You’ve been on tenterhooks for several weeks now, anxiously waiting for your ducklings to hatch. Then one egg pips! You can see the tiny bill inside, moving and squirming. A few hours pass, and it hasn’t made much progress. Should you help it?


Do NOT help it!

Many beginners want to help the duckling, and they often do it when the duckling doesn’t need help or when the duckling isn’t ready! This is a common mistake, and it’s often fatal to the duckling.

The duckling is not ready to hatch right after it pips. First, it has to learn how to breath and get used to it. There are still external blood vessels at this point, and if you help it, it may cause hemorrhaging. The duckling also still has to pull in the yolk sac.

If you see blood vessels, DO NOT HELP!

After many hours, the duckling will finally be ready to come out of the shell. Do not help it. It can take more 24 hours for a duckling to hatch, and that’s normal.

This egg has a good pip and is ready to hatch.
This egg has a good pip, but is probably NOT ready to hatch yet.

If it’s been 24 hours and there has been no progress, then MAYBE you should help. There are several possibilities for why a duckling isn’t hatching:

  • It could be premature.
  • It may be in a malposition.
  • It might be trapped in a too-wet membrane, which is caused by too-high humidity.
  • It might be too weak to hatch.

You shouldn’t help premature ducklings. Just wait. Premature ducklings will have blood vessels around them, and any assistance may rupture these vessels.

If it’s in a wrong position, you’re SURE that it is ready to hatch, there are no blood vessels, the membrane looks good, and the duckling has made no progress for over 24 hours, THEN you may help. Remember that there is no hurry to get the duckling out of the shell!

Common malpositions include the feet over the head, the head under the left wing, the head under the thighs, beak above right wing, and the duckling backwards (head in the small end).

Malposition - foot over head
The hatch is nearly over! Only minutes later, this duckling was free.

Sometimes when the humidity is too high, the inner membrane will be too wet. It will be gooey, and if you don’t help the chick, the membrane will dry on it like glue and trap it. We have a large amount of ducklings with this problem because, living beside tropical jungle, our humidity level can sometimes go over 90%.

In this case, peel the shell off carefully until the duckling is free enough to complete the hatch by itself.

Watch this video of me helping a gosling that pipped on the wrong end of the egg and could not slip through the too-small opening:

Here’s another video of me helping a duckling that was trapped in a sticky, too-wet membrane:

If you have to help a duckling, first be POSITIVE it needs help and be POSITIVE it’s ready to hatch. Then when helping, be VERY careful and gentle. Peel the shell bit by bit. Wait and take breaks. Only help until the duckling can do the rest itself.

This article has some more good information:

It’s mostly about chickens, but the same information applies to ducks.

Comment below if you have a question or need help with your hatch. I WILL reply to all questions as soon as I see them, usually within 24 hours.


      1. I have 4 Muscovy eggs that are fertilized, one is hatching, one is about to hatch and two look like they are 2-3 weeks behind, I still have them in incubator set to 37.3 Celsius for hatching, do I raise it back to 37.8 once both eggs have hatch to keep incubating the other two?

        Elysia Sciarra
        1. Hi Elysia,

          I’m sorry for the late reply. I had the flu and was not up and around much. It’s probably too late to help you, but I’ll answer anyway in case it helps someone in the future.

          The humidity is probably a bigger issue than the temperature. I don’t think the temperature matters as much, but yes, I think you should put the temperature back to 37.5 (I believe 37.5 is the correct temperature, not 37.8) after the other ducklings have finished hatching and are out of the incubator. It’s certainly not ideal to have eggs from different starting dates in the incubator, but I hope they all hatch well for you!

          Hannah Miller

          1. Hi and help! I have a duck egg that externally pipped on day 25. Unfortunately this egg was cracked during the incubation and it has got this far having used candle wax on the area, which also happens to be the air cell end.

            It’s now been 36 hours since the pip and I can see and think hear the little one moving but we are not progressing. They are not due to hatch for another 48 hours, do I interfere or wait a little longer?

            Many thanks

          2. Hi Nikki,

            It sounds like the duckling is doing okay. Check the membrane. If it’s dried up and brown, then the duckling is probably stuck and you should assist. If the membrane is fine, I would wait a little longer, but not much. After 48 hours have passed since the pip, you should probably help (as long as the blood vessels have dried up).

            Hope that helps!

            Hannah Miller

  1. I have 2 Peking duck eggs now on day 30 of incubation!! I have not heard them peep but I can see them move when candling and I see no blood vessels! Should I assist them with hatching? I’m afraid my humidity may have been low and the shell is to hard for them!

      1. I only saw the question two days after it was posted, so it was too late to reply. I’d like to hear what happened, too.

        I don’t really think it was yet time to intervene. As long as the ducklings are still moving and trying, it’s probably not necessary to intervene.

        But seeing that it’s day 30 and they should have hatched around day 28, it might be a good idea to, very carefully, create a small crack in the shell…and then leave them alone so they can learn to breath and get ready to finish hatching.

        Oh, and you can’t see blood vessels from the outside, by candling. By the time the ducklings are ready to hatch, the egg will be almost completely dark. I should clarify that in the article, because I meant seeing the blood vessels inside the egg AFTER the duckling has pipped.

        I know this is all useless for you now, but I’m writing it here anyway in case someone else has the same question. Sorry I didn’t write back sooner.

