How Many Days Do Duck Eggs Need to Hatch

Making the decision to expand your flock the old-fashioned way when you raise ducks is always an exciting time.

Placing the viable eggs in an incubator or letting their diligent mother sit on them and try to hatch them, it is definitely going to be an experience when they first pip and the new arrivals enter the world.

baby duckling hatching from egg
baby duckling hatching from egg

But it’s also easy to wind up anxious, afraid and upset if you don’t know how long the process of hatching should take.

Is everything okay? Are the eggs viable at all? Have you done something wrong? Just how many days does it take for duck eggs to hatch?

Duck eggs typically take anywhere from 27 to 35 days to hatch. Factors such as the breed of duck and ambient conditions can influence this timetable slightly.

Although you can’t quite set your watch by them, ducks hatch very reliably within the timetable of 27 to 35 days.

With precious few exceptions, they will never hatch earlier and if it takes longer than day 35, there is likely a serious problem.

But, that’s all just part of the process whether or not you try to raise them in an incubator or let mom take care of it.

Keep reading and this article will tell you what you need to know about making sure your duck eggs hatch on time.

How Long Can it Take a Duck Egg to Hatch?

Generally, if a duck egg does not hatch by day 35 it isn’t going to hatch at all. This could be for any number of reasons, some of which we will talk about.

So, set your calendar: 35 days is the deadline almost all the time.

What’s the Least Amount of Time a Duck Egg Needs to Hatch?

It is possible for some ducks to hatch in as little as 27 days and be completely healthy.

You shouldn’t expect them to hatch any sooner than that, and ducklings that are somehow ready to hatch prematurely prior to that point will rarely have the strength they need to pip and unzip the shell.

What Should You Do if a Duck Egg is Overdue?

If your duck egg is overdue, don’t panic, but prepare yourself for the worst possible outcome. As a rule of thumb, no egg, in any conditions, from any domestic species, should take longer than around 40 days to hatch.

Once an egg or clutch of eggs is officially overdue, start the clock and keep a close watch on them, but don’t get your hopes up.

Will a Duck Egg Always Hatch?

No, sadly. But what are some of the reasons why our eggs might not hatch?

One of the most common reasons but the least expected, especially by amateur keepers, is that the eggs were never fertile in the first place and accordingly there is no embryo inside and no baby duckling to come out.

Another possibility that is quite common is when the incubation conditions are suboptimal and that leads to failure of the embryo. Too hot or too cold, too humid or too dry, anything can do it if the eggs are exposed to it long enough.

Another cause is physical damage or disruption of the eggshell and subsequently the embryo inside, and sometimes genetic issues or congenital defects cause the developing embryo to perish.

But, assuming you have accounted for proper conditions and correct care and orientation of the eggs there is not much to do until you start closing in on day 35. Just keep watching, waiting and see what happens.

Conditions Count When Incubating Duck Eggs

We briefly touched on temperature and humidity above, but it cannot be overstated just how critical both are to successfully hatching your eggs.

Ideally, the eggs will be kept at a constant 99.5°F. Not hotter, not colder: Low temperatures will slow or stop development, potentially even killing the embryo.

High temperatures will typically slow development and can likewise kill the embryo in extreme cases. Don’t discount humidity either.

You want to maintain a humidity level of 55% until the final stages of development: high humidity will lead to a soft eggshell that is likely to fail, while low humidity can cause the embryo to dehydrate.

Obviously, you’ll have more or less control over this depending on if you are incubating the eggs yourself or are allowing a hen to brood on them and hatch them. If it is within your power, maintain ideal conditions at all times.

Is Incubation or Brooding Best?

Both are totally viable, and assuming the eggs contain healthy embryos that develop normally incubation under a hand and incubation in a, well, incubator should take about the same time for hatching.

But as mentioned above, putting your eggs in an incubator will give you maximum control over temperature and humidity, as well as reducing the chances of the eggs being accidentally damaged by the mother.

Hens are Great Moms, but Not Infallible

The last thing to keep in mind, and some people really don’t like hearing this, is that your eggs are generally safer and better off in an incubator than they are under a hen.

Yes, it is true that hens know exactly what to do, and do so instinctively, but there are just more variables when it comes to developing the eggs this way.

Ducks that you keep on your homestead or farm have even more advantages than ducks do in nature, specifically in warm, safe and secure nesting boxes or coops, and also because they are somewhat less likely to crush or damage an egg when rolling them inside the nest.

Eggs in an incubator are also, naturally, far less vulnerable to predators or just to animals that might accidentally walk on them.

If you want to maximize the chances of a successful hatching with plenty of healthy ducklings, use an incubator, but you can’t take your eyes off of it, either: incubator units, heaters and containers all malfunction leading to disastrous changes in temperature or humidity.

And, sadly, there’s always the chance that human error or accident could result in the same outcome.

Don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible to hatch ducklings under a hen the old-fashioned way, or in an incubator, and both have advantages and disadvantages, but you need to know what those are to make a good decision for you and your flock.

Leave a Comment