Years ago when we first started getting in to egg incubation, we were told that hatching quail eggs was one of the most difficult types of birds to hatch. So when we started getting really good results with quail, we were feeling pretty good about our hatching abilities. But I have learned that there is another type of poultry that can also be tricky to incubate: Ducks!
As you consider duck egg incubation, there are a few key differences than other non-water fowl. And these items make a big difference!
First of all, most breeds of duck eggs take about a week longer than chicken eggs. And some (Muscovy ducks, for example), take two weeks longer. The extra time in the incubator means more time for little variables to add up and go wrong. The temperature needs for ducks are the same as for chickens and most other poultry, but the moisture requirements are different. Ducks get wet and so the eggs naturally are exposed to more moisture than other birds. We try to make these changes in the incubator where the eggs will be set.
Mother Nature has designed birds with an innate ability to do the correct things to ensure a good hatch. Their bodies are naturally the correct temperature and produce moisture which gives the eggs the environment they need. The mother’s sense of smell tells her when an egg has gone bad so she can remove it from the nest. They naturally know that they are supposed to turn the eggs so the developing embryos get the needed rotation. Nature does a great job and we humans just try to replicate that the best we can. And that’s where the incubator comes in.
The incubation period for most ducks is 28 days. For a few species, such as Muscovy ducks, the hatch time is between 34-37 days. The lock-down period (the last 2-3 days before hatching) needs to be adjusted accordingly. The humidity is typically set about around 55% for the incubation period and increased to around 65% for the lock-down period. As soon as the birds start to pip, the humidity should be increased to around 80%.
Ducks are an extremely rewarding bird to hatch and raise. Of all of the breeds of birds, ducks may be the cutest of them all. They are very active, they like to run and they love to get wet! Prepare to provide them lots of water and have fun watching them play!