    1. Hi. We have 4 muscovy ducks in the incubator. 2 of them have pipped their external shell but haven’t broke their internal membrane. Should we assist in their hatching as they are wobbling?

      Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Michelle.

      Michelle Cullen
      1. No, I don’t think it’s time to assist yet. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by wobbling, but I don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about. I’ve seen my eggs rocking slightly in the incubator and it just seems to be due to the duckling moving in the egg or trying particularly hard to work on cracking the shell. A normal hatch can take up to about 48 hours to complete after the external pip, so until then, try not to get too worried. Hope that helps!

        1. Thank you, Hannah. This is our first time incubating muscovy eggs that were shipped. Box was delivered on its side. No “fragile, or This End UP” on it. But 33 days later, 2 out of the 6 have external pips. 24 hours in and they’re rocking back and forth, responding to our voices, but no more progress, yet. Thankfully, you’re here with the wisdom. 🙂

    1. I don’t think you need to assist yet. Hatches can take up to 48 hours after the external pip. This is the period during which they get used to breathing and absorb the yolk and all the blood vessels that act as a “placenta” while they are inside the egg.

      If, however, the duckling seems to be in distress, or stops moving and tapping at the shell for a long time, you might chip off a bit of the shell to help it out.

      1. I have call eggs just beginning to hatch after 35 days! I thought i had lost them and i did lose most of them but 6 still have movement and last night tiny cracks. Its been 12 hrs now no change and i thought something was wrong. What does lockdown mean? I want to candle them again to make sure what i have are still alive but im too nervous to open the incubator now.

        1. Lockdown means that you prepare the incubator for hatching by stopping turning the eggs, increasing the humidity and oxygen, and then staying out of the incubator. You shouldn’t open it much during lockdown, and candling might not help much anyway as you don’t see much if you candle at this stage.

          You won’t see much, if any change, for many hours after the external pip/crack. It’s normal. This is when they absorb the yolk sac and learn how to breath, so they won’t seem to be doing much. Hope that helps. 🙂

  2. I have one Pekin duck hatch.. it has been just laying on it’s side for around 8 hours, it kicks every so often and peeps. It also seems to be pecking at it’s feathers or maybe preening. Is it normal for it to lay so long, first time hatchery.

    Kimberly Burgess
  3. I had three muscovy ducklings get abandoned by there mom she wont sit on the nest anymore. Three started hatching last night external pip but they haven’t made any progress. The membrane looks kinda dry. Do I help them or leave them?

    Meghan A Aisenbrey
    1. I think you should leave them for now. Right after the external pip is when they NEED to sit and wait while they absorb the yolk and learn how to breathe. Remember, the hatch can take up to 48 hours AFTER the external pip.

      The membrane is supposed to be relatively dry. If it turns brown, however, that signals a problem that might require your assistance.

  4. I have four Rouen ducks that hatched last night and this morning they are still attached to the egg by long thin vessels. The humidity is so high that they aren’t drying at all. Should I move them? Cut the umbilical cord? I never had a duckling attached this long to its egg.

    1. No, definitely don’t cut the cord! It will probably kill them.

      Besides that, I’m not really sure. There’s probably not much you can do. Moving them to an area with lower humidity might help. But mostly I’m just going to suggest letting them wait.

  5. Hello, thanks for answering everyone’s questions here! We have 10 Welsh Harlequin and 5 domestic mallards that were set in a still air incubator together 27 days ago. Tonight will start day 28. We’ve been weighing the eggs and targeting 14% weight loss, which has proved tough as the mallards lose weight faster than the WH. Ran humidity at 45% with daily spraying. On day 24, I noticed a mallard had internally pipped while weighing, so started lockdown Day 24, RH 65%. On Day 25-26, noticed external pips on mallards. External pips on WH Day 27. No zipping of mallards, some WH trying to zip but not progressing since last night. After hearing tapping and peeping all night but seeing no progress, I took the mallards out this AM, Day 27, 36-48 hr after external pip. I feared that they were “shrink wrapped” or desiccated as the mallards has lost more weight than ideal. However, all five mallards were alive, positioned with bill at the pip (one on narrow end), tapped and cheeped back to me. I enlarged the pips a little and confirmed no membranes sticking to chicks. No blood vessels seen in membrane. Since the mallards have a shorter incubation time than the WH, could they be waiting for a signal from the WH to zip? I moistened the mallard membranes and raised humidity to 75%. Should I leave them or chip some shell a few times a day?

    Lisa Marwell
    1. “Could they be waiting for a signal from the WH to zip” – I don’t know, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

      I think it’s definitely time to intervene in this case. They shouldn’t take more than 48 hours after the external pip. Even if they are still capable of hatching without assistance, I doubt it will hurt to help since the blood vessels are gone. There’s a good chance they won’t make it if you don’t intervene, and there’s a low chance of hurting them by intervening. I say go for it!

      Definitely keep the membranes moist and the humidity high. And I think you might be right about the shrink wrapping. I can’t say I have any experience with it though, since we have ridiculously high humidity where I live.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Hello, I have mallard duck eggs in the incubater and one egg is starting to pip this morning. Some of the other eggs have turned a light black on the pointy side of the egg. This is my first time incubating. Does that mean that those eggs are bad? Our duck start laying when there was still snow outside and she never nested. Do you think those eggs got too cold? It’s day 29 today.

