If you raise ducks, you already know that the most magical time in the whole process is waiting on those eggs to hatch.
The excitement, the anticipation, and the simple joy and wonder of the circle of life, endlessly turning. No matter how many times you go through it never loses its charm.
But if you are new to keeping ducks there is a lot to know and a lot to do if you want to see a successful hatching. The first thing you need to know is how long you should expect it to take for your eggs to hatch.
Timing is everything, and you’ll need to ensure benchmarks are met throughout the process. So, how long does it take for a duck egg to hatch?
Duck eggs can take anywhere from 28 to 35 days to hatch, depending on the breed of duck and the conditions under which they are incubated.
Though there is some variation in the timetable, you can rely on a healthy, viable duckling to hatch from its egg in that period of time, though as always there are a few exceptions.
If you want to learn more about the process we can tell you more below.
What is the Usual Incubation Period for Duck Eggs?
On average, it will take a duck egg 28-35 days to hatch. This can vary depending on the breed of duck and the conditions they are incubated in.
In all cases, some ducks might hatch a little earlier, or slightly later, but no more than a couple of days either way. Any eggs that are way overdue are probably not viable.
What are the Best Conditions for Incubating a Duck Egg?
The ideal incubation temperature for duck eggs is 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the temperature is too high, it will stop the development of the embryo. If the temperature is too low, it will not develop properly either and may even die off.
The humidity level is also important for proper incubation. Too much humidity will cause the eggshell to soften and the developing embryo will drown.
Not enough humidity will cause the eggshell to dry out and the embryo will dehydrate and die.
The ideal humidity level for hatching duck eggs is 55% until the final stages of incubation when it will be adjusted.
What About Duck Eggs That Take Longer to Hatch?
As we mentioned before, on average it takes 28 to 35 days for a duck egg to hatch.
If your eggs are taking longer than that, they may not be viable. If they are taking longer than, say, 40 days, then they are almost definitely not going to hatch.
However, there are a few reasons why an egg might take a little longer than usual to hatch. One reason could be that the egg was infertile to begin with and was never going to hatch.
Another possibility is that the egg was damaged in some way or was not incubated under optimal conditions.
If the temperature was slightly too low or the humidity was slightly too high, for example, this could cause the egg to take longer to hatch though the duckling could still be totally healthy and viable.
If you are concerned that your eggs are taking too long to hatch, it is best to consult with a duck expert or a vet. They will be able to give you more specific advice on what to do and whether or not your eggs are still viable.
Is Incubation Longer or Shorter in an Incubator?
Incubation will take the same amount of time in an incubator or when being hatched under a brooding hen, all things being equal.
However, it is easier to maintain the ideal temperature and humidity levels in an incubator so you may see slightly more consistency across all metrics in assisted versus natural hatching.
Does a Brooding Hen Make Any Difference in the Success Rate of the Hatching?
Sometimes. Though nature has refined the process of a hen hatching her eggs to a near-exact science, there are still some risks inherent in any hatching process, whether natural or assisted.
In the wild, a hen may accidentally crush her eggs when moving them or due to issues with her nest. Or, a predator could attack the nest and eat the eggs.
The weather could take a turn for the worse and make it too cold or wet for the hen to properly incubate her eggs.
These are just a few of the dangers that can occur during natural hatching that might not happen if you were using an incubator.
Now, in domestic settings hens usually have it quite easy compared to out in the wild, but there is still more variability than with a man-made incubator.
On the other hand, sometimes things can go wrong when using an incubator as well.
The temperature or humidity levels might fluctuate due to human error or mechanical failure and cause problems for the developing embryos.
The power might go out and totally derail the process. So, there are pros and cons to both methods.
In the end, it really comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the more natural method of hatching eggs under a brooding hen while others prefer the greater control they have with an incubator.
There is no right or wrong answer, as long as the eggs are incubated properly and the ducklings are healthy in the end, and in that regard, both methods definitely work.
Will a Properly Incubated Egg Always Hatch?
No, sadly. There is nothing for it, but not all eggs are viable, even if fertilized and even if incubated in picture-perfect conditions. This is just the nature of things.
For example, a duckling embryo needs to be turned a certain number of times during incubation in order for it to develop properly.
If an egg is not turned enough, the embryo will become deformed and will not hatch. Or, an egg may be damaged during the incubation process itself.
If an egg is cracked or broken in any way prior to hatching, even if it is only a small crack, the duckling will usually not survive.
Then there is the simple, brutal calculus that not all ducklings are strong enough to make it through the hatching process.
In the wild, only the fittest survive and this is also true to a degree when incubating eggs yourself.
Another cause of failed hatching is genetic defects, illnesses, and other abnormalities that make it impossible for a duckling to develop properly or hatch successfully.
Sadly, there is often no way to know for sure whether an egg is going to hatch until the day comes.
It is possible to candle eggs and spot certain indicators of loss or trouble ahead of time, but other times you can’t know for sure.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.