Incubating and Hatching Duck Eggs Resources


10 Years
Dec 30, 2010
Bureau County, Illinois
I am about to start incubating my first clutch of duck eggs from my flock hatched in June last year. I have doing a LOT of research here and on the web. I think BYC is fantastic, but I have run into a lot of dead ends when trying to search for tips on incubating DUCK eggs. Those lucky chicken people have an entire section dedicated to incubating and hatching, but Duck-centric topics are all lumped into one category. I know, I know...this is BYChicken, but a lot of people have mixed flocks and I can't be the only person on here who has a flock consisting only of ducks.
What I have learned is that incubating duck eggs is similar to incubating chicken eggs, but there are some special considerations to be taken for our cute little waterfowl friends (incubation time, orientation and turning of eggs, and especially humidity). I've searched on waterfowl-only forums, other homesteading forums, and basically anything that has popped up in my search engine. I would like to gather the best threads discussing duck incubation and related topics here and request a sticky in the Ducks forum for those searching like me.

Please contribute your link suggestions (ducks only) in this thread and I'll link them here:

Incubation of Duck Eggs: (also in second post below, best in clarity, completeness, and accuracy IMO)
Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine-Duck Research Lab "Hatching Duck Eggs"

Candling Eggs:
Metzer Farms Candling Series (duck eggs day 1-28)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Candling general info page (geared toward 4-H and classroom incubation)
Pics of Candled Eggs, U of N: “Winner”, “Quitter”, “Yolker”
University of Illinois Extension “Constructing a Candler”
Diagram of air cell size/growth courtesy of (I think the days correspond to chick incubation now that I look closer--anyone know of a diagram for duck eggs?)

Happy Hatching!!
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10 Years
Dec 30, 2010
Bureau County, Illinois
To start, this idea came to me last night when I found a wonderful page on Metzer Farms' website that clearly and concisely hits all of the major points on incubating duck eggs that I'd gleaned from my earlier research. I thought, "Why couldn't I easily find something like that on BYC?" The page is
Farms has a wealth of information on raising ducks and geese on their site, including a very interesting blog written by John Metzer. They only breed ducks, geese, and certain gamefowl, so you won't find information pertaining to chickens

I wanted to share it with duck newbies and anyone having difficulty with their duck hatches. I've paraphrased the article below. There are some great reference links within the article, such as candling pics from every day of incubation, and has lots of precise information while still being easy to read. This article also seems to sum up the tips I've read attributed to Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks by John Holderread, widely accepted as the authority on raising waterfowl.

I have condensed the article a bit below, but please go to the source page if something seems unclear...I'll be printing it out to keep next to my incubator

Metzer Farms "Incubating and Hatching Duck Eggs" web page (edited):

The incubation and hatching of duck and is not a difficult experience and can be very rewarding. Besides the information below, there is valuable incubation information elsewhere on our website. If you candle your eggs, you can compare their progress with the pictures we have of duck eggs for every day of incubation in our Egg Candling Series .

For more information on single stage incubation, which is the procedure we use to incubate all of our eggs, please read our article, Single Stage Incubation .

When incubating eggs, it is important you use an accurate incubator. Incubators are made to handle anywhere from 2-50,000 eggs.
You will have two decisions to make in your purchase:
1) Do you want a fan? For the smallest incubators, this is not important.
2) Do you want an automatic turner? If you expect to use the machine many times, this would be advisable.
Once you obtain an incubator, it is important you follow all directions supplied with the machine.

[... After] 14 days of the laying date [hatchability decreases in fertile eggs...] Following are the conditions recommended for incubation and hatching:

Incubation Hatching
Day 1 - 25 Day 26 - 28
Temperature 99.5 98.5
Humidity 86 94
Turns Per Day 3 - 7 0

If your incubator does not have a fan, measure the temperature half way up the side of the egg. Without a fan, the warm air rises and you will get a false reading if you place your thermometer on top of the eggs.

The humidity reading is by wet bulb. You can make your own wet bulb by placing the end of a short, hollow shoestring over the end of a thermometer. Place the other end in a container of water and put it all in the incubator. As the water evaporates from the cloth, the thermometer is cooled. If the air is very dry, much water evaporates from the cloth, cooling the thermometer. If the air is very humid, less evaporates which cools the thermometer less and a higher temperature is recorded. You can adjust the humidity by increasing the amount of water in the incubator or reducing ventilation.