    1. I’m sorry for the late reply but yes those eggs are probably dead. If the egg was alive and ready to hatch, you would hear occasional peeping, and if you hold the egg up to your ear, you should hear the ducklings tapping against the shell trying to pip.

      Glad at least one of them is hatching! 🙂

  7. I have some Indian runner ducks and the mother has been on the nest I noticed almost everyone on the post incubates I just let Mom do her thing but for eggs have hatched and there are five unhatched she has left the nest to tend to the four what should I do with the rest of the eggs I do not have an incubator any help is appreciated thanks

    Steven C Ushman
    1. I apologize for the late reply. I’m probably too late to help you, but I suspect that the five would never have hatched anyway. Are you sure they were alive? If they were, you would be able to hear the duckling peeping or tapping against the egg, trying to hatch, if you hold the egg up to your ear. If the egg was laid much later than the rest and isn’t ready to hatch, then you would see signs of life from candling.

      There are ways to improvise when you don’t have an incubator. Heat is the main requirement. A quick Google search will give you a number of ideas and tips on making a homemade incubator.

  8. I am a first time hatching duck eggs, my I incubator says 103 degrees for duck eggs other places I seen 99.5 degrees, was wondering what should I go by, then also I hatched a couple of duck eyes and one was pipping and I was told once you see the pip marks your supposedly help to get the head free or should you wait?

    1. I can’t believe they say 103 degrees. That’s probably going to kill them. 99.5 is the ideal temperature.

      It normally takes over 24 hours to hatch AFTER the external pip, and up to 48 hours. So no, you should never help a duckling that has just pipped because at that point it hasn’t yet absorbed the yolk sac and blood vessels. Right after the pip is way too early to even think about helping.

      Hope that answers your questions!

    1. I think it’s fine for now, as long as it’s alive. They aren’t always active. I’ve found that mine are rarely active during the night, which is nine hours or more.

      What does the membrane look like? If it turns brown and dry, kind of like singed paper, then the duckling may require assistance. If it’s extremely sticky and gooey, it could harden and trap the duckling, in which case it also needs assistance. It’s supposed to be white and relatively dry.

      If the membrane is fine, the rule of thumb is to not assist until 40-48 hours after the external pip.

  9. I have rescued some mallard ducklings and eggs that were removed from a roof top at the most vulnerable time of the hatch. 3 ducklings were fully hatched, but 6 eggs remaind of which 4 had pip holes. They were left uncovered by the hen for up to 1 hour. When they got home with me I put the dicklings under a heat lamp and put the eggs in a static air incubator. They have been at 99.5 and 80% for a couple of hours, but I haven’t seen movement, however it is night time.

    Here are my questions:

    Will they survive? Do I give them 48 hours and see what happens?

    If I returned the ducklings in the morning will the hen take them back?

    If I raise the ducklings can I release them to the wild? If so at what age?


    Chris Verkerk
    1. Oh boy…all these questions are iffy.

      #1: do you know for sure if they’re still alive? If they are, then I think they have a good chance. I’ve had eggs that survived even after relatively long periods of being left unattended. Also, I don’t think I’d wait the full 48 hours for the ones that have already pipped, because they could have pipped hours ago.

      #2: Maybe. Sorry for the unhelpful answer, but there’s no way to really know. If she’s still sitting on the nest, then she’s likely to take them, especially if you slip them under her during the night. She’s less likely to fuss about it if you do it during the night.

      #3: It might be possible, but it’s difficult and requires rehabilitation to teach them to find their own food and live by themselves. If you do, then the time would be when they’re fully adult and ready to fly. However, I think a better option, if the mother duck doesn’t take them back, would be to find a wildlife rehab/rescue agency. Also, it probably depends on where you live, but in some areas it’s illegal to release ANY animal that has been held in captivity, even if they were originally wild.

      I hope that helps you, and good luck!

  10. I have 3 mallard eggs that have pipped and I thought the one needed help. I feel so bad but I think I was wrong and caused him to be premature. He came part of the way out of the egg but then I put him back in the incubator to rest and come out when he was ready. When I checked on him he had pushed himself the rest of the way out and there was blood inside the egg shell. He is still alive 4 hours later and no further bleeding. I have him wrapped in a towel and in a brooder. He isn’t standing and his head is wobbly. My questions are is there ever residual blood in the shell? Is it normal for a newly hatched duckling to not be able to stand? Have you seen any survive this way? For the other eggs, does the external pip and the 24-48 hour period have to be a hole in the shell or just the star shaped cracking? I don’t want to intervene and potentially injure them too! Thank you!

    1. Actually, this sounds completely normal. There’s usually a little bit of blood residue at the bottom of the eggshell. If you had a picture I could tell you for sure whether it was normal, but don’t worry about it too much. And yes, they will be very wobbly for a while. Normally they don’t start standing up much until after they are fully dried out and fluffy.

      Come to think of it, I don’t think I mentioned that in the article. This article is due for an overhaul in the near future, so I’ll be sure to cover that. I’ll try to get pictures next time I hatch, too.

      For the second question, the up to 48 hours is after the intial crack or pip. If you look at the last picture in this article, two eggs have this pip (it’s not necessarily star-shaped), one has a hole, and then there is the one that is almost hatched. Right after they make that crack, they get their first oxygen in their lungs and that is when they usually absorb the blood vessels and learn how to breath. That’s when you’ll see the least movement and that part can take about 24 hours. After that, they start making a hole and then unzipping.

