates will be about 70-75%. Our customers normally have hatch rates of about 20-60%. Don’t get discouraged it you have a poor hatch. Just make sure you’re doing everything you can so those eggs can hatch some beautiful little ducklings!
Are you ready to start? Go get your eggs now!