Turning is most critical the first week of incubation. The more often you do it, the better. Commercial incubators do it every hour. If you do not have an automatic turner, it is important you turn the eggs an odd number of times each day. This is important so you do not leave the eggs in the same position each night which is the longest period of time they go without turning each day. Just draw a line on the eggs. When you turn the eggs, the line should either be on the top or the bottom of the egg. Most eggs are incubated on their sides in small incubators. If they are raised at all, it is important that the large end with the air sac be up.

Sometimes it is recommended to spray waterfowl eggs daily. This is best done after two weeks of incubation. Open the incubator so the eggs cool. If you have an infrared temperature gun, cool them until the shell surface reaches 86 degrees. If you do not have a way to accurately read the temperature, hold the egg to your eyelid. If it feels warm it needs more cooling, if it feels neutral you are done cooling, if it feels cool you have cooled too long. Then you can spray the eggs with room temperature water and cover the incubator. It should be able to warm up in about the same amount of time you cooled the eggs. At times this can be of benefit. If you do it, start at day 7 and do not spray after day 25. The actual consequences of spraying is interesting. It changes the membrane of the egg so a greater percentage of moisture is lost during incubation. Ideally a duck egg loses about 13% of its weight between the time it is laid and day 25 of incubation. Losing significantly more or less than this reduces hatchability.

There are two common methods of measuring humidity: wet bulb and relative humidity. If you go to you can convert from one to the other. The only additional factor that relative humidity requires is air pressure. You can probably look up your air pressure on your local television station’s web site or use an average of about 30 inches mercury. This is only for estimating purposes, you should determine your average air pressure if you are dealing in relative humidity.

Many people want to help the ducklings hatch. It is best to allow them to do the hatching themselves. The only time you want to help them is when they make a hole and then cannot progress because they get stuck in that spot. If an actual hole is made and you can see the duckling, but no progress is made for 12 hours, you can gingerly help the duckling. If blood appears where you break pieces of the shell off, stop and wait several hours. If the duckling gets stuck after it has started to break a circle around the egg, it can usually be helped without a problem. But if they are progressing on their own, do not help them.

It is important that the incubator not get too warm or too cold as it will affect the eggs. Several hours of too high a temperature is more dangerous than several hours of too cool a temperature. If your electricity goes out or you must move your incubator, do not worry but watch that it does not become too warm. If the temperature starts to rise, open the lid to allow more ventilation.

The length of incubation time varies. For Mallards it is about 26.5-27 days. For Runners it is 28.5 days. All others are about 28 days. If your eggs are old or the incubator is cool, incubation takes longer. If it is too warm, incubation will be completed sooner.

Eggs can be held for a week before incubation without a problem. The ideal holding temperature is about 60 degrees. A refrigerator is too cold. Development of the embryo only starts when the egg is rewarmed to the correct temperature.

Sometimes a duck makes a nest but fills it too full of eggs before she starts to set. Until she starts setting you want to have the freshest eggs in her nest. As the eggs are laid, mark the date they are laid on each egg. If the nest gets full, take the oldest egg out whenever she lays another egg. Using this method you know she will have the freshest eggs once she starts setting.

For more detailed information on solving incubation and hatching problems, please visit an excellent site produced by the Avian Science Department of the University of California. It has excellent pictures, definitions, explanations of problems and solutions.

UC Avian Science Department

[end of article]

I'd like to point out: odd number of turns and how important frequent turning is the first five days, the higher humidity for duck eggs and that the humidity percentages given are wet bulb measurements (a link to a site with conversions to relative humidity is provided), the cool-down and misting techniques (not everyone does this), and that most small hatches are done with duck eggs on their sides (large end up if tilted at all).

I plan to add some backup sources for turning, reliable thermometer/hygrometers, etc. when I have a little more time to make this a well-rounded resource for hatching duck eggs. I hope this helps someone hatch out a few more quackers
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10 Years
Jan 11, 2010
Fantastic - and making it into a sticky is a wonderful idea since there is nothing of the type there now- and very handy heading into spring right now.

This is a site I sometimes recommend to people for the candling photos. I do have a few others bookmarked on other computers as well- so can add more later once I have had time to remind myself of the sites and if they will be helpful.

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