      Hoping the best for the little ones! 😃

      1. The first little guy, who we named Lucky, seems to be thriving! He has eaten, had some water and has left me a couple of duck poo presents! My other two have holes but haven’t done much else just yet. I’m hoping they join Lucky soon because he’s quite vocal when left alone. Thank you so much for your info and help!

  11. My 3rd duckling has hatched but is weak and can’t seem to get the egg to drop away. It’s little feet are funny and it can’t effectively move to drop the shell. Whaat should I do? He’s been that way overnight but I am worried I need to do something to help the feet so they aren’t malpositioned for life! Should I do something with the egg still attached? What should I do if it’s time to help? Also, should I treat this as spraddle leg?

  12. The 3rd has lost the shell, dried and seems fine except for the legs/feet. Is there a way to send s pic to know if this is a debilitating handicap or fixable? I don’t know what to do. There is an excellent bird rehab locally but I’m afraid they’ll euthanize him. Maybe that’s what is best? I just don’t know! Thanks.

    1. Yes, please send me a pic. I can’t guarantee I’ll know what to do since I don’t really have experience with foot problems, but if I don’t, I can refer you to someone who should be able to help you. Here’s my email address:

  13. Hey there! I recently found some abandoned duck eggs and we’ve attempted to raise them. Several hairlinecracks are appearing on the eggs and I’m not sure if that’s a pre-piping thing or what? If the ducklings are in trouble, I’d like to be able to help them but I can’t quite tell if they are. Also, if they do hatch how should I raise them? Like feed and shelter and when they’re independent and all that

    confused duck lover
  14. We rescued 8 duck eggs from an abandoned nest. When we candeled them (well, held it up to a iPhone flashlight) we could see clear veins and redness. Some websites we saw said that if they have clear veins showing they’re alive so I’m 90% sure they are. We improvised a incubator out of a heat lamp, a thermometer, and a spray bottle. We think the eggs are in the early to mid 20 days of life, and there are clear dark splotches from the inside of the egg that I think are the down of the duckling. A couple hairline fractures are appearing on some of the eggs. Help!!
    Are the hairline fractures a sign they’re beginning to hatch?
    One egg had a yellowish liquid on the outside that smelled kinda weird. Is it dead?
    The fracture is almost circular around the eggs circumference. Is that normal?
    Overall, help. We want these to live so bad.

    confused duck lover
    1. How do you know the nest was abandoned? Was there a mama duck sitting and then she vanished? Also, just because she leaves the nest doesn’t mean she’s abandoning it. She has to eat, of course. They normally leave their nests every day, for up to half an hour. And she may not have even been ready to sit on them. Ducks only start sitting when their clutch is full, so until then, the eggs might look abandoned.

      The reason I’m wondering is because it makes a big difference whether they had already been sat on, or whether she had never started sitting on them. If she had already started sitting, then the chances of survival are low because, unless you took the eggs less than an hour after she left, they probably got cold and died.

      When did you candle them, right after you took them from the nest or what?

      There’s quite a few factors here, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.

      Hairline fractures aren’t really supposed to be there. I’m not sure what causes them exactly, maybe a weak shell, or rough handling. They can let bacteria into the egg and cause other problems. But if I remember right, I’m pretty sure I successfully hatched an egg with hairline fractures on it. They CAN hatch, but they are more likely to have something go wrong.

      The yellowish liquid–the only possible explanation I can think of is that the hairline fracture is actually a crack and some of the internal liquid is oozing out. I don’t know if that necessarily means instant death, but I doubt that egg will hatch.

      The first sign of hatching is the internal pip, which you can’t see from the outside but can see from candling (and you will usually be able to hear the duckling peeping at this point). Then the external pip, which is a crack in the shell, often shaped a bit like a star.

      What you see when candling depends on when you do it. The veins and redness are definitely a sign of life, as long as they are in a spiderweb structure. If they have collapsed into what is called a blood ring, then it means the baby started developing and then died. And egg that is in the later stages of growth will appear almost completely black when candled, because you can’t see through the baby.

      So…there’s still a chance they’re alive and will survive, but I’m not exactly sure, at least not without a few more details.

      Hoping for the best! 🙂

      1. We candeled them immediately after we found them. The mama had vanished for over a day (the nest was outside my house so we checked every hour of the mom was there.) when we did candle them they had spiderweb veins so they were definitely alive. Over the past week we’ve had them the egg has become more and more dark internally. Also, the eggs were still warm due to the fact that Texas is constantly hot and humid.

        confused duck lover
  15. AHH HELP. the egg has a crack completely circling it now and it ends in a star crack. The yellow liquid is dripping from several places,and the star crack is externally open but there’s still a white layer blocking the outside to the actual egg itself. Do I help it??

    Confused duck lover
    1. Oh boy. Yellow liquid (probably yolk?), as far as I know, never drops from an egg that is ready to hatch, because they have absorbed it all before they hatch (which is at about 28 days). Try smelling the egg. Rotting eggs often crack.

      I don’t really think you should help because there’s nothing you really can do that would help, and if there really is a live baby inside, it’s probably just going to make it worse, if it’s not ready to hatch quite yet.

      Can you send me pictures? It might be helpful to see exactly what this crack looks like.


