Call Duck Eggs: Artifical Versus Natural Incubation


Ozark Bantams
12 Years
Apr 11, 2007
Southeast Missouri
As I mentioned in a previous post, my white calls began laying last week. Since then I've gather 7 call duck eggs in the past 10 days. So this evening I decided to set them in the incubator, a Brinsea Mini Advance. This will be my first time incubating call duck eggs artificially. I normally give the eggs to my cochin bantam hens to hatch. I really think this is the most reliable method and will result in better hatch rates. Last year, for example, I gave one of my cochin hens 6 call duck eggs to incubate naturally. All 6 of those eggs developed right up to the time of hatch, and then 5 ultimately ended up hatching. That's almost an 85% hatch rate, which isn't bad at all. I know that a lot of people have difficulty hatching call duck eggs. Nonetheless, I wanted to try my hand at artificial incubation of call duck eggs at least once this year. It will be interesting to see what kind of hatch rate I can get with my Brinsea. The temperature is set to 99.5F and I've got relative humidity at 50%. My Brinsea has an auto-turner. Unlike many auto-turners, the eggs set and are turned on their side. I've heard several people mention that they believe that manual turning is best for call duck eggs, but I am skeptical of that: a turned egg is a turned egg regardless if it is done by a person or a machine. I do believe, however, that the vertical egg position of most turners is less ideal than the horizontal position (i.e. the eggs laying on their side). The horizontal egg position imitates nature. And I think that explains why some people have better luck hatching call duck eggs with manual turning. In other words, its not actually the manual turning of the egg but the horizontal egg position that get better hatch results. That's just my opinion though. At any rate, if all goes well, the call duck eggs are scheduled to hatch in 26-27 days from this evening. My Brinsea incubator is pretty much set-n-go, so I don't plan to do much to the eggs until a few days before hatch. I do plan to candle on day 7, then again on day 14 or so. On day 24, auto-turning will automatically stop and I'll increase humidity to around 65%. Obviously, I'll post updates. It will be interesting to see if I can get close to the 85% that my cochin hen got last spring. Wish me luck!
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Good duckluck to ya!
Well, yeah...what you are saying about turning is really common sense (not that sense is really common, LOL). It is almost certainly the position of the egg, not the hand turning itself. I have noticed that myself. Most auto turners tilt the eggs back and forth in a vertical position. With duck eggs, I have consistently had better luck with turners that roll the eggs in a horizontal position. I used to have a Turn- X that did that and then later, a Grumbach. I had better hatches with those than with the incubators that have turners that tilt the eggs.

You are probably right in that it is simply that waterfowl eggs can be harder to hatch, so the incubator needs to give the most natural environment possible. I do hatch mine at a higher humidity than you are saying though. I usually do about 65% for most of incubation and then bump it up all the way to about 85%. Of course, I live in a very dry environment and also at a higher altitude. I also frequently wash the eggs as well because I hatch Runners and bantam ducks together. Usually, the bantam eggs are clean because they will use the nests. My Runner eggs though are frequently dirty because the silly girls will lay them anywhere, LOL! I don't like to introduce bacteria into the incubators nor have a separate one for large breeds, so that affects the humidity setting as well (washed eggs do better with higher humidity).
Good Luck Scott! My daughter and I just set 12 call duck eggs in our incubator on Saturday. We originally set them in the yellow automatic turner that tilts the eggs. We heard from many on this site to take them out and hand turn. They were taken out early on Sunday. Now we are handturning and hoping for a good hatch.

Vicki & Jaime
good luck hatching Scott ,I wish I could have a setting hen like you but alas cant have no chickens in the city.I have to incubate. I use auto turning and hand turning when I open the incubator to mist the eggs(3 to8 times a day)I agree with with you and citychickers thinking. All I try to do is imitate the momma duck. I cant beat them! But if I want extra babies to friends and offset my feed bill gotta run the bators.
oh BTW I also think you should bump the humidity up some
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Well, then ours will be hatching at about the same time. What kind of incubator are you using? What is your humidity?
Well, then ours will be hatching at about the same time. What kind of incubator are you using? What is your humidity?

We are using a Genesis Hova Bator. Our humididty is hovering around 60%.

Vicki & Jaime
Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks that difficulty in hatching duck eggs is the result of the eggs being set vertically. This is from the Acorn Hollow Bantams web site:

Q. I am having very poor hatches of duck eggs in my classroom incubator. It is a forced air styrofoam machine with an automatic turner.

A. Assuming that you have the temperature set properly and are providing the proper amount of moisture for the eggs, the problem is almost surely the use of the automatic turning device. Such turners do not rotate the eggs from one side to the opposite side. Neither do they position the eggs properly for waterfowl, which is on their sides. Lay the eggs on their sides and hand turn the eggs 180 degrees at lest twice each day and your hatches should improve. You will probably have to remove the turning device in order to do that. All of the above information applies equally as well to goose eggs.​
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This begs the question of if there were ever any incubators designed specifically for waterfowl in particular, with other birds as an afterthought. You would think there would be.

I'll have to ask Don that one when we talk next; the only one I have heard referred to as having anything to do specifically with waterfowl is the Humidaire "Gooser", though I am not sure if they named it that or if it was a moniker applied by users that caught on because they found it useful for geese. Another one for the Q&A banter.

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