Incubating and Hatching Duck Eggs
The incubation and hatching of duck and goose eggs 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.
For smaller sized incubators, contact one of the following:
Murray McMurray Hatchery 1 800-798-3280
Strombergs 1 800 720-1134
Meyer Hatchery, PA 419-945-2651
Randall Burkey, TX 800-531-1097
Dunlap Hatchery, ID 208-459-9088
Belt Hatchery, CA 559-264-2090
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.
We sell duck eggs for one half the cost of the duckling. In
other words, if the duckling costs $4.00, the hatching egg costs
$2.00. We can tell you our current fertility (normally 85-93%)
but we cannot guarantee hatchability. We guarantee that at least
80% of the eggs you purchase will be alive at the first candling
(after about 7 days of incubation). If you find your fertility
is less than 80%, and would like a refund, you need to contact
us within 14 days of the shipping date of the eggs. No
refunds are possible after that date. We cannot guarantee hatchability as that is very dependent
on the care of the eggs and the incubator.
In our large commercial
incubators, we normally hatch 70-75% of all eggs set. There is
a box charge of $5.00 for every 20 eggs ordered and postage for
20 eggs is $7.00 - $11.00. The minimum charge for the eggs is
$24.00. We do not sell goose hatching eggs as they are difficult
to ship and do not hatch as well as duck eggs.
Following are the conditions recommended for incubation and
| ||Day 1 - 25||Day 26 - 28|
|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
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 a regime of cooling and spraying duck and goose eggs results in better hatchability.
Start after about 10 days of incubation. Open the incubator or remove the eggs so they cool.
If you have an infrared temperature gun, cool the eggs 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 return them to the incubator.
The incubator should be able to warm up in about the same amount of time it took to cool the eggs.
Do not spray and cool after day 25. The actual consequences of spraying is interesting.
One consequence is 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 http://www.johnsnhweather.com/rh.html 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
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
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
Avian Science Department