  16. So this is my first time incubating eggs and I am a worried wreck!!! Tuesday was day 28 and still nothing!! (Rouens)I can hear them, few eggs rocking around, looks like a few spots wanting to crack, but still no external pipping!!! I’m so worried about them!!!

    Erika ( one very worried duck mom)
  17. lol. I walked out to our pond to ck on the duck food and behold ,
    There was a egg , thinking nothing of it I picked it up and it was moving a a tiny hole. It was pretty much active
    My ducks has never sit in them they are from our pond to the nxt door neighbors pond , but a friend told me to put a heat lamp and a room with little air flow ! I do not have a incubator. I don’t know if I disturbed it or not. But I put a regular light bulb in the heat lamp so it won’t be to hot and a warm towel, and just leave my bath room light on ! I had to bring it in somewhere cause I have cats ! do I need to do anything. It seems like it’s not as active
    If I’m not mistaken I heard a small small chirp if it’s suppose to do this.
    Idk lol. But I want to save it if I can
    I would love to see this baby make it
    I will be so PROUD ! Plz help ASAP I wished I can send a pic so u know what it looks like to you if I can on here I don’t know how or see anything where I would be able too
    Thank you so much

    Deborah Shrader
  18. I”ve had 3 pip, 3 days after they were due to hatch but the rest haven’t pipped yet. Should I intervene with the ones that haven’t pipped at all yet? I candled them all probably 10 days ago and they were all alive. Also I have one that pipped 3 days ago, is it time to help that one out?

    1. Yes, I think it’s time to help the one that pipped three days ago…as long as the blood vessels have receded. You should be able to see whether they have or not by looking through the pip or peeling off a tiny piece of shell and looking at the membrane. Do you know if the duckling is still alive right now? Do you hear peeping or tapping? Do you see the egg moving or feel the duckling squirming? Is it trying to do anything?

      Don’t do anything with an egg that hasn’t yet pipped. Either they’re dead, or they’re not ready to hatch. Breaking the shell yourself will probably kill the duckling, because the blood vessels will still be surrounding it and they won’t have absorbed the yolk sac yet.

      Since they’re all so late, I’m guessing there was some sort of problem or imbalance of temperature or humidity during the incubation process. I hope at least some of the ducklings hatch successfully anyway! Good luck! 🙂

  19. Hi there i have a muscovy duckling under a hen that was due on tuesday. It is now the following monday and the internal pip happened on saturday morning. It has not yet pipped the shell. Ive never known them to be this over due nor take so long to break the shell. I can still hear it moving around so its still alive. Im going to work now and will check when i get back. At what point should i assist ? I only keep them for pets i do not breed for selling or the pot so im not bothered about helping

    Jacz Irving
    1. I’m not sure. This is such a delayed hatch that I would certainly be getting worried. I might try to help now. HOWEVER…only slightly crack the shell. Don’t do anything else. The duckling needs to learn to breath and absorb the yolk sac and blood vessels before it fully hatches. Once you no longer see any blood vessels, you may continue helping if it seems necessary.

    1. It depends. If by “started hatching,” you mean the external pip, the little kind of star-shaped crack that you can see from the outside, it will usually be up to 24 hours after the external pip until the duckling completely hatches, and possibly up to 48 hours.

  20. I have 5 welsh harlequin eggs that are on day 27 today. At the very end of day 25 I noticed one duckling had begun to hatch. The duckling only had a tiny slit in his membrane and after 12 hours had still not made any more progress or made any noise. I decided to make the hole in the membrane slightly bigger but I can still see many blood vessels (he didn’t bleed at all when I messed with it). His membrane keeps getting very dry even though the humidity in the incubator is at 80. I keep putting warm water and coconut oil on the membrane but he still hasn’t made any more progress even though it’s been close to 26 hours. I’m going to leave him and hope he will absorb everything but how long can he remain in the egg? Is there something else I can do for him? He seems to be getting weaker.

    1. It’s probably fine. They don’t always hatch right on the due day, just like human babies don’t. It’s fairly common to have late hatches, sometimes several days late. As long as it’s alive, leave it alone, for now. If after a few days, it still hasn’t pipped, then you may have to manually create a pip or hole in the shell.

  21. Hello! I have 8 Khaki Campbell Eggs that are on day 27 in the incubator. Two days ago I did a final candle and they are were all viable. It looked like a few had already pipped into the airsacs. I stopped turning them and put them on lockdown at around 75 percent humidity. One egg started pipping about 36 hours ago. He has made some good progress but I am a little concerned because the color of the membrane is tan. I read that this is a bad sign. I want to avoid assisting if at all possible. Any thoughts/advice would be much appreciated. I have 3 others that have started to pip but haven’t made actual holes yet.

    Shawn Richards
    1. If the membrane turns tan or brown, it means it has dried out. This can prevent the duckling from hatching because when it dries, it can stick to the duckling like glue so they can’t move. I would start helping already, just by chipping little bits of the shell off, waiting a while, and chipping a bit more off if it hasn’t made progress yet. Just be sure the blood vessels are gone. If you really don’t want to help, you can wait a little longer as long as the duckling doesn’t seem to be struggling to breath or in distress. Do at least moisten the membrane with a wet Q-tip, however. Hope that helps!

