So, you’ve decided to add ducklings to your backyard, and you want to give them the best start in life possible?
Personally, there are a few things I wanted to know when I was preparing for my first ducklings.
So, in less than 5 minutes, I’ll cover the exact things I was asking myself:
- Expected hatching time
- Top tips during incubation
- What to do if your ducklings aren’t hatching naturally
- How to care for your ducklings once they’ve hatched
How Long Do Duck Eggs Take To Hatch?
Common ducks breeds, like Pekins, take 28 days to hatch.
However, some breeds such as Muscovy can take 35 days.
How To Hatch Duck Eggs
Most likely, you’re going to feel like you need to play a big role in the duck hatching process.
You don’t 😊. Fact!
This is nature, and in 99% of scenarios you should let nature play its course. However, there are times you may need to aid the process, and I’ve detailed that below.
Anyway. Here’s what you need to do during the 28 day incubation period…
Incubate With A Consistent Temperature And Relative Humidity
The temperature inside the incubator that your hatching duck eggs in, needs to be consistently set at 99.5°F (37.5°C) and the relative humidity set at 55% (84.5°F on a wet bulb thermometer). Set the incubator up with these setting for 1-2 days before you place the eggs in, this will allow for both temperature and humidity to stabilize.
Set the ventilation as recommended by the manufacturer of the incubator, this will be written in the manufacturers accompanying manual.
Let’s give them the best chance of a healthy start in life as possible.
Don’t Open The Incubator Unnecessarily
Trust me, I know how tempted you are to see your baby ducklings hatch; I was too.
But, any inconsistency in incubator temperature and/or humidity, could put your duckling’s life in danger. On the first day put the eggs in, close it up and allow the incubator to reach set temperatures and check frequently to make sure its working properly. After day 1, check its working properly 4 times a day do this whilst turning the eggs.
Turn the eggs
Eggs will have to be turned by hand, or automatically if your incubator has the capability, a minimum of 4 times a day. Infact if your incubator will automatically turn the eggs, most will do so every hour – see how important it is to remember to turn the eggs. Using a pencil place a mark on the eggs, I do an “X” and “O” on either side of the egg. This is so I can use this as a handy reminder of which eggs have been turned and how much to turn them. Remember to keep your hands clean when handling the eggs. Turn the eggs up to 3 days before they are due to hatch and then stop.
Candling the eggs
To do this, you’ll need to use a process called candling.
Without doubt the best way to check if a duck egg is fertile is by a method called candling. A candling light is similar to a flash light. Hold the egg up the candler, in a dark room, and you can have a sneak peak to what’s going on inside the egg. After about 5 days you should start to see dark areas and veins forming. This is good sign.
Duck egg air sac development
Whilst candling you will also be able to see an air sac. A consistent and ideal incubating temperature is going to result in around 30% of the egg being filled by an air sac. This is your ducklings lifeline.
If the air sac is too small the humidity is too high. The reverse is also then true. If the air sac is too big the humidity is too low. You need to adjust and regulate that temperature/humidity accordingly, and as soon as possible.
Don’t Be Too Quick To Interfere
We’ll touch on this in huge detail during “Phase 3” in the next section.
Long story short, you should expect ducklings to break the shell, but not to hatch instantly. Removing them from the egg ISN’T necessary, nor good for them.
Don’t be too quick to interfere with nature.
What To Expect When Hatching Duck Eggs
There are three stages to the hatching of duck eggs, and it’s important you understand each phase, so you know when, or if, you need to interfere during the hatching process.
Phase 1: Internal Piping
During the first phase, the duckling will begin to break through the air sac. This process is called internal pipping.
Phase 2: Rest Period
Once they have accomplished this, it’s a weekend off for the hatchlings; they may rest for day or so before they continue the egg hatching process.
When their air supply from the air sac begins to run out, they will naturally know to continue the hatching process.
Phase 3: External Piping
Phase 3 is called external piping.
This is where the duckling beings to break through the outer shell. They may only make a tiny crack in the shell and take a break, and that is 100% natural. The small crack will allow enough air to get through for them to survive.
It is very important throughout this process to not interfere, nor remove the duckling from their egg. They instinctively know when it is time to leave the egg.
It contains vital nutrients they need during this phase and removing them prematurely will mean they don’t have time to absorb these nutrients, and that’s going to end in a worst case scenario.
What Should I Do If My Duckling Can’t Break Through The Shell?
If, however, you can see that the duckling is clearly struggling, after 48 hours from the external pip, they have had no success, you may choose to help it out a little.
If they stay in their egg too long, the membrane can dry out and they can be stuck.
If this has happened, you can fill a spray bottle with warm water and spray it between the hatchling and the shell, allowing your duckling to break free!
What Should I Do Once My Ducklings Have Hatched?
Once your ducklings have hatched, they will appear to be disoriented – this is normal.
Just like any other new-borns, they’re getting used to the idea of walking around freely.
I don’t remove them from the incubator after hatching. Instead, they need to stay in the incubator for up to twelve hours until they have fully dried.
Once they have dried completely, you’ll then switch them over to a brooder.
Say hello to your ducklings, as the hatching process is over; now it’s time to enjoy raising them to adults.
It’s time to enjoy , you’ll want to jump over to our guide to raising ducks.