Muscovy Duck Egg Laying Incubation Guide: What To Know
Have questions about hatching Muscovy duck eggs? This comprehensive guide covers everything from egg laying to candling to using an incubator so you can successfully hatch your eggs!
Most people are probably accustomed to chicken eggs. After all, an egg is just an egg, right?
Many species of birds lay incredibly different eggs, in both appearance and taste, from what you may be used to.
Muscovy ducks are no exception.
Large, rich, creamy, and decadent. These are just some of the words people use to describe Muscovy duck eggs.
This article is a guide on everything associated with egg laying and incubation in Muscovy ducks.
What Does A Muscovy Duck Egg Look Like?
When compared to a regular chicken egg, Muscovy duck eggs are huge.
They can measure up to 2.5 inches long, weighing as much as 3 ounces. In comparison, an average chicken egg is just 1.7 ounces.
However, the size of the Muscovy duck egg is dwarfed by the Khaki Campbell duck variety, which can lay eggs weighing 4.4 ounces.
The color of a Muscovy duck egg is an off-white, creamy color.
Muscovy duck eggs are readily consumed across the globe. Their rich and creamy taste has inspired chefs to see Muscovy eggs as a decadent treat.
For now, however, our stomachs will have to rumble a little longer, for this article will discuss egg laying and incubation to produce ducklings.
Fertilization Of Muscovy Duck Eggs
Let’s start at the very beginning: fertilization.
As with most animal species, fertilization occurs when the sperm of the male penetrates the egg of the female.
In biological terms, we call this internal fertilization.
In Muscovy ducks, however, fertilization is not quite as straightforward as it seems.
Most birds lack any kind of phallus or vaginal tract. Not Muscovies, however.
The vaginal tract of a female Muscovy duck is a series of twists, turns, and dead-ends. This makes fertilization incredibly hard from the get-go, and only the fittest males are capable of passing on their genes.
The female is also incredibly selective when it comes to mate choice. The vaginal twists prevent unwanted male sperm from fertilizing any eggs.
Once the sperm enters the egg, fertilization is complete.
So what happens next?
Post-Fertilization of Muscovy Duck Eggs
Once a male has fertilized an egg, he will play no further role in the developing clutch of eggs.
He will, however, stick by his mate for the remainder of the season and guard her against potential threats, such as predators or other male Muscovy ducks.
Unlike chickens and other species of ducks, Muscovy ducks will lay a clutch of eggs in one sitting. This can be as many as 19 eggs! However, the typical clutch size is between 12 – 16 eggs.
During this period, the female Muscovy is incredibly broody. There is a strong internal instinct to incubate her eggs.
She does this by sitting on her clutch of eggs.
In fact, Muscovy ducks are one of the broodiest duck species and make great mothers.
If you have a flock of Muscovy ducks, ensure there are suitably protected nest boxes per female.
Each nest box should be filled with either sawdust or hay. Females will add soft feathers to increase the temperature in the nest.
For a successful hatch, the clutch needs to be at the optimal temperature for embryonic development.
Optimal temperatures are around 35.7°C – 38.8°C. During this phase, embryonic cells divide, and a duck fetus forms.
To ensure temperatures within the incubating eggs do not fluctuate too drastically, the female will rarely move from her clutch.
Unlike chickens, however, which will remain on their eggs near constantly, Muscovy ducks will temporarily leave the clutch to eat, drink and defecate.
Incubation Period Of Muscovy Ducks
Muscovy ducks are one of the largest species of ducks on the planet. On average, a female can weigh up to 8 lbs. In comparison, a chicken hen weighs just 4 – 5 lbs.
As such, the eggs laid by a Muscovy duck are considerably larger than that of a chicken and therefore require more time to hatch.
The incubation period for Muscovy ducks is around 35 days. Interestingly, this is slightly longer than other duck species, which typically incubate eggs for approximately 28 days.
As mentioned earlier, during the incubation process, female ducks are incredibly broody. You may notice a dramatic change in their behavior.
Some will refuse to eat; others may get noticeably more aggressive.
It is best to leave the female to her own devices during this period to minimize stress or nervousness. However, continue to provide fresh food and water daily.
Up until now, most of the article has been about the natural process of incubation. In other words, a female Muscovy duck incubates her own clutch of eggs.
Muscovy ducks are devoted mothers and make great pets.
However, it is possible to incubate eggs and have successful hatches without the need for the mother duck. This is known as artificial incubation.
Contrary to belief, this isn’t a process of keeping the eggs warm and hoping for the best.
Artificial incubation requires the constant regulation of external environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity.
This is best achieved with a; you guessed it, incubator.
There are many different types of incubators on the market. To successfully hatch baby ducks, the incubator must include gauges for temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
So, why do you need an incubator? Let’s explore below:
One of the most important factors to control whilst artificially incubating your Muscovy eggs is humidity.
If the humidity is either too high or too low, eggs will not hatch successfully.
Low humidity will cause the eggs to dry out. Too high, and the eggs will not lose enough moisture, which is vital for fetal development.
Optimal humidity should be set to around 50-60%.
This can be achieved by adding a wet sponge to the incubator. However, many incubators allow you to add water to the machine.
You may see that some sites suggest a humidity of 70%. Having raised Muscovies myself, in my opinion, this is too high.
If the humidity is too high for Muscovy ducks, the air space within the egg will be greatly reduced. This can cause respiratory and mobility issues.
The temperature of the incubator should replicate an incubating female Muscovy.
Set the temperature to around 37.5°C, the approximate median temperature of a natural clutch of eggs.
Eggs that are too cold show slower signs of embryonic development and, eventually, cell death. This will result in poor hatching success.