  22. Really wish I read this yesterday, I had 1 out of 6 ducklings hatch and I helped, saw a little blood and thought it was normal… Sadly it passed very quickly.
    Thank you for this advice I will be more patient with my next hatchlings

    1. Hi Anthea,

      Oh no! That’s terrible! Depending on how long it has been since she left, they may still have a chance. I’ve had mothers abandon their nests twice, once because she died and once because she confused another duck’s babies for her own and left her nest to mother the other duck’s babies. Both times, I was able to take the eggs within a few hours, and a few of them hatched regardless of the time they spend getting cold.

      What you can do, if they’re still alive, is put them in an area that would mimic a broody or an incubator, or even make your own homemade incubator (instructions can be found online; I don’t have any on my site yet since I’ve never made an incubator myself). At the very least, you can put them under a heat lamp.

      I hope they survive!

  23. I have a “rescued” single duck egg we have been incubating. It first pipped about 36 hours ago. He is making slow progress and i hear him peeping and I can see him breathing. Should I be concerned or just let him keep going at it? Thanks

    1. Hi Erin,

      I think you can let him keep going. There’s nothing to be concerned about. He sounds like he’s doing perfectly fine. If, however, he doesn’t hatch within twelve hours (which unfortunately it may have already been twelve hours or more since I only check my comments once or twice a day), you may wish to start assisting.


  24. Hi! My sister has a duck hatching today. It was pretty busy early on this morning and cracked the egg. Momma went back to sitting on it. It got so far as its beak out, but now is doing nothing. This is her first one and she is afraid it is dead. Thoughts on assisting? Do they rest intermittently? I know you said they need to acclimate, but is beak out and no movement normal? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica,

      It should be fine. Yes, they rest, and they can go hours without much noticeable movement. All it’s really doing is breathing and sucking in the yolk sac. It isn’t trying to break out of the shell at all yet.

      Hope that helps!

  25. Hi! We had a bantam hen sitting on 3 duck eggs, and she hatched 1, and then got impatient and left the nest with the one baby, leaving the 2 “almost close to hatching” eggs behind. We don’t have any other broody hens or ducks to slip them under, and we did a little reasearch, and it says you can finish the eggs off with a heat lamp at 98.5 degrees. We have a laser and are keeping tabs on the temperature. I candled these eggs since day eight, and I’m almost positive there are ducks in each one. These 2 duck eggs are right at day 28-29. We are also misting the eggs… but I’m worried about them being past the hatching date… do you think we should put a little crack in the egg for oxygen??

    1. Hi Anna,

      Sorry I didn’t answer! I’m sure it’s too late now, but just in case, or for reference if this happens again, no, it’s not usually a good idea to manually pip the egg. If the duckling doesn’t pip by itself, it probably never will. Manually pipping the egg is more likely to cause harm than good. Someone very experienced with hatching might be more comfortable and would have a better idea of whether it’s safe or not, but I, for one, wouldn’t manually pip any egg. I’d be too worried I’d kill it by opening the shell before the duckling was ready.

      I know I’m probably too late to really be of any help, but I hope they did successfully hatch anyway. 😃

      Hannah Miller

  26. We had 14 duck eggs, 4 hatched on time. One pipped almost 24 hours ago but no movement since and the others haven’t hatched 😰
    We are on day 31 now???
    Is this okay?

    The one that pipped still chirps.


    1. Hi Robyn,

      Day 31 certainly is a bit late. I think I might wait a little longer, since it sounds like it isn’t in any distress, and it hasn’t yet been 48 hours since it pipped. After 48 hours, I would definitely assist. You can assist a little earlier than that if you’d like, as long as you go slow and make sure there are no blood vessels visible.

      Hannah Miller

  27. I live in an apartment next to a creek with a lot of Muscovy ducks. We had a mama lay eggs on Sept 25, so I expect them to be hatching soon. HOWEVER, we are on the second story. I have blocked off the gaps in the banister so they don’t fall, but should we move the nest down to ground level, or is mama bird smarter than we think?

    Kayla Kirk
    1. Hi Kayla,

      Mama duck intends for them to fall out. 😄 Believe me, that’s what they do in the wild. I actually just watched the first episode of BBC’s “Life Story” last night, and the very first part is of two-day-old goslings jumping off a 400-foot sheer cliff to follow their parents. Yes, they fall 400 feet and land on hard rock. It was absolutely amazing. Wild Muscovy ducklings do this too, although they usually only have to fall from a hole in a tree and land on soft leaves.

      Thus they’ll probably be just fine jumping down. However, if you want to carry them down to ground level after they hatch, that’s perfectly fine too. Don’t move the entire nest, though. Wait until they’ve all hatched and the mom is ready to leave and take them to the creek, and then you can carry them down.

      I hope that assuages your fears!

      Hannah Miller

  28. Hannah,

    I just wanted to thank you so much for your priceless information that you are sharing! I am a seasoned duck owner, but have never hatched through incubation and I helping my sons kindergarten class with their first hatch and these questions and your responses calmed all my fears and answered all of my questions. Thank you so much!

  29. Hi
    We are having a go at our first lot of duck eggs 2 have hatched day 28 and 29 but its been 2 more days and nothing seems to be happening with the other eggs. How long should we wait until there is no hope for the rest?

    1. Hi Brendon,

      Do you know if they were alive earlier during the incubating process? Did you candle them?

