Duck, Goose & Chicken Hatchery

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 1 800-456-3280
Strombergs 1 800 720-1134
My Pet Chicken 1 888 460-1529
Meyer Hatchery, PA 419-945-2651
Hoover Hatchery 1 800 247-7014
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 will guarantee that at least 80% of the eggs you purchase are fertile. Requirements: You must candle the eggs within 14 days of the ship date and notify us at that time if the fertility is less than 80%. No refunds are possible after that date. We cannot guarantee that the fertile eggs will hatch. That is entirely dependent on the incubator.

In our large commercial incubators, we normally hatch 70-75% of all eggs set. The minimum charge for the eggs is $50.00. 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 hatching:

  Incubation Hatching
  Day 1 - 25 Day 26 - 28
Temperature 99.5 98.5
Wet Bulb Humidity 86 94
Relative Humidity 57-58 81
Turns Per Day 3 - 7 0

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.

If you wish to measure the humidity in your incubator via 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.

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.

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.

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. Do not attempt to control the length of time for incubation by increasing or lowering the temperature from the ideal. This will lower the hatchability of the eggs.

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