If the incubator temperature is set too high, embryonic development is accelerated rapidly. This can cause deformations in the hatched chicks.
If the temperature is set above 40°C, proteins within the egg will denature, and the embryo will not survive.
Yes, turning eggs within the incubator is an important part of the hatching process.
In nature, female Muscovies continuously turn and rotate their eggs. This is to regulate the temperature more efficiently.
Eggs in the interior of a clutch will be warmer than those on the periphery.
Another reason for turning is to prevent the developing embryo from sticking to the shell. This can happen if the eggs are in a static position for long periods of time.
Many incubator types have a special turning feature built in to prevent cross-contamination.
However, there is nothing wrong with manually turning the eggs yourself – just ensure you thoroughly wash your hands prior to touching the eggs or use sterile gloves.
Eggs should be collected shortly after laying, often early in the morning. This is to prevent them from getting too dirty or broken.
Eggs that are dirty should be cleaned thoroughly. This is to prevent the invasion of harmful microorganisms that cause disease.
As easy as cleaning an egg sounds, it’s surprisingly intricate. For starters, water should be avoided, if at all possible.
This is because water washes away the waxy cuticle and decreases hatching success.
Water also causes the internal contents of the egg to contract, making it easier for dirt and bacteria to penetrate.
To avoid this, gently wipe over the eggs with fine-grade steel wool, such as an emery cloth, to eradicate dirty patches.
If you do not have wool to hand, you can wash eggs in warm water. But exercise caution with this method.
Eggshells are porous, and substrate in the water can pass through the shell. This is why you should never use chemicals, such as disinfectant or bleach, whilst cleaning.
Muscovy Duck Egg Candling
If the image of someone holding a candle close to an egg comes to mind when you hear the word candling, you wouldn’t be far wrong.
Candling is the process of shining a flashlight into the base (large end) of the egg, where the air sac is located. This is best done in a darkened room.
Why on earth would you want to do this to your eggs?
Candling is a very important process of artificial incubation. It allows you to monitor key stages of embryonic development.
The process is safe for the eggs as long as you do not excessively candle them (i.e., every day).
What Can You Expect From Egg Candling?
During the incubation process, both artificially and naturally, the air sac within the egg should increase in size.
If the humidity is correct, the egg should lose weight as the air space enlarges.
During the approximate 35 days of incubation, you should aim to candle your eggs at least 5 – 6 times.
If your Muscovy duck eggs are fertile, you should be able to see the embryo, with a labyrinth of blood vessels extending from it.
At this stage, the embryo is no more than a small spot. This should be done between 5 – 10 days after laying.
Continue to candle your eggs every 3 – 5 days.
With each subsequent candling, you should see the embryo increase in size, a fully developed vein system that spreads throughout the egg, and a larger air sac.
The air sac should appear a bright yellow, whilst the developing embryo will be a dark mass.
Any eggs that show defects or remain clear are infertile and are not fit for incubation.
These eggs may become rotten during the incubation process and explode, expelling dangerous germs into the rest of the incubating eggs.
Muscovy Duck Hatching
As you approach the 35th day of incubation, refrain from touching the eggs; keep them in one position.
This is so the ducklings can produce a pip hole. In doing so, they break the air sac within the egg.
In the wild, the mother duck will communicate with her clutch of eggs by emitting a series of clicks.
This signals the start of hatching, a process that can last up to two days.
Do not attempt to help the ducklings during this period unless they are showing signs of extreme struggle.
One such struggle could be a result of the duckling’s webbed feet. Being on the large side, the webbed feet can get stuck or dislodged and may need some assistance.
Do not keep the newly hatched ducklings in the incubator for any longer than necessary.
They should spend enough time in the incubator to dry out their feathers – approximately one hour.
After this, consider moving the hatchlings into a brooder.
A brooder is designed to keep newly hatched ducklings (or chicks) warm during the period after hatching.
They typically consist of a bright light, an infrared lamp with a hood to directly heat the floor, and a wire mesh to secure the area.
Like the adults, baby Muscovy ducks are quiet ducks in comparison to other species, such as the English variety and the Khaki Campbell.
You can keep ducklings in with chicks, also. If you have an adult female muscovy, you may find she will come broody with chicks.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I incubate Muscovy duck eggs?
If you do not have a Muscovy hen, you can put fertile eggs directly into an incubator.
Ensure the incubator has the capability to adjust the temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
What temperature do Muscovy duck eggs incubate at?
In an artificial incubator, set the temperature to 37.5°C (99.5°F).
If the temperature is too low, the embryo won’t develop properly and may not make it to hatching.
Humidity can also play an important role in successful incubation and should be kept at around 50% – 60% for best results.
How do you know if Muscovy duck eggs are fertile?
If the egg is fertile, you should see a small dot, or embryo, connected with a network of veins.
Candle eggs every 3 – 5 days to see the development of the embryos.
Should I be spraying duck eggs during incubation?
This increases the likelihood of spreading infections.
Many incubators have built-in water reservoirs to control humidity. Alternatively, you can put a wet sponge in with the eggs.
Always monitor humidity levels – do not exceed 60%.
After mating, Muscovy ducks will lay eggs in a clutch size of about 12 – 16 eggs.
Artificial incubation is a great way to hatch Muscovy eggs without a female Muscovy duck.
You will need an incubator to do this.
Ensure your incubator has gauges to adjust the temperature, humidity, and ventilation. You will also need to turn the eggs.
Candling at regular stages will help you check the growth and progress of the embryos.
Hatching takes approximately 35 days.
Thank you for reading, and happy incubating!