      There are a few tests you can do even now to get some idea whether the eggs are good or not, the main one being float testing. Set the eggs (providing you’re sure there are no pips or cracks on it; the duckling will drown if it has pipped and you do this) in a bowl of 100 degree water. If it sinks, it’s probably a dud that never developed. If it floats to the top, it died at some point. If it partially floats but doesn’t stick far above the water, it’s probably still alive. If it floats and also rocks and rolls (the water of course has to be very still for you to see this), it’s almost definitely alive and is rocking because the duckling inside is moving.

      Also, try holding the egg up to your ear. You may hear faint peeps, or the duckling tapping against the shell, trying to pip. If you hear anything, it’s definitely alive. If not, it may or may not be alive.

      If you don’t hear any signs of life and aren’t sure about the float test, keep it until day 32 or 33. I’ve heard of ducklings successfully hatching on day 32 (although it has never happened to me; mine almost always hatch early).

      Hope that helps!

      Hannah Miller

      1. Thanks Hannah
        Very helpful. I did the float test and they all sat just below the surface bar 1. Being day 33 I decided to open the shells as could not see any movement or noise. Unfortunately they were well developed but had all died so something must have gone wrong right at the end. I have a suspicion that my 4 year old may have opened the incubator to look at the hatched duckling.
        The first 2 ducklings that hatched are doing very so we will have another go soon and be more vigilant with the incubator.

  30. I saw a crack in one of my eggs on Thursday. Later that day it was more visible and like I could see part of the duck. Goo was draining out of the egg. It is now Saturday and there have been no changes at all. I would think I could see something movement since I feel i can see part of the duck. Should we help it?!?!?!

    1. Hi Deanna,

      Goo? You shouldn’t see goo. That’s usually a sign an egg is rotten or dead and will probably soon explode all over the incubator. However, if you can actually see the duckling…that’s a bit odd. Normally rotten eggs that are oozing don’t have a duckling at all. What does the crack look like? Is it actually a pip, like a small circular or sort of star-shaped crack in one spot, or is it something else?

      You aren’t seeing movement…are you hearing anything? Do you hear tapping if you hold it up to your ear? Have you heard any peeping?

      It might be a good idea to get rid of the egg to avoid jeopardizing the rest of the eggs. If this egg explodes, it could badly contaminate and kill the others. But then…if you can see the duckling…maybe this is different. It still doesn’t really sound like the duckling is alive, unfortunately.

      Can you send me a picture of the egg, perhaps? It would help to know what the crack looks like and what the duckling looks like.

      Hannah Miller

  31. We have one out of three runner ducklings hatching in the incubator, it started pretty much exactly two days ago when I noticed the first crack and small hole in the shell…the duckling is really active and I can see it breathing, membrane looks white and not too dry/wet …he gets so much more active when I talk to him but has not made much progress in the last 12 hours…the runner’s shells are soooo hard…can I help by maybe peeling off abit of outer shell for him? Im worried about helping as havent opened the incubator so far and its all set with the right humidity long can he stay like this? should I help?

    Georgi Neumann
    1. Hi Georgi,

      It sounds like the duckling is doing good in general, but if it’s been 48 hours since the pip, it’s definitely time to start thinking about helping.

      It may not be actually necessary yet, so you can still wait a little while. But if you want, you can quickly whisk the egg out of the incubator, look inside the hole to see if blood vessels are visible, and, if not, it should be safe to gently chip away a few small chunks of shell. Then put it back and wait a little longer.

      Hope that helps!

      Hannah Miller

  32. Thanks so much Hannah! We’ve just had a little check and chip away…and the duckling has hatched (hurray!!!) fingers crossed all goes to plan from here…. thanks so much again, lifesaver x

    Georgina Neumann
    1. Hi Mary,

      Sorry, I’m a bit confused. If they haven’t pipped, what do you mean by “first one appeared”? If you mean they’ve pipped (made a crack on the outside of the shell) but it isn’t actually a hole yet, no, it’s not time to help. It will probably still be at least 12 hours before they hatch fully.

      After the internal pip (when they’ve punctured the membrane and take their first breaths of air from the air cell), it takes about 24 hours before the external pip. You can tell if they’ve pipped internally by candling, and also by whether or not you can hear them peeping.
      After the external pip (the small crack on the outside of the shell) it takes 24-48 hours for the duckling to hatch.
      If it’s been 48 hours since the external pip and the duckling isn’t making progress, THAT’S when you can help (as long as there are no longer any blood vessels on the inside of the egg).

      Hope that helps!

      Hannah Miller

      1. Thank you Hannah,

        As it was only a crack and no further progress, I waited close to 36 hours and decided to carefully perform C-Section. Found one leg wrapped over top of head, so I think it would have struggled to get out and membrane was drying out.

        6 hours on, one white Indian Runner happily resting in incubator, have discovered black beak poking through another egg, 🥚 so will leave it alone, and see how it goes. Noticed with smaller eggs, which are black Indian runners, as this first one is pipping, I can see blackish patches through shell, is this a concern? As still chiroand moving.

