If you are planning to incubate duck eggs artificially using an incubator or by using a broody hen then there are a few things you should do before you get your eggs.
Eggs from ducks should be collected daily. The eggs are usually laid early in the morning so getting up early to collect them is important because the longer they are left, the more chances there are of the eggs becoming dirty or damaged.
Duck eggs in the incubator ready to go!
Good husbandry is important – If you have a clean house for the ducks to lay in, there’s a good chance the eggs will be clean and free of mud or muck. Personally I avoid washing eggs since they do have a natural coating that prevents bacteria from getting through the porous shell but particularly mucky eggs can be washed using hot water and a disinfectant designed for this purpose (For example Brinsea incubation disinfectant although there are others). I have successfully hatched ducklings from mucky eggs though…
Storage of hatching eggs.
Eggs can be stored in a cool place for up to a week without affecting fertility too much. I store mine in a garage that keeps cool throughout the summer months and frost-free during the cool spring months. A pantry or similar if you have one is ideal. You must store the eggs pointed end down and turn the eggs through 90° at least twice per day – I do this in the morning and evening. This is to stop the membrane from sticking to the inside of the shell if left in one position for too long. It can be useful to use an egg tray that is propped up at one end so the eggs sit at 45° to the vertical, alternating the side that is propped up to ‘turn’ them.
Hatching eggs travelling by post.
With sites like Ebay allowing people to sell fertile duck eggs for hatching, many people take this option, buying in duck eggs to get their first ducklings. If the breeders stock of ducks is healthy, the eggs are fertile, stored correctly and posted with adequate protective packaging, you stand a reasonable chance of receiving viable eggs. The postal system can be a bit of a lucky dip though as it only takes one postman to throw your eggs into the back of the van giving them a knock which can ruin your chances. Many sellers don’t offer replacements of course stating that they cannot guarantee fertility after the eggs have been through the postal system. Unfortunately this can also lead to unscrupulous sellers sending eggs that aren’t as good as they make out.
When buying eggs from an auction site, it is wise to check the following:
- How many ducks do they have? – More ducks means less storage time, and more chance of getting fresh, fertile eggs as well as unrelated parents.
- Do they check fertility themselves from time to time? – if so, they will probably tell you in their listing.
- How much detail are they giving you in their listing? – Does this seller seem to ‘know what they are talking about’ or is it a ‘one liner’ offering of eggs.
- What is their feedback like? – Whilst it is unfair for people to leave feedback on fertility rates (due to the postal system) some people inevitably do! If there are more than a few people complaining about a lack of fertility on each page of feedback then maybe there’s more to it than the ‘postal system’.
Once your eggs arrive (intact hopefully!) then it is advisable to leave them to rest (pointed end down) for a day to settle before placing them into your incubator.
You are now ready to incubate your duck eggs! You may want to read Setting up your incubator for a successful hatch.