A wild duck nesting on your property is likely to be a mallard. Her eggs take 25 to 29 days to hatch, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website. Before she begins to incubate, she lays one egg a day, usually ending up with a clutch numbering about a dozen. Only after she's laid all the eggs does she begin to sit on the clutch, and that's when the 25-to-29-day incubation period begins.
Laying Can Take Two Weeks
Duck eggs are inert when laid. Their incubation period doesn't begin until they're under the warm body of the mother duck or surrogate, or in an incubator. Unless the weather turns freezing, with a bit of insulation the eggs will keep just fine and remain viable during the laying period. The laying period may take almost two weeks from the first egg to the last egg in the clutch. The duck lays her eggs and works on the nest each day, adding more material, including her down, to keep the eggs insulated from temperature changes.
Incubation Takes About a Month
By waiting until she has laid all the eggs before she sits on them, the mother duck ensures that they will hatch within a relatively short time frame. This way she keeps her brood together and safe. The incubation period begins once she lays the last egg and begins sitting on the clutch. Her warmth helps them develop and prepare to hatch. The incubation period varies by species and generally takes about a month. When the ducklings begin to crack through their shells at the end of the incubation period, they should all hatch within 24 to 48 hours. Some eggs may fail to hatch.
Most Domestic Ducks Take 28 Days
Domesticated ducks take 28 days to hatch. The one exception is Muscovy ducks. These ducks have bumpy red faces and are white, black or a mix of white and black. This breed takes 35 days from the beginning of incubation to hatch. Muscovy hens can hatch 12 to 15 eggs, including eggs from other mothers added to her clutch. Domestic ducks are of two main types, the Muscovy and ducks breeds descended from mallards. Mallard descendents include Pekins, the classic all-white ducks; Indian runner ducks, lean and fast-moving ducks; Cayuga ducks, which come in dark colors; and bibbed mallards. These ducks don't have red on their faces; they all have curled feathers that flip up at the tail.
Some people who raise ducks incubate eggs under a broody duck or in an incubator, also called a setter. The incubator keeps the eggs at a controlled temperature and a controlled humidity for the eggs' development.
In a pinch, you can incubate duck eggs under a broody chicken. Broody means she's been laying eggs and is inclined to sit on them.
In an incubator, a duck egg loses 14 percent of its weight from water loss. The air cell in the egg enlarges to take up a third of the shell. The egg's weight and the size of its air cell are the main ways to tell if the egg is near the end of its incubation period.
Never disturb wild ducks who are courting, nesting, brooding or caring for their young. Wild ducks are protected by law, and disturbing them could lead to the abandonment, injuries or deaths of the embryos or ducklings.
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Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.