A Broody Hen Can Hatch Duck Eggs (Excerpt, “An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Ducks”)

You can use one of your broody hens to hatch duck eggs, says "An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Ducks" author Gail Damerow.

by Gail Damerow
PHOTO: © Cobie Martin/Alamy Stock Photo

Excerpted from An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Ducks© by Gail Damerow. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

ducks chickens
courtesy of Storey Publishing

Although duck eggs take a week longer to hatch than chicken eggs, a chicken hen can successfully hatch duck eggs. A chicken can cover about 12 eggs of the same size she produces. To hatch duck eggs that are larger than her own, don’t expect her to handle more than about 10. If the duck eggs are smaller than her own (such as those of bantam ducks), she might be able to cover as many as 18. 

All the eggs must fit handily beneath her. If any stick out around the edge, chances are she’ll eventually rotate them back under her and let some other eggs take a turn getting chilled, until they all fail to hatch. Because duck eggs take longer to hatch than the 21 days required for chicken eggs, use a proven broody hen to hatch them. A hen that’s brooding for the first time may not stick around long enough to finish the job. 

Also Read: Is your broody hen too young to hatch eggs? It’s possible.

All the eggs in a nest must hatch at approximately the same time so the ducklings can leave the nest together, under the protection of the mother hen. Therefore, once you are assured that the chicken is indeed broody, remove whatever eggs are in her nest and replace them with the number of duck eggs you wish to hatch. 

Chickens typically mother ducklings as if they were their own. Some chickens become upset if their newly hatched babies waddle into the water for a swim. Others, however, take it in stride, jumping right in and happily paddling around right along with the ducklings. 

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Gail Damerow lives on a farm in Tennessee where she and her husband keep poultry and dairy goats, tend a sizable garden, and maintain a small orchard. She has authored more than a dozen books,
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens; several Chickens magazine articles; and blogs at www.gaildamerow.com. 

This book excerpt previously appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Chickens magazine.

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