The process of hatching duck eggs is almost similar to that of chicken eggs. You need fertilized duck eggs, a proper incubator and an incubator thermometer. Make sure that you purchase fertile eggs and the right incubator that is fit for hatching duck eggs. You must have enough patience, as it may take up to 35 days for duck eggs to hatch. While eggs of Pekin ducks take around 28 days to hatch, Muscovy duck eggs need 35 days for hatching.
Preparation for Hatching
You may purchase eggs of Pekin ducks or Muscovy ducks. Ensure that the eggs are of standard size and are freshly laid. It is always better to use eggs within three to four days from the date they were laid. The rate of hatchability reduces with the increasing storage time. Older eggs may also take longer to hatch. Avoid those which are unusually big or small, dirty ones, and those with cracks. The incubator to hatch duck eggs can either be built or bought ready-made. The setting trays of the incubator must be able to hold duck eggs, which are larger, as compared to chicken eggs. If you want to hatch a large quantity of eggs, you should go for large commercial incubators.
Start the incubator two days before placing the duck eggs. This is vital to stabilize the relevant temperature and humidity. Set the temperature and humidity levels at 99.5º F and 55% (84.5° F on wet bulb thermometer) respectively. Please check the instructions given by the incubator manufacturer for better results, as it has been observed that these settings vary with the type of incubator and different manufacturers. If you have stored the eggs in the refrigerator, take them out the night before placing them in the incubator. This is necessary to bring the eggs to room temperature.
Tips to Hatch Duck Eggs
- Place the eggs on the setting trays, with the narrow ends facing downwards. For the first 25 days (in case of Pekin eggs), you have to maintain the same temperature and humidity levels. Throughout this period, you have to turn the eggs, every day for at least five times. If your incubator has an automatic turner, you can set the number. Otherwise, you will have to do it manually.
- Usually, candling is done on the seventh day of incubation. You may or may not adopt this method, which is employed to check the growth rate of the embryos.
- Candling involves use of some kind of flashlight, which passes light through the eggs. Infertile eggs and eggs with dead embryos can be detected through candling. Eggs that develop brown marks on the shell can also be removed, as they are mostly infertile.
- You should discontinue the process of turning eggs for the last three days, i.e. after the end of the first 25 days of incubation. This time frame is meant for Pekin duck eggs, which take 28 days for hatching. In case of Muscovy ducks, you must stop turning the eggs from the 32nd day, as they require 35 days for hatching. You should lower the temperature levels (between 97 and 98º F) and increase the humidity levels (65 to 70%) during the last three days.
- It is always better to check the proper functioning of the incubator, including the temperature and humidity settings. Make sure that the ducklings come out of the eggs, on their own. You should help only if any of them is trapped inside the shell or is unable to come out even after 12 hours of hatching.
This is only a brief overview about the procedure of hatching duck eggs. Another method is to use broody chickens or ducks for incubating the eggs naturally. In that case, use a clean box with straw or wood shavings as substrate. Provide food and fresh, shallow water.