Simple Guide to Hatching Duck & Goose Eggs
Muscovy - 35 days
Other - 28 days
The incubation period for duck eggs is quite long. This means that there is more time for bacterial bloom in the warm humid environment. Clean your incubator immediately after each use, and then again before you use it. Be sure to use a mild soap with hot tap water. If you are using a styrofoam incubator please be advised they are difficult to clean properly and can result in poor hatches. Stronger cleaning solutions may damage the styrofoam.
For Incubating.The forced air incubator should be operated at 99.25*F and 99.75*F for incubating duck eggs. Relative humidity 55%. Don’t use the automatic turning rack when hatching duck eggs. Lay them flat.
The automatic turning rack only rocks the eggs back and forth and doesn’t actually turn them over. This works well for chicken eggs, but not so well for duck eggs.
Hand turn the eggs
Let the eggs lie on their sides in the incubator. Do not turn the eggs for the first 24 hours. After this period,turn the eggs a minimum three times a day up to five times. You can put an “x” on one side of the egg and an “o” on the other. Use pencil or sharpie marker. No other marker please as this will kill the embryo. It is advantageous for duck eggs to be cooled briefly each day, so this hand turning actually accomplishes two goals – turning the eggs and cooling them. The cooling period should be no more than 10 minutes in total each 24 hour period. You may spritz the eggs once a day using a spray bottle with room temperature water.
Candle the eggs at the end of week 1 and again at the end of week 3. Discard any eggs that have not started growth.
Unfertilized eggs and dead embryos will cause a bacterial bloom in the incubator, weakening the growing, live, embryos. It’s important to remove any dead embryos or unfertilized eggs that you find in candling.
Place the incubator on a sturdy table on an inside wall, away from direct sunlight or any heat source.
Incubators perform best inside buildings or rooms where the ambient temperature does not fluctuate more than 5*F over a 24 hour periods. Consistent temperatures are especially important with smaller incubators, like the Hova-bator. Try to locate your incubator away from heat sources and windows, in rooms with an ambient temperature of 65*F to 75* degrees. Never put the incubator in direct sunlight.
Allow for good air circulation around the incubator.
The developing embryos need a constant supply of fresh air, which is provided through the vent openings in the Hova-bator. When incubating duck eggs, keep these holes constantly open. In the final week, as you get closer to hatching, be sure that the Hova-bator has all ventilation holes uncovered.
3 days before the expected hatch, remove the eggs from the incubating Hova-bator and place them in the hatching incubator
It is recommended to move the eggs to a hatcher and not use the incubator for sanitary reasons. In the hatcher relative humidity should be maintained at 85. Some people find it helpful to lightly spritz the eggs with lukewarm water 48 hours and 24 hours before the calculated hatch time. If you only have one incubator, simply adjust the humidity in the final 2 days of the incubation period. Note the incubation period above that is specific to your breed.
Be sure the hatching incubator is lined with a washable tray.
This makes clean up easier and helps to minimize bacterial bloom before the hatch.
Do not open the lid of the incubator until the hatch is finished – super important.
You will want to see the progress of the hatch, but opening the window will allow the humidity to escape and the ducklings or goslings that have pipped will have their egg membranes dry and toughen, making it harder for them to break their tougher shells. It takes 24 to 48 hours for them to pip the eggs and then turn and work their way around the shell. Newly hatched ducklings/goslings will be tired and should be left in the incubator to dry out for at least 12 hours after hatching. Maintain good ventilation during this time.
Once all have hatched and fluffed up, you may move them to their brooder. This is a good time to help any stragglers.
Don’t be discouraged with low hatch rates.
With ducks, the average hatch is 50 to 70% so don’t be discouraged if your hatch is between 33% and 50%. Goose eggs can be even lower and are difficult to hatch. This takes practice and patience. Shipped eggs can decrease this further. Keep good records of daily temperature and humidity readings, and make adjustments until you are happy with the hatch rate. If you are having poor hatch rates or ducklings/goslings dying in the shell before pipping the most likely culprit is the humidity level. Waterfowl are more sensitive to humidity levels than chicks. Keep good records and your hatch rates will improve over time.