        Cheers Mary

  33. Hi Hannah! I wish I’d found your site sooner, some great information and advice.
    I have a question, I have just had to help my baby Appleyard duckling hatch as it was in mal position. I waited 24 hours from first pip and watched it all night and day for progress. Only this morning did I see his leg was over his head as he broke out the top part. Anyway, he had dried out terribly as my stupid incubator is playing up and I live in a tropical area so doesn’t help matters.. I successfully peeled of the shell and thankfully he’s out with everything absorbed! Only problem is he’s terribly dried out.. I’ve adjusted temp and humidity levels again to help but wonder if I should wrap him in a damp, warm compress for a bit to help get him unglued if you know what I mean? I’m a first time duckling hatcher and this ducklings brother or sister did a super job hatching from first pip in less than 6 hours. But this little guy has had quite the battle. Thank you for any advice! Francesca

    1. Hi Francesca,

      Sorry for the late reply! I hope it’s not too late to help. I’m not exactly sure, but I do think a damp, warm compress or cloth would help. Warm running water could also help. Be careful with peeling bits of dried membrane off, if you do, because it can quite easily pull out down and tear the duckling’s skin.

      Hannah Miller

    1. Hi Amanda,

      If you can find waterfowl feed where you live, that’s the best choice. If not, you can feed your ducklings chick starter.

      Feed it to them free choice, so it’s always available.

      Ducks have higher niacin requirements than chickens, so if you feed them chick starter that is meant for chickens, you will need to add niacin. You can do this by adding brewer’s yeast to their feed, at a rate of about 1/2 cup of brewer’s yeast per 10 pounds of feed.

      You can also feed them bits of veggies, fruits, and grass. When they’re small, you’ll probably have to tear it into small pieces for them. Peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, cabbage, and lettuce are common favorites. My birds also go crazy over Brussels sprouts.

      If you feed them veggies or anything besides their main feed, you might also need to feed them grit to help them chew up their food. If they are outside foraging, they can probably find grit for themselves. If they don’t get to be outside, you will have to buy grit or give them some coarse sand.

      In summary:
      1. Feed them waterfowl feed or chick starter.
      2. If you choose chick starter, supplement with niacin.
      3. You may supplement with vegetables and other greens.
      4. If you add greens, add grit as well.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.

      Hannah Miller

  34. I need help because my mallard duck does not want to sit on her 8 eggs what do I do PLEASE HELP ME 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Give her time. She may not be ready. Usually, ducks only start sitting once they have finished laying their clutch, or are close to it. Has she stopped laying? If not, I think she’s just not ready to sit yet.

      If she has stopped laying, well, maybe she just doesn’t want to sit. They don’t always sit on every single clutch they lay. I have a few Muscovies that sit on every clutch they lay, some that sit on about half of the clutches they lay, and some that almost never sit or go broody at all.

      Maybe your duck thinks it’s too early in the year to have babies. Or maybe she’s just not the type to go broody. Like I said, I have some ducks that almost never go broody. Your duck could be one of those (unfortunately).

      Either way, try to be patient. She’ll go broody on her own when she thinks she’s ready. You can’t do anything about it, aside from making sure she has a clean, safe nesting area.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.

      Hannah Miller

    1. Hi Sarah,

      If you want the duck to incubate the chicken eggs, keep in mind that chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch and duck eggs take 28. This means that you will need to pick the chicken eggs and keep them stored somewhere safe for a week, and then put them under the duck once she has been sitting for a week. That way they will all hatch at the same time.

      Hannah Miller

  35. Hi,
    I`m a first timer hatching ducklings in an incubator after the Mum rejected the eggs (she`s sitting on another one now!)
    I can hear the odd little chirping sound & the tiniest of long should it take before the outer shell pipping begins (I`m guessing it`s started on the inside or I wouldn`t hear chirping?
    It`s a Muscovy & today is the 36th day since it was laid.
    Thanks for any help you can give me..already lost a few last time while in the nest with Mum,they half hatched but died fully formed.Absolutely devastated as I wasn`t prepared.

    1. Hi Helen,

      That’s the internal pip, when they puncture the air cell and start peeping and tapping. The external pip is usually about 24 hours after the internal pip. After the external pip, you’re going to see very little progress, if any, for hours on end, while the duckling absorbs the yolk sac and all the blood vessels. The final hatch is about 24-48 hours after the pip.

      Hope that helps! Good luck with your little one!

      Hannah Miller

      1. Thanks so much for your fast response Hannah,I’m really hoping this little one survives.Its reassuring to know things seem to be progressing correctly.Thanks again 🙂

      2. Hi again,
        After finding the first little crack in the outer shell this morning,I went to my yoga class & when I came home,an hour later…there was my little duckling almost fully hatched out…!! Wow how exciting & unexpected !! I thought he/she would take all day.The best part is that I`m minding my 3 yr old granddaughter today & she`s basically our chicken/duck whisperer of the family (absolutely adores all my flock) so I imagine we`ll be spending the day peering through the incubator 🙂 Thanks again for your help,only wish I`d discovered your site earlier.

        1. Hi Helen,

          That’s awesome! The duckling probably pipped early during the night and was then ready to hatch the next morning. I’ve noticed that ducklings seem more likely to hatch in the morning than at other times. Be sure to prepare a brooder for the duckling to move into once it’s dried out and fluffy. It will probably imprint on you. Enjoy being a duck mom!

          Hannah Miller

  36. Thanks again for your reply Hannah,
    I’m pleased to tell you that our newest addition is in the brooder & doing well..She has her big family of ducks waiting to meet her when the time is right as well as a large flock of rescued hens…one big happy family 😁


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